All of the major search engines are now very much social: Bing is happily in bed with Facebook, while Google, after a lot of flirting with Twitter, is risking leading its own social initiative with Google+. We at The Search Agency know the search engines want to buy into the social space; but where does the integration opportunity lie for brands?

What is clear already from the existing venture between Facebook and Bing is that the ‘search’ results within Facebook are now very much spilt between actual Facebook results and Bing results. And users are aware of this. People are ‘checking in’ all over Facebook and as they do this, not only are ads thrown into the mix, but search results are becoming increasingly targeted. It’s not terribly sophisticated, but users are interacting so we, like most, are beginning to conclude that Facebook and Bing are stepping in the right direction.

And now there is Google+ and the huge expectation that it will substantially boost Google’s ability to aggregate social activity and relevant search results. Google does search very well. Heck, Google does video, maps, mail and news all pretty well. To date, Google has not done the social thing terribly well – with the exception of YouTube, of course. And this is where the lines become a little blurred as YouTube is the second largest global search engine. Will Google+ prove Google has learnt a lesson from Buzz, Wave and other forays into social? Only time will tell if users will engage, but maybe Google should be swotting-up on more of what it does well and building this into their ‘social engine’.

Social campaigns will still lean towards Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the latter half of 2011, but surely Google has learnt a thing or two by now. Can the number one search engine become a real social engine? We will just have to see!

I took an informal poll of my Firefly colleagues by asking for some 2011 PR predictions. Always an interesting question to posit this time of year, so here’s a quick roundup of the top responses:

Measure, measure, measure: this could be a make-or-break year for some measurement and evaluation providers, covering both traditional and social media. Expect more consolidation as well as standardisation across the industry, which will necessitate even closer collaboration between third party measurement vendors and PRs . For some sound industry points of view, check out these principles (and “hoorah!” for principle 5, in particular).

Back-to-basics: this year, if they haven’t already, PRs should turn their attention to analytics. This means both the raw data served up by your measurement/evaluation tool of choice, as well as probing those figures like good, old-fashioned data sleuths. It’s not enough to drop pretty graphs into PowerPoint presentations: be prepared to answer why.

Great copy:  at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, we’re also big believers in the “return of great copy”. Whilst we’re still happy tweeting, poking and, great copy is still great copy, and has its place in the world of PR and communications. Just ask Copyblogger.

Where are they now? Last year, we saw more friends leap onto new, social media platforms like Posterous, Quora and Gowalla. Admittedly, it’s getting harder to keep up with their sheer numbers (the platforms, not our friends), as well as gauge whether there’s a substantial enough following on each. Although the social media graveyard is growing, we predict it will be easier to resurrect some fundamentally great ideas, because of the low barrier to entry in the first instance. And when that happens – complete with the necessary tweaks to make these platforms truly great – then we can talk about the real, game-changing Web. 

Happy 2011!

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information