In the Internet community these days, much is being made of social media as a potential threat to the dominance of Google in the search space.
The idea, which has plenty of merit, is that web users will become so reliant on their social networks and the trust they place in individual recommendations, that they will turn from search engines to their social networks for discovery of new things.
Without a doubt, this is already happening and will continue to happen, but Facebook will not replace Google any more than Google will replace Microsoft. Co-existence is a hallmark of evolving Internet behavior, and there are some interesting trends developing in the place where social media and search intersect.
There are three main pathways by which web users will discover things through the existence of social media. First is from the “streams” that you find on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, where members of your network post things of interest to them.
The second channel is the search engines themselves, who are getting more adept at including social media content in their search results. Google, for example, can now deliver Twitter results in response to a search, and their recently introduced Google Caffeine indexing method now brings more real-time results to users looking for the latest buzz. Speaking of buzz, Google Buzz is a social media feature of Google, which allows them to provide search results to including the notation that these results are what “people in your social circle” have already shown interest in.
The third channel is arguably the best opportunity for marketers to get their messages and their content in front of social media users, and that is the channel of Social Search, which refers to search queries performed on the social sites themselves. This is the area where the credibility of social media networking beautifully supports the act of searching for specific content, and every marketer should think about how well they are optimized for being found this way.
Here’s an example: a member of Facebook clicks on the “like” link on a web article they came across somewhere on the web. By letting Facebook know that they “like” this content, is a signal for Facebook to index that content, making it available for searches performed on Facebook. When someone else in that person’s network does a search for a related topic, this item may be returned to them in the search results, and the searcher will be told that a member of their network specifically liked this content. So yes, there is a lasting effect from “liking” things on Facebook, and one that can have a profound impact on marketers.
Social search is still quite small, representing less than 3% of total search on the web, but it is definitely a growth area and worth considering as part of your Internet Presence Management. To optimize your business for social search, first make sure that your integration with social sites is prominent and easy. Folks should be able to share or “like” a piece of content from your site without having to leave it, or copy-and-paste links.
Also think about things like headlines and images as part of your articles. Do these things make sense outside of your site if they are shared by others, or are they created in such a way that only looks good within your own website?
Lastly, just ask for the sale. Encourage your users to share by blatantly asking them to do so. It’s ok, you just hopefully enlightened them, and for free too… it’s not much to ask that they spread the wealth.
So Facebook and Twitter will not replace Google, but instead, like many things on the web they will dance with each other frequently, while also competing for attention and advertising dollars.
And by the way, if you like this post… then go ahead….LIKE IT (blatant sharing request successfully delivered)!