Archives for posts with tag: marketing

You may be under the impression that when you search for something on Google the results you see are the same as anyone else that performs that search. This isn’t the case, and hasn’t been for a long time.

In 2009 Google went full steam ahead with personalized search. The idea was to look through your internet history, your Gmail and all the rest of your Google products and look for signals that would enable Google to tailor a search results to exactly what you are looking for.

As well as looking through your history, Google has always wanted to look at your social network to make your search results more relevant. The only problem with that is it doesn’t own any social network data – a social network like Facebook is a ‘walled garden’ that Google can only peek in from the outside.

The arrival of Google+ allows Google free-rein over your social data and will herald the age of a new buzzword – social search. Social search is the process whereby your social network (or social graph) affects the results of a Google search. By looking at the content that has been created or shared by people in my social graph, the results I get from a Google search will be more personalized than ever before.

I’ve already seen this in action. After searching Google for ‘SOPA’ (the Stop Online Piracy Act) I found myself reading from a website that I had never heard of. I traced how I ended up on this particular page and it turns out that someone I have in my Google Circle network was a writer for this website and had +1′ed the article.

This is great, right? Google search results will become more relevant, based upon people like me and less likely to be manipulated by dirty SEO tactics. Some people have even gone so far as to call this a ‘Socratic Revolution’ – suggesting that the era of personalized search is akin to the philosopher Socrates placing man at the center of the intellectual universe.

There is, however, a dark side to personalized search that has been recognized in a book called  ‘The Filter Bubble’ by Eli Pariser. The problem, he argues, is that this personalized ecosystem of knowledge acts as a mirror that reinforces what we believe without allowing the possibility of our views being challenged. Each new layer of personalization strengthens the walls of our own bubble – satisfying us with the information we want to see instead of offering new ideas. Or as he puts it, we are being given ‘too much candy, and not enough carrots.’

Whilst the Filter Bubble emphasizes our uniqueness, it acts as a centrifugal force – it pulls us apart from one another. With enough personalization the front page of Google News will be different for everyone, removing the kind of shared experience we used to have with a newspaper. Also, the Filter Bubble is invisible – we don’t know the maths behind how these algorithms define us. And with the increasing omnipotence of Google – it is difficult to not be a part of it.

So the arrival of Google+ social search marks a new era of ‘invisible autopropaganda’ that will continue ‘indoctrinating us with our own ideas’. What it will also mark is the start of a new form of marketing and campaigning – especially in the run-up to the 2012 US election. If I tap ‘Healthcare’ into Google I will be presented with the healthcare articles that my network has shared. Both the Democrats and the Republicans will have to fight to ensure that they have the right people inside the voters Google Circles.

Whilst we may still be at the dawn of social search – the correct techniques in this area could eventually make or break a campaign. Could 2012 be the year that Obama leverages Google+ to win the election?

If you use Gmail, then you are probably aware that the content of your emails is scanned and adverts based on keywords are placed in your browser. For example, if you recieve an email about a friends baby then you will likely see adverts about nappies and baby food.

Facebook look set to take this one step with real time adverts based upon status updates. The aim is to place an advert on your Facebook page as soon as you publish something – so if you post on your wall that you are going out for a meal tonight, Facebook will offer you vouchers for local restaurants. Or if you post that your car is due an MOT, then local garage adverts will immediately appear.

This real-time contextual advertising is certainly unsettling, but it is the direction the internet has to take. Advertising is the only real revenue stream for the internet, and billions are being spent on how to perfect the algorithms behind making people part with their cash. Check out the example below from one of the test subjects:

With Facebook announcing a major new messaging system (codenamed Project Titan) and Google snapping up acquisitions all over the place (83 so far) – what is the fundamental difference between these two giants of cyberspace?

The answer lies in the kind of data that they both deal in.

Facebook lets you tell the world all about you – what you ‘like’ about culture, companies and people. It is data that you want to give away so that you can show other people just how much of an individual you are.

Google, on the other hand, is a lot more personal than that. It is about what you really get up to when it is just you and the computer. It stores data about everything from your embarrassing rash to your sexual desires.

As Sebastian Anthony puts it:

‘Facebook knows who we want to be, while Google knows who we actually are.’

We could see this as Facebook being all about your public self, whilst Google is all about your private self.

Of course, the bottom line for the companies involved is all about how this fundamental difference affects revenue. Facebook advertises to your public self, and Google advertises to your private self.

The question now is whether Project Titan will change this fundamental difference by reading your Facebook emails and targeting adverts (something which Google already do).

This would be an advertising model based on both your private and public identities. Priceless to marketers, but something that I find unsettling.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.