Brush Up on Your Social Skills: The Week in Social Search

August 8, 2017

I hope you're not feeling antisocial out there, because today's roundup is all about social search.

There were several big announcements this week in the world of social and real-time search. Microsoft and Google both announced agreements with Twitter. Bing's Twitter search is live, but it doesn't seem to work all that well – when I searched for my username, instead of getting a string of my tweets and @replies, I got this:

Bing Twitter search results

Um, OK, but why? Why doesn't it just search for my username and return all the results? I can see why the "top links shared in tweets about" thing would be interesting/useful, but why is that the default search behavior? What if that's not what you're looking for?

For its part, Google soft-launched social search in labs. Danny Sullivan goes into some detail about what exactly Google Social Search is—not the same as real-time search. It basically allows you to search for results originating in your social circle, drawn from your Google contacts, people you're following on Twitter, etc. I signed up to participate in this "experiment," but I actually can't think why I'd use it except in very specific use cases, like I was looking for something I read recently on a blog but couldn't remember which one.

David Harry at Search Engine Journal was similarly unwowed by these announcements:

Yes, Bing and Google made announcements about Twitter integration. Yes, Google also broke a story about their upcoming ‘Social Search’ in Google labs … But REALLY … until Google has them out in the wild, it’s a non-story for me. As for Bing’s Twitter search? Well, go try spamming it some … works like a charm! So that’s a FAIL for me at this point as well …

Once Google and Bing announced Twitter search I knew it would only be a matter of time before people were launching "ultimate" guides to optimizing your tweets. Not too far off from that, Patrick Altolf at Blogstorm blogged about optimizing for Google social search: "Take a look at the data points Google is using and make sure you are making attempts to increase your followers, subscribers & friends in each of those areas. It’s not easy for brands to be social but those that manage it are likely to reap the rewards."

Michael Gray also touched on social search, if obliquely, in his post titled "Bad Architecture and Band-Aid Solutions," in which he argues that using the "rel=canonical" tag (for example) is a sloppy development practice: Sure, it appeases Google, but it doesn't get to the root of the problem. And, yes, this has repercussions on social search, because sites like Digg will still see your duplicate URLs as duplicate URLs:

While social search may be in its infancy, and may never overtake traditional search, the easier you make your content to crawl and understand for everyone and not just Google, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Virginia Nussey asked a question we've been thinking about for a while: "Is Social Media Marketing a New Requirement of SEO?" Surprisingly, perhaps, she says no: SEO and SMO are directed at different audiences and require different tactics. A couple of commenters disagree, including Lisa Barone, who writes:

I think the idea that there are "unique audiences" and "unique goals" aren't really true, at least from my perspective. You have one audience -- your customers and the people likely to become your customers (is that two? I'm lumping them together.). A spider is not an audience. Your site is not designed to satisfy a robot. If it is...trouble. And we're all just trying to get that audience to convert with the site - whatever that conversion is. There's a common goal.

Are you tired of socializing yet?

Too bad! There's more. I want to respond to a post on "scobleizer's posterous" AKA Robert Scoble's blog, "Why I don't use Google Reader anymore."

I see people complain about Google Reader all the time, especially on Twitter. I can see why some people don't like it or just have no use for it. I still find it really useful – I'm not on Facebook and for most of the blogs I read, the bloggers either don't use Twitter at all or don't use it to link to new blog posts; some of them do use it that way, but I don't necessarily want to stop and read the posts in real time, I want to read them later/at my leisure. Also I don't necessarily want to follow those people's tweets just because I read their blogs. Nonetheless, I recognize that it's not for everyone and I'm not trying to defend it here.

I just find Scoble's reasons for using Twitter instead of Google Reader funny. Here are most of them:

1. Google Reader is FREAKING SLOW. It sometimes takes longer than a minute to open it up. "But my Google Reader account is super fast," I can hear you saying. Yeah, but you don't have any friends [emphases mine] and you don't have many things you are subscribed to. Compare to Twitter lists or Twitter itself. I'm following 10,000+ people. More than 100,000 are following me. Yet Twitter opens instantly.

The needless insult aside (you don't know my life!), "Compare to Twitter lists"? That's still rolling out and AFAIK most people don’t have access to it yet. It also doesn't seem all that useful within the Twitter interface yet. And "Twitter opens instantly"? Um, when it works. Also, it doesn't. Twitter loads pretty slow for me most of the time – not my home page so much as older tweets, and lists of followers and people following. Sometimes it's painfully slow. And don't try to blame it on me not having any friends.

2. Google Reader's UI is too confusing. Yeah, I know how to use it, but really, do we need "like" and "share" and "share with note?"

I agree with this.

3. It makes me feel guilty. I have 1,000 unread items. Twitter doesn't tell me that. 

I agree with this too.

4. The social network features suck. Managing friends in Google Reader is slow, and hard to do. Not that Twitter or Facebook is perfect but they are a LOT better than Google Reader. I am following more than 10,000 people, brands, objects etc in Twitter. THERE IS NO WAY I could do that efficiently in Google Reader.

You already mentioned all your 10,000 friends, geez. And I'm sorry, but you can't "efficiently" follow over 10,000 people on Twitter! Sure, you're "following" them, but it's not like you're actually reading all the tweets they produce. That would be impossible, or at the very least, inefficient.

5. I see most news faster on Twitter than in Google Reader. Where did Marissa Mayer announce Google's deal with Twitter? On Twitter. It didn't show up on my Google Reader until later after everyone had written blog posts.

That's true.

6. Headline scanning is easier, and more interesting for some reason in Twitter than even in Google Reader's list view.

This makes no sense to me.

7. Did I mention it's many times faster to open Twitter than Google Reader?

Yes, you did (apparently Scoble can't be bothered to read over his own blog posts, much less anyone else's), but I still find it absurd.

His last reason was something about the iPhone so I stopped reading.

I think Scoble must use something like Seesmic or TweetDeck to manage all his thousands of friends, because Twitter itself still just doesn't have all that much functionality. It's not a model of speed or efficiency. I wish he'd proselytize for his app of choice instead because a lot of the above claims just sound like poppycock to me.

And now I too am tired of socializing.

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Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

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