Here at Marketing Pilgrim, we always seem to be ahead of the curve. Yesterday, we mentioned an AdAge article that claimed that Facebook should have Google shaking in its boots. Today, Adotas and Red Herring have taken on the topic, the former advising Google to acquire Facebook and the latter stating that Google’s already working on its own solution.
Adotas thinks that Google should pursue Facebook as part of their “recent spending spree” (starting with YouTube, which confirmed 8 months ago, but seems much longer ago than that). However, Adotas notes Google’s current agreement with MySpace, which they say “is responsible for about 11% of Google’s search traffic.” Adotas says Google should pursue Facebook without endangering that agreement (which has a noncompete clause).
Manoj Jasra did Adotas one better and listed ten reasons why it would be a good idea for Google to acquire Facebook. Both parties would benefit; Facebook receiving enhanced search capabilities (among other things) and Google receiving more personalized data, tagged photos and another property to run ads on (among other things).
While Manoj makes great points, I’m still not convinced that Facebook is the right way for Google to break into social search.
Neither is Google, according to Red Herring. Google sponsored a research project at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute with the charge to “Reinvent social networking.” Socialstream, a social network aggregator, was the result. Socialstream enables users to sign into a single site for all their social networking, unifying all of their friends’ information from disparate sites. Or it will. As Red Herring states:
It is unclear how a Google-backed social network aggregator would grab content from other social networks. [Professor and director of the the HCI master's program Bonnie] John said the project did not consider that business issue. “Most companies say, ‘You come up with the idea and we’ll solve the business problems,'” Ms. John said.
In theory, Socialstream looks and sounds good for end users. But even if Socialstream can overcome these fundamental “business” challenges, there’s no guarantee that Socialstream would really enhance personalized or social search.
The fundamental problem here is the assumption that even an aggregated social network site would be useful to search results. Sure, there are blog posts and pictures and updates from your friends, but will that help you find the nearest dry cleaner or cats that look like Hitler?
Odds aren’t in your favor. With most social networking sites, there’s still a chasm between social networking and social web surfing, and until that chasm is bridged, social networking sites will not be very useful to search engines.