Social Search Engines

Concerning social media, many marketers and advertisers are currently paying for what I’ll call “push” advertising. They’re buying ads on social networks, and putting them in front of people, not fully knowing if the people they’re reaching actually want to see these ads or not (I’m speaking generally. Obviously good targeting, data, and user feedback play a role here.) Some social networks are better than others, but in many instances advertisers are basically sitting ads on a counter in a room in which they know someone will inevitably walk into at some point. The person on the receiving end of the ad has very little, if any, input into what ad they see, and may or may not pay it any attention since they weren’t looking for it to begin with. 

What if these data rich social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) were used as search engines as well though? Instead of advertisers just “pushing” ads to consumers where, even with good targeting, some will inevitably fall flat, what if users of the social networks could actually “pull” ads based on their own search terms. Social networks, taking a page from the book of Google, could then charge advertisers for visibility of their content (ads) that users happen to actually be looking for (pulling).

I personally would like to be able to find relevant posts on social networks that could be filtered by the data that lives within them. Location, time, terms, etc. An aggregation of both user generated content and purchased advertisements that fall exactly within the scope of my search. Though I can’t, at this point, tie the user generated piece directly to revenue for social networks (that’d purely be for my own enjoyment), I do think that advertisers would be willing to pay for increased visibility in these search results.

If I want pizza, for example, I think being able to search “pizza” within x miles of my current location, and allowing paying advertisers to buy digital real estate within that search, could be valuable for everyone involved. The social network makes ad revenue, the advertiser drives engagement/traffic and hopefully purchase, and the user is served the content they’re looking for. 

As an aside, I’m not against social media advertising in its current form. Yes, I’m served many irrelevant ads on any given day, but sometimes the ads I’m served are spot on. Instagram’s “push” ads, for example, have been really good to the point where I log on sometimes with the sole purpose of seeking out ads. Whatever targeting mechanism they are using seems to be working pretty well. I do, however, think that building up social search would strengthen the value proposition and utility of social media for the user, while also opening up a new stream of revenue for social networks.