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Forget Everything You Know About Social Media & Google

The Google kool-aid

google-profilesWe’ve been working on a series about Google’s new Social Search function and we’ve experimented with it and tried it on for size, and have noted in our research that there is an appalling lack of critical thinking by bloggers and even journalists who are doing nothing more than cheerleading for Google’s “innovation” or regurgitating information, press release style.

The way Google’s Social Search works is by putting social network search results on page one of a google user’s (someone who has set up their Google profile and indicated their social networks) search. I’d dive deeper into it, but just check out how Google explains their experiment:

Seriously, you are wasting your time…

There are two schools of thought- one that says social networking is a time waster and another that says social networking is the holy grail of doing business in this era. Google Social Search (and us for that matter) are of the school of thought that IMPROPER use of social media is a time waster, but PROPER use is key. With this new search function, we’re hoping that NOW everyone will listen to us as we beg Realtors to stop Twitterorgying with each other and actually talk about their market with actual locals in their market since now, they won’t show up for “Nebraska real estate” if all they’ve talked about is “getting wasted at that conference, dude!”

The era of friend collecting and system gaming are coming to an end as now suddenly, people who advocated for following @boobs6969 on Twitter since she’s known to automatically follow back (that hussy) because their social search results will be filled with @boobs6969’s responses that are nothing more than spam links instead of legitimate responses from their friends. You only wanted to know what your friends thought of buying an Ed Hardy shirt, not what @boobs6969 tweeted yesterday about Ed Hardy weight loss supplements.

The Holy Grail of Google

Google has long rewarded quality SEO by giving it exposure on page one, but Google has just validated the use of social media by giving social network connections space on page one. SEO still matters, because everyone still wants that holy “first result on Google” spot that costs an arm and a leg, but if consumer behavior continues to shift toward relying on personal connections, that first place ribbon may go to someone other than the big box brokers as people begin leaning on Googling their social network for answers.

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Google has known for a long time that the web culture (which is now mainstream America) prefers knowing what their friends think over what a Google result thinks, we call it crowdsourcing, yet people have long relied on Google for answers but have shifted their consumer-centric questions to places like Twitter. Now, people can essentially Google their social networks. This changes everything because people don’t have to leave Google anymore to get the answers they need.

Some fears Realtors will have:

What can be scary about all of this is the prospect of buyers and sellers connecting organically as FakeBrandon tweets “I’m thinking of selling my house next year, I’m in South Austin, do y’all think I should wait?” and FakeJennifer who is friends with FakeBrandon searches Google three weeks later, sees FakeBrandon’s tweet in her Google Social Search, remembers how kick ass her friend FakeBrandon’s house is, (especially at last year’s Christmas party) and direct messages him before any Realtors even get involved and voila, a sale is done, despite your knowing and buying FakeJennifer (who is a lush) two years’ worth of drinks at happy hours.

You should also think about your competitors showing up in the search results and you might actually be losing sleep wondering if your competitor has made more meaningful connections with people in their social network, leading to their being top of mind and being the preferred result in a social search setting. Are you spending your time wisely on social networks or are you screwing around stroking your own ego and calling yourself a superstar while your competitor quietly focuses on the local market and does most of their social networking over direct message? Gaming the system won’t work now, because Google Social Search lends to an organic result stream.

Guess what, people- Google has popped the “social media is fun” bubble and has made this become the real world. Board rooms across America who have ignored Facebook will now hear that Google cares, they’ll get on board and it will be a much much noisier place to market. Best practices in social media will be solidified by the end of 2010 and you’ll have to focus on building genuine connections OVER being Homecoming queen. Are you ready?

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Elad Kehat

    November 4, 2009 at 2:59 am

    Very good post Lani. It’s the first one I read that drives home why Google social search is a very big deal. You raise some issues I haven’t thought about before.
    BTW, did you consider the fact that there were several social-search start-ups over the past couple of years, but they all failed to make an impact? I think it’s probably because they’re not Google – nobody changes their search provider just because of social search, but social search is still very significant – if it appears right there on the search engine you’re using anyway. What’s your take on this?

    Regarding buyers and sellers connecting organically – they already do so on Twitter and Facebook! Social media nevertheless provides a new opportunity for Realtors because a lot of that conversation is public so Realtors can find and connect with new leads. Tools like make that easy.

    • Benn Rosales

      November 4, 2009 at 9:17 am

      What makes this significant is that Google clears the clutter and populates to top of mind WHO in your sphere mentioned it and what they mentioned. This really rocks, it also brings about indirect referrals in cases where a person mentions a great agent, or possibly an agent to stay away from- very powerful stuff.

  2. Ken Brand

    November 4, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Hmmmm. It’s sorta like fire, you can use if to cook or you can fry yourself.

    Here’s how to turn it on: Log in to your google account and join the Social Search experiment at (you have to have a google profile setup first)

    I think about all the people who pooh-poohed FB, Twitter, etc. Turns out it will be bazooka, just make sure you don’t have it pointed at your head.

    Originally, I used Twitter and FB differently. For example, I would post things or comment on Twitter in ways I wouldn’t with FB. Now, it’s all going to be public, thankfully I didn’t do anything regrettable.

    This is great info Lani, thanks.

  3. Tim Wilson

    November 4, 2009 at 8:43 am


    Thank you so much for this information! It is the best (most informative) article/blog on Google and its social media searching that I have seen… lots to think about!

    I am not yet an avid user of twitter and facebook, but look to increase my use. Clients are surely using social media to pass referrals, etc. What I am trying to figure out is the balance of time between doing things IN REAL LIFE (face-to-face) that can cause me to be the SUBJECT (referral) of a tweet, versus actually spending hours every day being ON twitter (and tweeting myself onto everyone’s mind that way).

    For example, I am sure that both my doctor and truck mechanic are getting referrals on twitter passed between their satisfied clients — but neither of them is actually spending hours ON twitter, as far as I know (if any time at all). One is compassionate and well informed about his work, and the other is just plain good at fixing trucks.

    I have no problem sending referrals to either one of them, for those reasons– through whatever means someone talks to me about doctors and mechanics– including face-to-face conversations.

  4. Matt Thomson

    November 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I’ll really look forward to the demise of “Twitterorgying.” One of the evils of Twitter I put up with is following top notch Realtors on Twitter, who seem to do 90% of just chatting back and forth to each other.
    Maybe now I’ll get to read more interesting content!

  5. Tony Sena

    November 4, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    “we beg Realtors to stop Twitterorgying with each other and actually talk about their market with actual locals in their market”

    This is one of the main reasons why Twitter is not a good tool for Realtors. Most Realtors don’t know how to use Twitter properly. You indicate “talk about their market with actual locals in their market” but most don’t know how to find locals and when they do how to get them to follow them.

  6. Ken Brand

    November 5, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Google has so many tools, it’s hard to keep up with your Gstuff. This will help.

    Google Gives You A Privacy Dashboard To Show Just How Much It Knows About you


    • Benn Rosales

      November 5, 2009 at 9:14 am

      I’ve had this dashboard for a very long time, it just has a new layout, so I can’t really jump on the it’s new bandwagon, but I will say it’s at least thoughtful. I think I tweeted out about a month ago that I have all these accts and it sucks I have to log into each individually, or need 14 tabs to work with google tools, I’m thinking this isn’t the news, but what might be the new news that you no longer need 14 active tabs- that would be exciting. So from my gmail window, I can see that I have a google voice mail, and two new waves and simply click a tab to change the page, rather than leave one system for another… I can only pray.

  7. HowardArnoff

    November 5, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Lani, as a long time blogger but relatively new to social networking, thank you for your most helpful guidance. Lots of interesting stuff to think about.

  8. Doug Francis

    November 5, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Thanks for helping me start to understand Google’s objectives with my Twitter account… which has, honestly, been a low priority for me because I could not grasp how this could be an effective tool. But don’t think for a minute that I haven’t been listening and observing what people have been doing (for example @GoodLifeTeam ) especially down there in Austin.

    Ken, thanks for the tip too.

    Lani, you always give me more homework!

  9. Keith Lutz

    November 6, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Although I do believe Social Media to be true and not a fad, I kind of feel like it is like a direct mail piece, where really they need to see me 13 times or more before it kicks in. Especially with thousands and thousands of followers. (I only have a handful, at this point). I also think my handle name is more important than my actual name in tweeterville. I mean “LovingCharlotte” vs “Keith Lutz”, shows passion and may someday invoke a conversation with someone who wants to move to Charlotte.

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