2012: Battle for Relevance

by Dmitry Kirsanov 1. January 2012 08:00

social-network2011 was a year of great changes. For example, the SEO changed so much, that applying principles which were effective long time ago, would bring your website down. But surprisingly, the same we can say about the social networking. This post is about the dramatic changes I foresee in social networking in the year 2012.

2011 was a wonderful year which brought so many changes to social networks and search engines. Google+ silently brought a completely new paradigm into how we are searching for information. Information became more relevant, and this time it depends not from the owner of the information. Now it depends from you, the one who is searching for information.

Every time you are visiting the web page of Google,  you are logged into your Google+ account (assuming you have one, and if you don’t – go and get it, I will wait a minute until you finish). When the search is done, you see it ordered by relevance, and once you’re logged into your Google+ account – the first results you see are the ones that got “+1’d” by people in your circles. Then you see results “+1’d” by other users of Google+. And then – the search engine is taking into account more than 200 other parameters that I’ll cover in future articles.

Did you get the idea of this article? I’ll sum it up. You can improve the relevance of information that you get from Google. Or ruin it.

Now, let’s abstract away from Google and look into another social network – LinkedIn. Because, you know, it all began there, so let’s look at the source.

If you are like me, then LinkedIn is an important tool of doing business (in good and clean sense of that term) and serves as great source of new contacts and relevant professional information. It has a daily flow of news and very interesting area called “Answers”, where people are asking questions and where you can show your expertise or ask for free professional advice. And once your list of contacts contains only the people you know and consider relevant to what you are doing at LinkedIn, you get the news sorted by how your contacts liked them, and first answers you see are from ones close to you, by level of acquaintance. You know – your contacts, then contacts of your contacts and so on.

That’s a huge difference between LinkedIn and Facebook – if in Facebook you may add the whole world as your “friends”, and a lot of people are doing exactly that, then in LinkedIn it’s the worst thing you could do to yourself or to your company. In LinkedIn, once you add someone, who doesn’t filter out his contacts – your relevance is ruined – you see the less interesting news first, because someone in your huge network “liked” it for a reason you won’t understand unless you’ll get drunk, and the first questions you read in the “Answers” area are what your mysterious 2nd level contacts consider as boosters for their online business. Believe it or not, but some entrepreneurs believe in myth that asking a lot of dumb questions in public will lead to increased level of “conversions”, even though they don’t fully understand the term.

Now, applying that principle to Google – having 500+ people in your circles would inevitably lead to the situation, when every search you make leads you to Viagra. The relative unpopularity of Google+ among the Facebook users is a bliss for everyone, for now, and I am going to show you how this will end. Or, let’s better say, what it may become very soon.

And here we are getting closer to the morale of this article. As closer you become to the perverted meaning of the term “social” as “friend to every living being”, the closer you are to failing in search (read: work) performance. Imagine – you are looking for something and find it on the 3rd page, simply because your “friends” and “friends of your friends” +1’d heaps of garbage web resources.

Then you would turn to Bing, but guess what? It will be worse in Bing by that time, and the reason for that – the current position of powers in the world. It seems like Google is working close with LinkedIn, while Facebook is aligned to Microsoft, even though it doesn’t use any technology of the latter.
Have you seen how Android works in modern HTC phones? It detects whether your contacts in Google, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and your address book lead to the same person or company, and offers to link that contacts. In non-mobile world, it already started to happen at Google, which created Google+ seems like with a single reason – to make search more relevant. But that’s a social network nevertheless. And Bing always tries to be on par with Google. Well, I said – it tries. So it will, most likely, attempt to do that.

Today, the search engine #1 in the world is Google. And #2 is YouTube. And every time you log into your YouTube account, the first videos you see are the ones “+1’d” by your contacts in Google+. So we see that at least 3 systems already merged their relevance information – Google Search, YouTube and Google+. When LinkedIn will join the game, you’ll see dramatic positive changes, but then Microsoft (owner of search engine #3, Bing) will step on it’s Achilles’ heel by applying Facebook’s irrelevance to the search, and that is something that potentially could generate a lot of laughs and frustration.

So, what is the best strategy for now?

  1. Get rid of all LIONs* in your LinkedIn network. Just select everyone with 500+ connections and remove them from your contacts. And see how much more relevant LinkedIn became.
  2. Do not add people you don’t care about to your Google+ circles. I mean – if you are using Google web search, Google Earth, YouTube, Picasa or whatever else they are developing. Google+ becomes the most important social network, and decision of connecting with anyone through that network is important as well. Unlike the Facebook, it has significant impact.
  3. Pay attention to the activity of your 1st degree contacts in Google+ and LinkedIn. If inside the original system, like LinkedIn, you could just “unfollow” that person and don’t see the updates from him/her anymore, this action won’t affect the linked systems and these contacts will still affect the content you see there.

It’s not really a question of preference now. Now, and during the year it will become more and more sensible, your performance in work and entertainment will be affected greatly by your social activity.

 

* LION = LinkedIn Open Networker. Once banned, they are now not punished by LinkedIn, but also definitely not encouraged. Simply said – LIONs are people who think, that connecting to everyone is beneficial.

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