The way we search for things online is changing. I have seen this coming for a while now as I notice the changes in the way I search online myself. With the uprise of social networks online, there are a lot more opinions out there then there were before. People are publishing their opinions on stuff all day long in the form of a kudos or a rant. I am not alone in believing that search will be drastically different soon. It’s already happening.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been the big thing for the last 10 years. Making sure that your website has relevant content that matches online search has been the goal. I have spent countless hours working on my website design clients websites and my own websites to assure top ranking results in the search engines. Though I do not believe that SEO will ever go away, I do know that the recommendations of your friends and those you communicate with are going to start showing up quite often.
The world is going back to how it was when our Grandparents were young. Word-of-mouth is making a come back. Once the Yellowpages came out which was essentially the pre-internet, we did our own research. This resulted in us relying less on our friends and neighbors to give us suggestions. We used to ask our friends and neighbors for suggestions because they were usually more knowledgable in a certain area than we were. Today, we barely know who our neighbors are. We don’t need their recommendations because somebody more qualified than they are can be found with in 2-3 clicks online.
You probably have already noticed that when you do a Google search you get results that occasionally have somebody’s photo next to them. People who write articles who have linked up their Google+ account will show up next to articles they have written in Google. This is a cool feature. Imagine searching for something and seeing a photo of your friend show up and their name next to an article. You will most likely click on that and read it.
When somebody we know and trust says something, it carries a different weight to it than an bilboard sign or something we heard in passing. The one thing that has not changed is the fact that we want to limit making bad decisions as often as possible. We have always done this by taking advice from people. The difference between our Grandparents era and the one we are living in now is that our Grandparents knew the people they were taking advice from personally. Today we just know who the people are. Most of them we don’t know on a personal level. That all is about to change with new technology coming out like Facebook’s Social Graph.
Facebook hopes that the people in your friends list are people you actually would listen to if you needed to know something. For years we have been liking, commenting and taking photos of places and things we like. Facebook wants to harness that database of “what we actually think about stuff” to give you better recommendations. Soon when you search for a restaurant, your friend’s thoughts on that place will start to show up to help you make a decision on that place.
My Social Graph
I have been building my social graph for a while now. Those of you who know me know that I write a lot of Yelp reviews, check-in to places on Foursquare, share my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram most of my life. Now that these social networks are going to begin to use this stuff to their advantage I can see my name showing up a lot when my online friends need to know about something. This is great considering I am a personal brand who hopes to continue the growth of his name. My online friends already know that I am much more than a Wedding Photographer and a Website Designer. They know that I am a loving Father and Husband to my wife. They know that I have strong opinions about things and that I sometimes say more than I should about things. I am looking forward to this change because my name will start to reach further and with out as much effort as it takes now. From the beginning my friends, family and clients have continually asked me why I share so much about my life online. It’s because I see the writing on the wall. Our “neighborhood” that our Grandparents used to go to for recommendations has now became our online network. We are a connected economy now.
The Connected Economy
Gone are the days where we buy something with out looking at a review first. Sure we might look at the box and read the finely crafted copy for a product under $50 but we are not going to buy a bigger ticket item with out reading some reviews. I typically order something online because there are more opinions there. I know that the opinion of the guy or gal in the store is worthless these days. Just try and ask someone for their opinion in a big box store. They sound like a bumbling idiot because they have no idea. They don’t own what you are buying, they can not afford it. The stores are so big that they can not educate their limited staff on the wide range of products they carry. If I want an opinion I will go to a trusted website or read online reviews and try to find one that matches best to my situation. Sometimes I even do this while I am in the store looking at a product with iPhone in hand.
We are going to become more and more connected over the years. It might not seem like it is moving fast but it is. I see it on Facebook when somebody asks for the opinion of another parent. I made three suggestions about products just this morning to a Facebook friend of mine who has a newborn with a cold. I had to do this manually. In the future, social media will remember my comment about the humidifier I purchased and will suggest it to my Facebook friend the second she makes a mention about her sick baby online.
Your Social Graph
Just like the guy who wouldn’t sell his house, the subdivision will build right around him. Some people are going to fight this change and call it a breach to their privacy. The truth of the matter is that we are sharing this stuff openly to websites that offer free platforms for us to connect. We are the product and the Facebooks and Twitters will continue to take advantage of what we use their platform for. As a person who does not mind being considered a professional in certain areas or the go-to-guy for certain things, I don’t mind. If you like that feeling, keep on sharing. Keep on posting your opinion and sharing your thoughts on things. Don’t be afraid to join multiple social networks and post on all of them. Each network has different kinds of people with different interests.
Social Media ROI for Businesses
Social Media is making brands more human. Now that we are able to communicate with brands on a more personal level it is allowing them to become closer to us. Big companies who do not embrace these changes are going to get crushed just like Amazon crushed Borders and Netflix crushed Blockbuster. Businesses that get it are going to find huge ROI when these tools start to become used more. Businesses that ignore it are going to find themselves trying to play catch up and it sure is sad to watch.
Change is always taking place. In 2000 it was websites. Those who could not figure out how to get their customers to websites found themselves in trouble. Today we get it. Tomorrow it is social connectivity online. Those who fight it are going to find themselves far behind their competition that does get it.
My recommendation is to start talking about stuff. Post your thoughts and reviews on these websites. You have an opinion that others would love to hear on certain subjects. We all know more about something than the rest of the people we know, so why not share that. We all enjoy things in life different than others commonly enjoy so why not share our thoughts about them so they are there when others want to enjoy it as well. The world is becoming a smaller place to live and that is ok because it is allowing us to be exposed to so many new and interesting things.
My Grandparents used to travel all over the world trying and experiencing new things. They did this on a whim compared to the information that is available today. I admire that because there is more adventure in the unknown. Adventures that they took 30+ years ago are probably blogged about and recommended on Orbitz now, which to me is much less of an adventure. However, the options were much more limited back then. The world is much more social and it’s only going to get more connected. How will you use this to grow as a person or a company?