Our Wednesday post comes from Chris Brooker (@codecraftonline) a professional web development company based in Leeds, UK.
2012 will be the year of social search. When Google created their first search engine, they had no idea how to make money from it. The answer turned out to be incredibly simple, since they know what you’re interested in, and what you’re thinking about at the moment your fingers hit the keyboard. For instance, if you’re thinking of buying a new car, and you want to find the latest reviews online, you tell Google, they search the web, and give you a list of links you might be interested in reading. It’s easy to see how in this example, how valuable it would be for car manufacturers and dealers to be able to advertise to you right when you’re thinking about new cars, and so the search giant set about creating their AdWords™ system to allow advertisers to buy space on their site.
By contrast, Facebook works differently. They almost certainly know a lot more about you as a person than Google do. While search engines can try and infer information such as your age, gender, where you are (or where you’re going) based on the sorts of websites you visit – Social sites know because they asked you, and you told them. Search engines might know that you prefer one brand of car over another because you visit one website more frequently, but social sites know because you ‘liked’ one brand, and didn’t do the same with the other.
For internet advertisers – knowledge is king. As an advertiser of cars, for instance you probably would prefer not to spend money advertising to people who aren’t old enough to drive, or who don’t hold a licence – and only social companies can tell you that. But you’d also like to advertise to people who are likely to be receptive to your message (for instance, those who are thinking about cars right at this second), and only search companies can tell you that.
So the natural progression then would be for Google and Facebook to join forces, leverage the expertise they have within their market sector and boost the value of both of their companies, right?
Unfortunately, Facebook and Google aren’t really getting on too well at the moment, and so the only way for either of them to have access to the valuable information that the other can provide is by setting up their own competing system. Neither company is short of the money to take on such a project, so with Google+, that’s exactly what happened last year. This year, expect Google+ to continue to grow, maybe even faster than before as the pull of their friends entice new users to the network.
By use of the “plus” button out on the wider web, Google aim to know what you like by knowing the websites that you recommend. Whilst back on the main Google+ site, they’re collecting the sort of data that social sites have, such as who you are and what you like, and who your friends are, and what they like. Facebook don’t seem to be building an internet search engine, so it seems that relations between them could get even uglier.
The change to “social search” is inexorable, and 2012 could well be the year when they finally tie the knot and revolutionize internet search advertising once more – with search results for the same query being different depending not just what you typed, but also who you are. For instance a search on “buying a new car” might soon start to show organic results with a higher preference for family cars when the searcher is a parent, or sports cars if they are not. If all of your friends drive Fords, you might start seeing their ads more often because you may be more likely to buy based on a recommendation from those you trust.
The question is, in this latest corporate mega-battle, who will come out on top? Google or Facebook? Or an outsider like Bing, Yahoo or Twitter?
Or perhaps somewhere out there, an as-yet unheard of start-up company is preparing to become the next household name internet giant. After all, both Google and Facebook had humble beginnings.
Chris Booker, Codecraft Online Ltd
Follow @codecraftonlineon Twitter