Today Google announced on their blog major updates to their Social Search technology. This update will rank posts and links shared by people in your social circle on Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, and Quora higher in your search results when you are searching for a related topic. For example, if a friend or connection on Twitter shares a link to a a local hotspot or has created a review of a of that hotspot in Google Hotpot, you will see that link and/or review will show up when you search for that hotspot or related term.
So, why is this relevant to the public safety community? It provides even more reason for public safety agencies to engage in social media. Studies have shown that people turn to the internet more and more for relevant information in an emergency and Google continues to dominate the search engine market and is the “home page” for a large number of individuals. If your agency has engaged in social media and updates it regularly with relevant information during an emergency than your posts to those social media sources will likely be served to any citizen that is socially connected to your agency and searching for related information on Google.
To put this in a little more perspective, a Tornado Warning has been issued for your area and spotters report that a tornado is on the ground. Your agency posts to Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, and other social spaces that a tornado is approaching Main Street and the nearest shelter in the area is located at the Elementary School and provides a link to the National Weather Service’s Tornado Warning. Hearing that a tornado is in the area, an employee at your local hardware store goes to her computer and searches for the word “Tornado”. Do to Google’s ranking of relevance, based on social circles and location, the hardware store employee sees the link to the National Weather Service’s warning along with your comments regarding shelter locations. The employee makes the decision to close the store and direct all other employees and customers to the shelter.
UPDATE: A short video provided by Google on Social Search: