Cameron Olthuis announced this morning that ACS is launching a new personalized social media search tool, Serph, which will let users find what “other people are saying on the web right now.”
Serph, in limited beta testing, seems to be a bit different from Technorati or BlogPulse in terms of total social media coverage. If you’d like to check it out, go to the Serph.com site and apply to privately beta test Serph.
Interview with Cameron Olthuis
I had a chance to chat with Cameron a bit today about Serph and here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Thanks for the Interview Cameron, could you give our readers a quick overview of Serph?
Serph is social meta search engine that was designed as a buzz tracking tool. It goes out and searches various online social media sites to find the latest buzz on the web right now. The results are then sorted and organized so the most recent buzz appears first.
By “right now”, are you saying that Serph tracks in real time?
It is pretty close to real time depending on the source, usually within a couple of minutes at the most
Which social media outlets does Serph surf & track?
Flickr, Delicious, Digg, Technorati, Bloglines, YouTube, Google Blog Search, and Sphere are some of the bigger social sites that Serph tracks.
What about the smaller and more niche social media sites?
Ma.gnolia, podzinger, newsvine, feedster, and topix.net to name a few. [Cameron’s going to be sending over a longer list later in the day]
At first glance, I kind of see Serph as being DogPile 2.0, updating or perhaps even reinventing the meta search engine beyond Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, Live.com and traditional linear search. Your thoughts?
Well Serph was never intended to be a search engine in the traditional sense. However, since we started beta testing we’ve noticed lots of people actually using it as a search engine for things that are happening now, like news.
The idea to create Serph came from a pain that if we wanted to track the buzz for clients or ourselves we had to use several different outlets. We figured it would be much easier if we could just search all those outlets with one simple to use tool.
Will Serph be open to any and all Internet users?
Right now we are still in beta. We’re approving all accounts for people that sign up during beta and once all the bugs are worked out we do plan to open it up to everyone.
How will ACS monetize Serph? Sure Serph is intended for the marketing crowd, but if ACS is opening such a glimpse of this technology to the public and it takes off, as I think it will, you all are going to be going through some mega bandwidth. Any plans to institute paid search or will you be going with a VIP style professional offering too?
We haven’t exactly decided on the monetization model at this point. We have several different ideas brewing in our heads but first we’d like to understand more about the way people use Serph and the value it provides to them. This is one way that feedback from beta testers will help us. We have already been approached by a few PR agencies and other software providers about licensing the technology, so that’s one possible avenue. But again, we’re not exactly sure which road we’ll take at this point.
Will Serph offer search term trends among the social media landscape in a similar fashion as Google Trends does with linear search or BlogPulse offers with blog search?
I can’t give you a definite yes to that question. I can tell you that we’ve played around with a trends feature and it’s something we would like to implement at some point. I guess it really just comes to down the value it provides for the users, if enough people request it I am sure it’s something we will add.
Does Serph offer an alert system to let users know when there are critical spikes in social media coverage?
The closest thing we offer to that right now is the RSS feeds. Depending on the feed reader that is being used those can be setup on the users end.
Desired Serph Features
I’ve had the chance to perform some searches on Serph and here are some features that I would like to see:
1. Social Media Differentiation : I can search for blog search results anywhere and a lot of the searches resulted in Sphere or Bloglines results. Ideally, I’d like to be able to search for bookmark or social news mentions only.
2. Social Media Comparison : How can I see where my social media optimization or marketing campaign is paying off? Serph should offer the service of drilling down and comparing forms of social media coverage… such as bookmarks only vs. social news only…. like del.icio.us, furl and MyWeb vs. Digg, Reddit and Newsvine.
3. Crisis Management Alerts : Serph should offer alerts in RSS, SMS and email (user option) for critical spikes in subscriber search terms. This could be a paid service and I believe that given the mobility of today’s work environment (especially in the PR industry), the ability to get a quick text message alerting to positive or negative company buzz amongst online opinion leaders could be a very valuable service worth paying for.
4. Blog Posts vs. Comments : I’d like to be able and differentiate mentions of a company which appear in a blog post or comment. If someone is trashing or suggesting a business in the comments of blog posts which focus on the competition or field a business specializes in, this instant info could also be quite valuable.
If you’ve given Serph a spin, please feel free to review it or leave comments below.