Google has integrated search with Google+, enabling users to get more personalised results by tapping content from its social networking offering.
As part of the service, the search for certain individuals will bring up personalised profile predictions, which includes information from their Google+ profile pages and relevant web results related to them.
In an attempt to be transparent about its features, Google has also provided interface elements and control settings that allow users to restrict what comes up in a search. They have also introduced a prominent new toggle on the upper right side of the results page, for users to see what their search results look like without personal content.
Strengthening social media presence
Many see this as a move to strengthen Google+ as the next social media platform. Google+ has, so far, not been explored by marketers as the most optimum tool to be used to market their product or service.
Namrata Balwani, chief operating officer, Media2win, says the intent behind this move is obviously to push and popularise Google products, and make users, as well as marketers adopt it for better search results. "If it goes through, brands will have to use it more actively. Currently, while Google+ has seen a large number of sign-ups, the active users are low. People tend to sign up, and not use it, hence, brands have not registered and created active accounts in a big way. However, with this move, brands will want to ensure they get the best visibility in search results, and will have to determine how best to use Google+."
Commenting on the development, Chhaya Aiyer, managing director, BC Web Wise, says, "The direct implication of such a service is that it will spurt the number of Google+ users, which so far, has seen low adoption. Brands will begin to establish their presence on Google+, and explore all possibilities just the way Facebook was tapped. This is fertile territory as the learnings on the use of Google+ are limited."
Changing brand communication?
So, will brands adopt a different communication strategy now? Experts feel that a service like this will make brands more conscious of what is being said about them on social platforms.
Sandip Maiti, CEO, Experience Commerce, feels brands will now need to keep their eyes and ears open about what is happening on the Google+ network. He says, "While the volume of engagement and mentions may be low for now, discovery of that one damaging opinion/review may have just been made easier by Search Plus."
Gautamm Mehra, COO, Ultraviolet Digital, believes that either too much attention is being paid to the new service, or it's being simply ignored. He says, "Both are dangerous. The good news is that brands will finally see the social and search integration we've been talking about for a couple of years, and will start to think in the same light while drawing out strategies for their digital gameplan."
Compromising on privacy
This entire hullabaloo over integrating search and social media must deal with one important aspect -- privacy. The big question being asked is whether the service is an intrusion into their privacy. Karl Gomes, co-founder, AgencyDigi, replies in the negative. "We live in the public glare, and actually, it is a matter of choice. I feel it's a boon as technology helps us do things based on the prior experience of someone known to us," says Gomes.
Maiti throws up another angle to the debate and adds, "In my opinion, this invasion of privacy will not be welcomed by many users, especially those who unknowingly share or post photos and opinions about other people. Online reputation management is already a big challenge for all brands, and the last thing they want is personal (private) opinions surfacing in global search made by consumers who intend to buy or use a product or service," says Gomes.
Evolving social media behavior
The Search Plus, many believe, will bring about a change in the way people behave on social media platforms. Gomes says, "This change stems from the fact that a social search has become more relevant than search. What others feel, think, or believe will influence our personal decisions. Human beings personify an ad or a hoarding, and marketers must use this opportunity."
Bhargava sums it, "The new service will definitely have an impact on how we behave on social media. This service will turn our peers into influencers, who may or may not have the final say in purchasing decisions. But, it will surely allow users experience social media along with the web. "