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Social-Network Search: The Missing Monetization Link

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

By Published on . 2

Social networking is on fire. EMarketer reports that the category will reach 44.3% of U.S. internet users by year's end. However, what has me most excited about social networking is the missing link: social search.

Search will become a core part of the social-network experience. It will increase time spent on the sites, usher in easier monetization tactics and, in the process, revolutionize advertising. Here's a look at three trends to watch.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.

TRUSTED SEARCH TRUMPS UNTRUSTED SEARCH

Do you trust Google? I do. Do you trust what's in Google? For me, that depends. I do trust the 1,000 people I have added into my circle on Facebook and I value what they talk about and share. But search is lacking on social networks such as Facebook. While I can search for new friends and groups, it's hard to dig through the content my network creates as easily as I can on FriendFeed. Look for search to get more deepy embedded into the social-networking experience.


CONTEXTUAL SEARCH ADS GET SOCIAL

Google and MySpace have an advertising agreement and, in the other corner, so do Facebook and Microsoft. The search engines clearly view the social networks as monetization venues and vice versa. (MySpace and Microsoft are clients of my employer, Edelman.)

Social-network advertising to date, though, has been a mixed bag. Everyone is innovating, but the draw on social networks is your group of friends. That makes it harder to be distracted by ads. Enter search. Watch for contextual advertising and programs such as Facebook's social ads. New models will emerge where social algorithms and keywords trigger contextual ads.


SOCIAL NETWORKS BECOME PORTALS

The value of portals is centralization. They're a place for all of your stuff. But what if you could interact with your favorite content and have your friends add value to that experience? It's coming.

For example, on Facebook, I use Six Apart's BlogIt to post to Twitter. I also catch up with my favorite sports teams using Sportsline.com's application. Those are simplistic, though. In the near future the social networks will become social portals. They will also hook into the big search engines so you can not only search the web but curate it with your friends.
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