If you’ve been keeping abreast with social media, there’s nearly an infinite number of ways to leverage all of this data in new and interesting cases. One of those uses is in the personalization of the Web search experience based on the social graph.

A couple of the reporters who have written some informative pieces in this space are Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable and Tom Simonite at Technology Review. Jennifer highlights the possibilities of how personalization in search can evolve our Web experience through organic and contextual content discovery. Whereas Tom focuses on how this information can not only enable more relevant results for users, but can help avoid the noise associated with traditional link graph manipulation (sorry, SEO professionals!). In a related (but different) usage of social media, Mathew Ingram at GigaOm recently wrote an article on how Facebook is using social media to foster a social buying experience for social events and offerings through the new Facebook Deals features. If this program starts to have wings, and deals far out-number what users can scan, this will be the perfect platform for contextually-driven offers and effective micro-targeting techniques.

But what does this mean and why should we care?
From the days in which Google started the paradigm shift in the search market, the refinement of search has been driven by the growing amount of global information. From graph mining, to deeper text analytics, to user search patterns, all of the mechanisms have improved our ability to get acceptable results quickly. But with the advent of social media, there are new and interesting ways to take search to a personal level. Your social networks provide personalized views of what’s contextually relevant to you, based on what you and your friends have expressed as interesting. Relevance to you and your friends can be recommendation-driven based on your Likes, +1s, Shares, and Retweets. Or, it can be mined directly from the conversations and discussions you carry.

Will this mean the Web experience becomes fundamentally different?
The way that Amazon has personalized your buying experience is similar to the future possibilities of a personalized Web. Not only will we have the choice to search for information in the way we’ve grown to love, but we’ll have a web-scale recommendation engine to enable new ways for us to discover and surface information we might not know we should be looking for.

What I find exciting about these possibilities is its extension of how we can interact with the growing content that’s out there. Search has always, and will always, give us the capabilities to look for information that’s out there. We will always need the flexibility to extend beyond ourselves and our friends’ interests, ask new and novel questions of the web and find information independent of our social network. Social search takes us down new paths of answering the question “What should I be looking for?” and “What don’t I know to ask?” By applying context derived from our local networks, we can be more confident that social search-driven recommendations of content that I didn’t expressly ask for will be interesting, engaging, and often serendipitous.

What is the impact on brands?
For brands, this brings up a unique and difficult question. If everyone has a personalized view of the Web, how do we actually assess the impact and visibility of owned, earned or bought media, when our consumers are presented with an ever-changing and highly dynamic localized context? Well, the short answer is we shouldn’t be worried about that. This actually provides new ways to target contextually relevant and more impactful messages to consumers. Better targeting and better messaging means more effective engagement. Brands and consumers can form stronger relationships through a deeper understanding of each other. And at the end of the day, our true measures of success are still going to be driven by the bottom line.

In fact, the only thing we should fear is ourselves. Not recognizing or not adjusting to the evolution of the Web is the largest risk to everyone.

Author: Enrico Montana is director of product management at Visible Technologies, a social media monitoring and analytics company.