Social search hasn't had the best of starts really. Hailed as the next obvious step for search engines to take, trying to make sense of all the data created by social media sites has proved a daunting task. Google tried implementing it in its own search engine, Bing integrated Facebook and Twitter into its services with limited success, and Facebook's own Graph Search is experiencing a slow rollout as the company begins the arduous task of mapping the entire site.
For the most part, social search has been more trouble than it was worth and we're no closer to uncovering a solution than we were this time last year. Although that hasn't stopped sites from trying, and each attempt brings us ever closer to a solution.
Bridging The Gap Between Data & Context
The problem with social search is not just mapping the data, but providing context behind it as well. It's all well and good that someone 'Likes' Xbox or a TV series, but the metric is so passive and general, it tells you very little overall. Also, analysing text and updates is also flawed as it doesn't take tone (or sarcasm) into account.
The latest attempt at social search is coming from an unlikely source, but one that's better equipped than most to try it out. Pinterest has an established userbase, and while its growth levels have cooled down a bit since it exploded in popularity back in September 2011, it's in a good position to experiment with content. The company seems to be heading in this direction as it provides advertising solutions to businesses and marketers.
One of the benefits that Pinterest has is that the type of content posted onto the site mostly consists of things that people like and want. That and the boards in which people group pinned content add a layer of context that most sites lack.
And that context will be expanded upon with the introduction of 'Rich Pins', pins that provide context behind the content. Ranging from basic information like price and other purchase information, ingredient listings for recipes or movie pins that provide ratings, cast listings and other interesting information. This feature was designed mainly with brands in mind, but it also lends itself to adding more data to search and that, combined with the context from boards and pins, could offer a clue to developing a viable version of social search.
Considering how ambitious the aim, it could easily be another failure, but Pinterest does have a unique set of features to work with, meaning that its attempt isn't as crazy as it first appears.