Social Search and the Customer Experience


Share on LinkedIn

Tech titans like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are finally catching up to mother nature in the race to create an intuitive social search experience. In our recent book Customer Experience: Future Trends and Insights Palgrave McMillian 2007, we write that technology is a facilitator of social interaction—not a driver of it. Technology enhances our daily face-to-face moments with our friends, family and other acquaintances.

Going to a friend or family member for a referral for a product or service is an accepted method of “information discovery.” Yet in the past decade, consulting digital search engines for product or service referrals has grown in acceptance alongside “traditional” friend referrals. Taken together, both methods of information discovery (friend referrals and search engine queries) set the stage for a new era of what I call the “social search.” In an interview with the UK Telegraph , Facebook executive and former Director of Google Social Media Ethan Beard also comments that the has come time to combine friend referrals with “traditional” search engine queries.

Let’s look at example of a search engine that embeds “social signals,” to use Matt Rosoff of Business Insider’s turn of phrase. If I want to purchase a new television, I could use Google, Yahoo! or Bing to gain access to several product listings and online retailers. I can learn a lot of information from running this kind of search, but the results still fail to contain a vital element to any potential customer experience: trust. By contrast, suppose I ask my friends and family which television I should purchase. The responses I receive from my friends and family are probably not as comprehensive as my digital search. Nevertheless, because I trust my friend, the information I collect from them carries a different weight than the results I gain from an internet search engine.

But all of this is about to change. Over the next decade, the Social Search—Web 3.0—will take hold and rapidly redefine the nature of marketing, e-commerce and the digital customer experience. The competition for influence is fierce. Facebook, with approximately 800 million users, is leading the way. As early as October 2009, Microsoft’s Bing partnered with Twitter and Facebook to add real-time updates from users to its search results . Shortly thereafter, Google’s June 2011 launch of Google+ (G+) continued the trend by populating the results of its users’ searches with more personally relevant information. Google uses stored data from Google Documents, geo-location tags from Picasa (a photo sharing platform), playlists from Google Music and even contacts and calendar information from Gmail to offer tailor-made search engine results .

The implications of Web 3.0 are profound. The Customer Experience will play a greater role than ever before in terms of marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) will fall by the wayside as it becomes more important for real people to write raving reviews for their social networks or a community of custom fan page members. Startups like Lithium are already moving in this direction by helping companies find real users willing to write positive reviews and share them with their social networks. Lithium even offers services that prevent negative comments from spiraling out of control. For an example of negative user feedback can set off a disastrous landslide of acerbic consumer feedback, see our post the “Go Daddy-SOPA PR Disaster.”

In summary, the sooner your organization embraces the emotions that fuel a “rave” review—the better. Twenty-five percent of Google employee’s annual bonus depends on the success or failure of Google+ . Soon, Google’s decision to tie employee bonuses to social media performance will seem like a prudent (rather than bold) decision—one that we can all learn from starting today.



Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here