The short answer is no, Google does NOT use social media data in their search results BUT that does not sufficiently tell the whole story.
The History of Social Media and SEO
In May 2010, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web Spam Team, mentioned in a Webmaster’s video that Google does not use social media in their ranking algorithms. In December 2010, Matt Cutts did a turn around in this Webmasters Video and when asked him to confirm that Google uses Twitter and Facebook links as a ranking signal he responded with an unequivocal yes.
Since then several events occurred that has made Google change its stance on social links for for ranking in SERPs. 1. Google started their own social platform, Google+. 2. Google had a bad experience with Twitter after their deal to include Twitter updates in their search results through a special feed fell apart. And 3. Google realized just how fickle social information can be.
So, as we stand now in the beginning of 2015, Google is not using social metrics or links in their search results. This was confirmed by Matt Cutts in January of 2014 when he was asked if pages from social media sites are ranked differently and by Google search chief Amit Singhal in his keynote speech at SMX West 2014.
Does this mean that Google is not crawling Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites?
Not at all.
What it means is that Google does not treat social sites differently than other pages. It does not give preferential treatment to a Facebook Page or Twitter persona that has many Likes, Friends, Followers or Retweets. If a page is public then Google can, does and will crawl it and possibly return that information in search results.
Google has started returning social results in Google Alerts. After the traditional Google results there is a section called “the Web” which includes results from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Radio Lino and more. For example, in a Google alert that I have set up for the term classroom I received the following including results from Lino, Facebook, South Carolina ETV Radio and Twitter:
Although I have yet to see a Facebook Post in my SERPs, the fact that Google is returning these results in Google Alerts makes me believe it is about to happen.
Will Google ever use social signals as a method of ranking? It’s a great idea in theory and most SEO experts think that it will be coming in the next 10 years after Google gets a real handle on what social signals mean, how they can be detected and how reliable they are. As Matt Cutts said, “When will Google stop updating its search results? Never .”