Internet search giant Google has unveiled yet another significant development in the company’s ongoing effort to fuse its widely used services with established social networking platforms. As a result, Google’s search results are getting seriously social — a reality that bodes well for both social networking junkies and small businesses that have grown increasingly reliant upon the promotional and branding muscle of social media.
A Sprinkling of Social Media
Formally announced Thursday on the Official Google Blog, relevant social media content will now be sprinkled throughout your regular search results. In other words, that which you’re searching for will be joined to a small degree by social media content pertinent to the initial search inquiry. This “tweak” dramatically improves upon “Google Social Search,” which was first introduced in 2009. For the last two years, however, social media-related content was relegated to the bottom of your search results page.
Per Google: “This means you’ll start seeing more from people like co-workers and friends, with annotations below the results they’ve shared or created. So if you’re thinking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and your colleague Matt has written a blog post about his own experience, then we’ll bump up that post with a note and a picture.”
The update to Google Social Search will initially integrate information from Twitter, Flickr, and Quora throughout Google’s search engine. In addition to these sophisticated and highly personalized upgrades, Google product management director Mike Cassidy and product manager Matthew Kulick are also boasting new privacy settings that give users the ability to determine if they wish to even establish connections between their Google account and social media profiles.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google will begin to implement the changes in the coming week.
Another Boon to Small Business
For small businesses already entrenched in social media, the latest development represents a valuable opportunity to better compete against larger brands among highly targeted local audiences. Google’s heightened integration with social media will effectively amplify all social media-related marketing efforts. And while companies both large and small now actively leverage the power of social media, small businesses are at an advantage given social media’s inherent tendency to skew local.
Based on the findings of MerchantCircle’s recent survey of 8,500 U.S.-based small and local business owners, 40 percent of respondents report an active and growing use of Twitter for marketing purposes — a percentage poised to grow exponentially throughout 2011. “Online marketing continues to be a challenge for most local businesses, and many merchants are working with very small budgets and almost no marketing resources,” says Darren Waddell, vice president of marketing at MerchantCircle. “The marketing methods we see gaining the most traction are therefore the ones that offer merchants simplicity, low costs, and immediate results.”
According to columnist Steven Levy of the popular tech read Wired, “Google’s leaders once may have scoffed at this idea, but now they are embracing it. They are now convinced that Google, the world’s best neutral arbiter of information, should be more people-centric.” Conversely, what’s true for Google is also true for the marketing efforts of small businesses. While no one has yet pronounced dead the traditional media and advertising tools of yesterday, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the most effective and lasting marketing vessels are those that strike the most personal — or “social” — tone. Consequently, both the attractiveness and raw power of social media are growing exponentially for small businesses in the wake of Google’s decision to finally embrace that which they initially shunned.
To learn more about Google Social Search and its refreshed features, check out the video below: