Writing for Poynter.org, Jeff Sonderman explains the longer-term implications of Google starting to incorporate your social connections in search results, so that whatever results Google might feed you for a search will be influenced by whatever your friends have looked at:
“The point for news organizations and journalists is that it’s more important than ever to build strong social followings and to optimize content for sharing. Social media is becoming an engine that drives more than just Facebook and Twitter’s own referrals.”
In other words, it’s another argument for engaging the audience, whether you like it or not.
However, I have a feeling the search model is going to change yet again. The whole “what your friends are reading will influence what you see” thing is wearing on me in my Washington Post Social Reader. Apparently a heck of a lot of my friends read not only celebrity gossip, which I don’t care to see at all, and Apple fanboy love but also a lot more fluff than I ever expected to come to me via anything with “Washington Post” in its name — of the top six headlines at the time of this writing, two are Apple stories, one is about a Korean pop group and one is about paparazzi photos of Kate Middleton’s sister. Social search, in other words, is making my social reader less and less useful to me, to the point I expect I’ll stop using it at all — until they fix it, at which point the model will shift again.
1/12/12 UPDATE: Good additional details from Justin Ellis at Nieman Journalism Lab. … Still haven’t seen anyone share my “Hell is other people” take on it.