The online world as people know it continue to change at a very staggering rate on a daily basis that many businesses sometimes find it hard to keep up and be competitive. This highly competitive marketing arena has evolved from basic online technologies to its current status where the rate of technological development is barely keeping up with the demands of a fast-paced driven and highly connected consumer base.
Modern communities right now probably barely remember a time when they have no easy access to a personal computer, a smartphone, a tablet or any other Internet-enabled electronic device. This new generation of consumers expects to be constantly in communication with their families, peers, business associates, suppliers, and customers. Getting immediate results when they need it has become a vital need and is clearly expected from those they do business with. Brands, products and services that cannot operate within these new business dynamics will simply be left behind by competitors who can.
And the Internet is evolving once more.
The tremendous popularity of social media and the need for more relevant results during online searches for information is driving the next evolution of the Internet. The search for information has gone beyond simply linking from one source to another, but is influenced greatly by recommendations, opinions and suggestions by online peers. A new system needs to evolve so that it can integrate social components with the search for information. The Semantic Web or what experts are also calling the Linked Data Web or Web 3.0 is purported to be the next iteration that will make search more social – and redefine the future of the Internet.
Why Make Search More Social?
Word of mouth has been proven time and time again as the most powerful and most effective form of marketing, in the traditional marketplace as well as new online arenas. Studies like Nielsen’s “Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages” have established that up to 92% of people will trust what their families or friends say about a particular brand, product or service more than what advertising and other forms of marketing say. In fact, the same report also says that more than half of consumers really do not trust or find traditional advertising materials credible.
In another Nielsen study entitled “A Multi-Mix Media Approach Drives New Product Awareness” it was established that up to 77% of consumers have a greater possibility of buying a new product if the information they gathered about what they intend to purchase came from their families or friends. A greater percentage of consumers, 81%, will most likely make a purchase after being influenced by what their social media friends post, according to Market Force.
This just goes to show how powerful and influential word of mouth really is. This is translated by the social element of what goes on through online channels. This is what big search engines like Google and Big have come to realize, eventually working to integrate these features into their system. With this new feature, search results will give importance not only to the content of a particular website but also on the social relationship between the content provider and the information seeker.
What searchers will then get from this integrated social search system are results from people, community or a demographic segment that they most likely trust with recommendations or opinions. Businesses on the other hand can gain insight from the results of this integrated social search system, getting a much more comprehensive understanding of what people and consumers actually want – and what influences how they get it.
It’s a whole new arena of search that will make it more relevant and more personalized – exactly as what they wanted their search results to be. But, is there an existing system that can truly make search more social? Semantic web may provide the answer.
Understanding Semantic Web
The term “semantic” means understanding or meaning, and this is what Semantic Web implies – focusing more on the meaning of the information required and not just how the words and date were structured. People are calling it Third Generation Web or more commonly as Web 3.0, for it is indeed the third iteration of the World Wide Web as people know it. It all began with Web 1.0 where interaction with online users is still not an option readily available. Web pages are still static are there is very little or no options for posting comments, tagging pictures, rating posts and other stuff people do now online.
This paves in the emergence Web 2.0 or what people are using online at present. It improves on the basic structures established on Web 1.0 but adds in greater abilities for interaction, sharing information, and run browser-based applications and programs. Web 2.0 ushered in the tremendous popularity of Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter. Now, people can easily make comments, “like” a post, tag a picture, participate in online surveys, rate products or sellers, and easily book a hotel room. Web 2.0 also makes it possible for online users to “socially” interact with each other through social networks, blogs, and other enable channels.
However, although Web 2.0 allowed the influx of user-generated content that consumers may rely upon to influence their purchasing behavior, it is still based on a system that matches the structure of words and keyword specifics. It still does not take into consideration nor try to understand what the searcher is actually looking for what goes beyond simple matching specified keywords with existing content.
With Web 3.0, focus will be on the semantics or the meaning of the words people use online when searching for information. It goes beyond matching keywords or keyword phrases to websites with relevant content that the searcher may be looking for. With Semantic Web, computer systems will try to understand exactly what the searcher is trying to look for based on the complex set of words, sentences that he or she may use to look for information and the user’s search history (if logged-in to an account just like the case of Google users).
For example, a searcher may be looking for a particular set of shoes that he would like to purchase physically or order online. He or she may type in this complex query: “I want to buy a pair of BrandX running shoes worth $50 or below from a shop near New York. I would like to know where the store is located, or if I can order online, and how I can get there. Provide me with options available.” A Web 3.0 search engine will process this query and try to understand what the consumer is looking for – and will return with a listing of BrandX models worth $50 below from Shop ABC located at Address XYZ. The result will also provide information on private car or public commuter routes to the address as well as an option page where the consumer can purchase the product online.
It’s like having your very own personal assistant, like the Siri application in Apple’s iPhone iOS, but on a much, much larger scale. Not only that, this virtual personal assistant will learn more about your search or purchasing behavior the more you surf and search for information. Unlike previous search algorithms that provides results of websites or pages that contains the keywords you are searching for, semantic web search engines will try to understand the nature of your search and will send you directly to the exact piece of information you are looking – which can be contained within these websites or web pages. It’s a whole new search experience that will revolutionize how people use the Internet.
The Future of the Internet is Beyond Search and Social
As the Semantic Web and Web 3.0 is currently being developed, its final outcome may usher in the future of the Internet that goes beyond search and social elements. Going back to the example provided earlier, this final iteration will provide results that not only provides the specific set of information described earlier, but will rank results based on what your social media friends and/or consumer demographic is saying or has recommended. The future of the Internet will integrate all this and more.
The result will make it even easier for people to create information, share it with others, or consume data based on what was recommended by their peers and people they trust online. There is much user-generated content flooding the Internet on a daily basis and Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web can make sense of it all, providing you with a better and higher level of order and organization for a more efficient and productive use of information available online.
As a final note, integrating social and search elements through the Semantic Web will increase the potential of utilizing user-generated content for business use. Marketers and business owners can create better and more relevant sets of information that can reach their targeted customers based on semantic searches. It will be a win-win situation, with consumers getting what they want for a richer and more relevant use of social media and the Internet, and business owners reaching out to targeted customers that really matter much for the survival – and success – of their businesses.