POV: Social Search Engines


The Rise of Social & Real-Time Search This year, consumer-generated, socially-driven content has become more integrated into the mainstream search engine results page (SERPs).  Bing reached deals with Twitter and Facebook in October 2009 to bring real-time tweets to the Bing SERPs.  Google struck a similar deal with Twitter.  These deals have resulted in real-time search—a feature that incorporate tweets, Yahoo! Answers, public Facebook updates, and other breaking blog/website content in a box that automatically updates in real-time on the SERP.  There’s a threshold of chatter that needs to be met before Google displays the real-time search box. The search box usually appears for breaking news content, celebrity searches and searches for large brand names (Coke, Wal-Mart, and Comcast) that a lot of consumers are chatting about on Twitter. Outside of the mainstream SERPs, social-specific search engines are also gaining some adoption–Twitter Search leading the way.  For instance, new social search engine Kurrently.com combines tweets and Facebook public wall posts so that users can see the latest social chatter on their queries.  Social search engines generally focus on delivering the latest search results.  Because the latest search result is not always the most relevant result—it could be meaningless, irrelevant, or spam—social search engine results are often less relevant to consumers than the results on mainstream search engines, which do not always rank the most recent result the highest.  However, some real-time results can be valuable breaking news and updates.  This illustrates the paradox of social search.  Real-time must be balanced with relevancy to be of value to consumers.  The key is sifting through the clutter to pull out the golden nuggets.  Searchers don’t always want to see the latest thing that happened; they want to see the latest relevant thing that happened.  Social search engines like Kurrently.com and Twitter Search currently focus on delivering the latest results, but the social search engine that will gain the most adoption will likely find a way to better balance real-time with relevancy.  Thus, engines like Google that give a more holistic, relevant view with some real-time listings interspersed in the results are presently more valuable to consumers than social-specific engines. Social & Real-Time Search Marketing Challenges & Opportunities Reputation Management Chatter (positive and negative) about a brand used to remain confined within the social networks.  Social search engines and Google real-time search now amplify consumer opinions by aggregating consumer chatter around a certain keyword to a search results page.  This means that marketers can dominate more valuable SERP real estate by starting positive conversations about their brands on the social networks.  But it also means that social search engines could show real-time gripes about a brand if a negative conversation about that brand breaks out on the social networks.  This makes managing brand reputation on the social sites more important than ever.  Marketers should:

  • Ensure they control their brand’s Twitter handles/ Facebook vanity URLs
  • Tweet/post status updates regularly to control brand message on the social sites as much as possible
  • Utilize social listening tools to seek out and respond to negative chatter; react quickly to customer service/brand reputation issues before they explode into massive negative conversations that can now spread to the SERP
  • Utilize social listening tools to seek out brand influencers/evangelists; reach out to influencers and incentivize them to continue spreading the good word about a brand

Harnessing Marketing Insights from Social Search Social search engines like Kurrently.com give advertisers a snapshot of how their brands are being talked about on the social networks.  Social listening through social search engines has become a great way for advertisers to gauge online consumer sentiment about their brands.  Kurrently.com is valuable as a one-stop shop to see how consumers are talking about a brand on both Twitter and Facebook. At Performics, we’re using our proprietary social listening tool (Listening Post) to glean insights into what consumers are saying about retail brands on Twitter and other social sites and blogs.  The benefit of a social listening tool over a social search engine like Kurrently.com or Twitter Search is that the tool filters through the massive volume of social network conversations to break through the clutter and uncover actionable insights.  Automated social listening tools help advertisers quickly and accurately collect, filter and assign value to social conversations around brands or topics. Advertising on Social Search Engines Consumers often use social search to find their peers’ opinions on a brand or product.  Therefore, being visible via paid search ads in social search results is beneficial to brands in controlling their message and managing reputation.  Twitter recently launched “Promoted Tweets,” which allow its advertising partners—including Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony, and Starbucks—to buy keywords on Twitter Search.  When a user searches for the advertiser’s keyword, a Promoted Tweet is triggered in the search results.  Promoted Tweets are clearly labeled “promoted” and have “reply” and “retweet” functionality.  Promoted Tweet advertisers can track impressions, clicks, re-tweets and replies through the Promoted Tweets platform.  Promoted Tweets currently operate on a CPM basis.  The value of Promoted Tweets for advertisers depends on their keywords’ Twitter search volume.  Advertisers should test Promoted Tweets to determine if the platform is a good fit.  Twitter plans to gradually open the Promoted Tweets platform to other advertising partners throughout 2010. Other social search engines, like Kurrently.com, only contain AdSense (Google Content Network) ads at this time; advertisers cannot buy keywords on Kurrently.com.  However, advertisers can use the Enhanced Online Campaign feature of the Google Content Network to add Kurrently.com as a managed Content Network placement and then their brand keywords as contextual placements.  This allows an advertiser’s Content Network ads to show on Kurrently.com when their brand keywords appear in the Kurrently.com search results, which will happen when a user searches for their brand.  Advertisers can then analyze the Placement Reports in their AdWords account to view how their keywords are performing on Kurrently.com.


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