By Luke Brynley-Jones, Social Media Consultant, Our Social Times

We’ve all heard a lot about Social Search and the way search engines are moving towards real-time results – but what does it mean for brands and businesses?

A recent social search report produced by London marketing agency Immediate Future provides a helpful and user-friendly introduction to the term. It starts by explaining what social search isn’t – i.e. people searching for friends or content within social networks (e.g. using Bing within Facebook). Instead, it’s about search engines integrating your social graph (jargon for “the people your connected to via social media”) into their search results for relevant terms.

In effect what we’re witnessing is the personalisation of search, as the results we see are filtered to show mentions and recommendations from our friends and connections above natural search results. The usefulness of this is yet to be proven – but it’s here, like it or not.

There are three new factors that social search considers, beyond traditional relevancy:

1. Timeliness – You might see the latest Tweets of your contacts, which will be gone 5 mins later.

2. Localisation – You might see posts from connections who are near you, e.g. logged in and connected on Foursquare or Gowalla

3. Crowdsourcing – You might get answers from your network on topics you’re searching for, e.g. from Quora or Twitter

So what does all this mean for businesses or brands? Well, the report suggests an approach to social media that incorporates social media monitoring, social PR and good old SEO and recommends 5 things you should do. Here’s a quick summary:

– Check the keywords that your content is optimised for to ensure they match customer searches

– Be consistent with keywords to ensure you rank for relevant terms

– Encourage “Likes” and sharing on social platforms for greater visibility (more people and more search results)

– Make sure you are being reviewed and that reviews of your services are shareable

– Monitor for negative mentions and deal with them quickly to avoid negative search legacy

These are all pretty common sense – but well worth remembering. The first thing I train my clients to understand during our social media marketing training sessions is SEO. It remains an essential skill for anyone interested in online marketing.

Luke Brynley-Jones runs Our Social Times, the social media marketing blog and events company. He’s hosting Social CRM 2011 in London on 6th May. FreshBusinessThinking readers can get 10% off using the discount code: FBT10

Watch the video below featuring David White of Weboptimiser discussing the success of search and social media


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