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Social Search Is A Matter Of Trust Not Technology

There’s been a lot of commotion recently about the integration of social signals into the search results of both Bing and Google. Bing has the upper hand with those signals coming from Facebook while Google is still Google, and is still the search engine of choice worldwide, regardless of what signals they have or don’t have.

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Image by Frank Gruber via Flickr

My question is not so much about who will win this game. Google is the 800-pound gorilla that Bing has to move in some direction so it can make any progress. That alone is a daunting task. However, add into the mix that Bing actually already delivers better results (in many opinions) on certain searches that go beyond the blue link text results and you can see that this mountain is about more than a better service.

The problem facing Bing is that no matter what strides they make in product there are not enough people taking a deep enough dive into the engine to be convinced that they should stop trusting Google results. Because in the end, search is about trust.

This trust element is one that lives within all of us. Trust requires an investment on a person’s part. An investment with something more valuable than money. It’s an investment of some part of that person. It’s more personal than we in this tech-fueled era tend to give credit to.

It’s this trust issue that makes me wonder just how important social search will actually be. Why? Because taking a cue from someone else about a problem you are trying to solve requires trust. Trust is not something that is easily given by anyone to anyone else. It’s serious business. It can only occur where there is a bond that goes beyond “Hi how are you doing?”

It seems that Google and Bing are banking on people trusting more readily. The trouble is, that we have watered down the meaning of friend to the point where it is almost unrecognizable to what it was a mere 10 years ago.

I have a relatively low number of Facebook friends (although I am still above the stated average of 130) but many aren’t more than acquaintances, and that’s with me being very careful about who I accept. As a result, my level of trust with these friends does not come anywhere near the level of the small circle of truly trusted people in my life.

Back to social search. Google is now making social search a global play, so social signals for me will come from people I may not even know at all. How is that helpful to me or to anyone? Bing is more targeted toward Facebook but, as I stated before, even my Facebook pool of friends is not exactly the most trustworthy source of information for me.

So, in the end, social search is more about trust than it is about social signals. The term “social signal” is as clinical a term as you can have when talking about relationships, so I have no great expectations that my social media friends will send a great signal.
As a result, I don’t hold out much hope for social search for someone like me. It may be fun and it might make me see things a bit differently in a particular instance, but it’s not something I will dive into. Why should I? If I want real opinions about things that really impact me, I have a few people that I can have actual conversations with who will help give me more than a signal regarding my needs.

Social search’s success will be dictated and possibly limited by the level of trust that someone is willing to hand over to a group of friends. Initially, this will be easy for the younger crowd because they will have grown up steeped in this social world. Will it stay that way? No. Because never before in human history has there been more opportunity to abuse trust and it will ultimately make people less trusting than ever.

Dark view? Maybe, but I know from my 47 years on the planet that trust is something that is earned. When it is handed out to all and not given the right amount of value it will lead to disappointment more often than not. This is just a fact and it will be a hard one for the social Web to learn, but it will. And it will hurt.

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Learn Forex Trading

    At some points, I agree with what you say. But I think, comparing Google and Facebook are somewhat less accurate in terms of ways they interact with their users. Except if the comparison was about the ad, I agree with you. Thanks

  2. Avatar Christian Carlsson

    Hi Mike, interesting view, and I agree that friendships have been ‘watered out’ a bit lately… I hope it is a maturity phase we’re going through.
    But I would also like to add my perspective that, trust in a person, has different levels, and some of these levels might for sure be of value to Social Search — regardless of how ‘tight’ your friendship with a person is.
    For instance, I might not trust a person to take care of my son (especially when this person lives on the other side of earth, and I have never met him/her). That type of trust will take lots of face2face time, understanding personal values, etc.
    But I might trust him/her in their profession and subject matter expertise, based on various factors like knowing what they work with, experience, track record, interesting blog posts, recommendations, discussions, previous conversations, etc.
    Last week I started researching “Agile Marketing” (yes, we need to change how we work in Marketing…) and when searching the term, one of the first articles had been tweeted/recommended by a “trusted” professional. And rightly, it was a very interesting article, giving me the perspective of Agile Marketing that I was looking for.
    And on that note, if you decide to write a blog entry on Agile Marketing, let me know. I will trust your valuable input! ;o)
    //Christian

  3. Avatar Mike Moran

    Thanks, Christian. I have written extensively about agile marketing (my book Do It Wrong Quickly is all about it), but that term has emerged only recently. I have tended to call it experimental marketing, and (more simply) direct marketing–which is what agile marketing is based on.
    I totally get your point about the level of trust being applied to the task you need to trust someone to do, which I think might make another post idea for Frank Reed, who wrote this post. (And I hope you trust Frank because you trust me to only feature trustworthy people on Biznology.) Thanks for such a thought-provoking comment.

  4. Avatar Reguli remi

    Hello Christian, I have read your comment and I’am 100% agree with you.

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