Social Media Will Not Replace Search
By Chris Crum - Tue, 10/06/2009 - 12:10
Do You Trust Strangers More Than Search Results?
Nielsen has shared some interesting findings from its research on how Internet users discover content. The research mainly focused on how content is found through search, portals, and through social media.
"In a nutshell, there is a segment of the online population that uses social media as a core navigation and information discovery tool — roughly 18 percent of users see it as core to finding new information. While still a smaller percentage than those who use search engines or portals like Yahoo! or MSN, it is a significant figure," says Nielsen. "And as social media usage continues to increase (unique visitors to Twitter.com increased 959% YOY in August) I can only expect this figure to grow."
If you were still questioning the possibilities of getting traffic from social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc., perhaps this information will help ease your doubts. While the traffic may not always be as significant as what comes from search, additional traffic is additional traffic, and the viral potential offered by social networks shouldn't be ignored.
"At the root of the changing nature of content discovery is the sheer amount of information that is available on the Web," says Nielsen. "If you want to learn more about the latest smartphone released into the market, your favorite search engine is sure to provide you with hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about the device. But with the increasing number of resources available, it’s difficult to know what you should believe or take at face value."
According to the firm's findings, 26% of "socializers" or those who spend over 10% or more of their online time on social media, feel that there is too much information online. Nielsen says, "So are social networks replacing portals or search engines? Perhaps. Regardless, if we don’t understand and address people feeling increasingly alienated by the amount of information on the Internet, and the need for a human guide, yes, your favorite social network (or something like it) will become the next great content gateway."
Of course the search engines are built on a cross between human and mechanical elements. Google's search quality team has been discussing this very process. Personally, I'm all for social media, but I don't usually have too much trouble finding the information I seek using search. If anything, I think the information overload simply stresses the need for the continued improvement in search quality.
Your friends may not have all the answers you seek. Furthermore, if you are asking people you don't know, why would you trust them any more than search results?
Search and social media are not completely separate entities. Social networks have search functionality and search engines search through social networks. It's all intertwined.