Google social search results are great (not creepy)

This isn’t a post for my tech and new media friends.

Rather, it’s a post for my friends who do NOT obsessively follow developments related to the intersection of media, technology and marketing: in other words, nearly everyone I know away from the office.

I’m writing this for you, because it’s about something Google announced today that I think is pretty great — but you could easily think it’s very creepy. So, here goes.

If you have a Google account (translation: you probably do, even if you don’t think you do — a Gmail account works), and you are logged into Google (translation: If you see Google in the classic, plain way, click on that “Sign in” link up in the right hand corner) and you go to the effort of setting up a Google profile and add links to your Twitter and other social networking accounts, when you google something, you’ll start seeing little pictures of your online connections and their links to topics relevant to what you’ve searched for.

(Now, my new media and tech friends probably have Google profiles, etc., so that’s one of the reasons why this post isn’t for them.)

Those “social search” results could include a link a friend or news-source you follow has shared on Twitter — or perhaps a link and notation you’ve added to Google Reader (a reason to have an account).

The news today is that those social search results are now going to be integrated into web search results and not broken out as a separate category at the bottom of the Google search results page. (The video I’ve embedded above explains the feature quickly and much more understandably than my attempt, so watch it.)

Now, I think that’s a great way to personalize and customize search for a better experience. Say, if I search for a restaurant and Google knows everyone with whom I have some connection, they can then include as front-page results (in theory) links to Yelp reviews from people I know. I think that’s great — however, I totally understand why many people will think that’s creepy. For some reason, some people don’t like Google knowing everything they’ve ever done and every place they’ve ever visited and every sentence they’ve ever written about any topic.

As I understood that was part of the deal about 15 years ago when I started posting things on the web, I guess I built into my expectations that one day, all of those things could be found in the context of when people wanted to find them.

But I digress.

This is a pretty big deal for it is a clear reward for people who spend time curating links for their followers on Twitter. It’s also going to be a pretty interesting experiment to watch if you’re a student of search.

I think, however, that it may cause people who follow thousands of people on Twitter to consider pruning such lists as links from all of those people will now show up in their results. (That’s a guess on my part, I haven’t seen the results.)

If this does sound creepy to you, here’s all you need to do to keep your tweets, etc., from showing up: Don’t log into Google when you search, and if you’re really freaked out, de-couple all of your public pages from your Google profile.

But I suggest you not be afraid of this. It’s actually one of the good things the internet can do for you.