If you’ve always received the best advice from friends and family, you’re not alone. In fact, the opinions of those within your social circle really matter today – and will matter even more so in the future. With the launch of ‘social search’ by the likes of Google and Facebook, what your friends have to say about a topic ranks above even the experts in the field.

Word of mouth has always been more persuasive than any ad campaign. Often, the trust we have in co-worker’s take on a new restaurant or finding out how your Dad’s new model car is running that trumps what professional marketers have to say.

social search
photo credit: bmevans80

Developers of social search platforms have figured this out. They’re working daily to put the thoughts and opinions of those within your social circle at the top of the search engine results for whatever you might be looking for. If it’s relevant, if it was posted by a friend on a public forum, social search ensue it’s ranked as important in your results.

What Social Search Means to You

For the consumer, social search is a way of search results more relevant and truly individual. For example, typing in a destination such as Disney World used to yield an abundance of links related to accommodations and features of the park itself. Plus, probably the odd irrelevant, optimized page. With social search, you’ll see photos of Disney World that your friends uploaded onto public sites, blog posts they’ve written about their visit to the park or reviews they wrote of places they stayed while there. It’s all about personalizing your search experience.

disney land search result pages

It’s important to note that only information that has been shared with the public will be compiled in this way. In other words, if your friend has a private online photo album of her family’s trip to Disney World on Facebook or other sites like Flickr or Photobucket, these will not be made available to you as a result of an Internet search. The powers that be still consider this an invasion of privacy, but anything that was shared openly is fair game.

What Social Search Means to Local Business

Social search can be the best friend or the worst enemy of local business owners. Again, because search results are driven by the digital version of word of mouth, and some common SEO techniques are likely to matter less, if nobody is talking about your business, your search engine rankings could well plummet. When you can’t be found on the first few pages of Google, you probably won’t be found – period.

hubspot twitter
@HubSpot

However, if you’ve made a presence for your business among the various social networking sites such as Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn and you’re maintaining a steady stream of quality, relevant content, your search engine rankings will still prevail. People will still find you easily because their friends may well have commented on your posts and shared your tweets, if your content is terrific.

In order for a local business to make the most of social search, it must do several things:

  1. Maintain an online presence. This is accomplished by setting up a website with a socially-shareable landing page. A sharable landing page is one that looks great, works perfectly and is consistent. Hiring a good web designer – check out www.CSD.org.uk and search for designers. Select a brilliant web host, which this post on www.VirtualHosting.com will help you with. Your customers should be easily able to share content on your site with a variety of social networks. Don’t make them work for it.

Enable your site with all the plug-ins and gadgets and feeds they need to easily send your content shooting out into cyberspace via Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Pinterest and more. Try the Simple Share Buttons widget if you’re on WordPress.

simple share buttons
Simple Share Buttons on www.andium.ca

Simple Share Buttons on www.andium.ca

  1. Maintain a steady stream of quality content. Algorithms won’t be taking links into such consideration anymore. The content is what the algorithm is searching for. If you run a coffeehouse, add a blog that runs parallel to your website and features informative, well-written posts about everything from the Top 10 Best Coffee Grinders to The Functionality of Gourmet Coffee as Gifts. Write something that educates and informs the demographic that visits your site.
  1. Add an online review and feedback system to the company profile. Allow customers to rate and review your services and then feature the best of the best on your website. Don’t worry about the possibility of garnering a negative review – your public online response can easily turn even the unhappiest customer into a loyal fan – a huge win for everyone involved.

The Future of Social Search

While social search is still in its early-learning phase, ideally developers would love to create a search engine that anticipates what it’s users are thinking. By gathering and compiling enough information from various sources, an anticipatory search engine could configure findings and reach new conclusions. In other words, the search engine could think.

If this sounds a bit like science fiction, that’s because it is at this particular moment in time. But, it’s definitely on the horizon. As people upload more and more personal information in the forms of photographs, home movies, blog posts and product reviews to the Internet, the world becomes a more transparent place to live.

As a consumer, this is beneficial because it brings the right merchants to your desktop almost before you ask to visit them. As a local business owner, it keeps your products and services out in front of those consumers who might be most interested in purchasing them.

To take the best advantage of the social search experience, on both sides of the coin, you must be out there actively engaging on your favorite social networks on a regular basis. From this interaction, the social search engine does the rest.