If you thought things were already moving fast in the social media sphere, things are about to get a great deal faster. Major search engines will soon be forced to innovate the way they display search results by incorporating social media more effectively or risk losing search traffic directly to the social media platforms themselves.
The speed at which people want the latest information in relation to pretty much anything and everything will soon reach stellar proportions. The fact is that company websites are never going to be able to provide updates or new content as regularly as people demand it. Social media on the other hand can.
An increasing number of individuals are going to abandon the more traditional search engines in favour of information and content recommended by peers. This sentiment is supported by figures released by Hitwise on 6th June 2011 which show that Google recorded a share of the search market equal to its May 2010 figures. Meanwhile Twitter recorded its biggest ever month of U.K traffic.
“Twitter accounted for 1 in every 184 U.K Internet visits in the 21st May 2011.”
Hitwise, June 2011.
Twitter use in the UK is on the rise and with announcements such as the one from Apple which said that it's new version of operating system iOS5 would have Twitter functionality built in and facts from Twitter stating that 100 million new accounts were opened in 2010, illustrate that this is the case.
The reason Twitter will be the platform to challenge search is due to the access it provides to worldwide opinion and content. If an individual wanted to find out information about a place they were visiting, they could do a Twitter search for the place name and see what information they could get in real time. This can be applied to simple information such as weather conditions or photographic content but more importantly opinions. This information is instantaneous and always up to date.
But its not only Twitter that provides a challenge for search engines. Other social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook are also a threat because people are increasingly posing questions to their friends and contacts. Linkedin has an integrated question and answer section which has been integral to its structure for a few years now. Other sites such Yahoo questions or emerging site Quora focus purely on asking and answering these questions. It is not only Google that people turn to when they have a question that needs answering.
If a brand or company has ventured on to one or two social media platforms and ignored others, they are soon going to be in danger of missing a trick. There is an urgent requirement to engage with potential customers through a variety of channels and a need to recognise that instant information is increasingly being gathered from a variety of sources, not just through search. Some are quick to dismiss the 'threat' that social media poses. Dan Sabbagh in the Guardian suggests,
“Social networking news is no match for Google - for now.”
Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian.
This may well be the case, but there is certainly evidence to suggest that the trend toward social media is strengthening. Search alone is not the only way customers are going to make enquiries about a product or service and this shift is one that is growing stronger. Major search engines will be forced to innovate the way they display search results by incorporating social media more effectively or they will risk losing that traffic to social media platforms.
Do you feel search engines have recognised this threat? If so, what will they do to counter these trends?