Posted October 6, 2009 7:41 am by with 15 comments

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Social Media CollageWhile the commercial Internet age is in its teens according to linear age it has some difficulty focusing. Just when users are getting used to a world that is search engine centric there comes along the social web or social media or social networking or social (insert your word here) to truly change how people make sense of the sheer volume of data on the Internet. This change or movement toward the social web is happening at an ever increasing rate and creates opportunities as well as difficulties for those who are trying to harness this power for business.

Nielsen reports at its blog in a post from Jon Gibbs, VP Media Analytics

In the beginning there were ISPs, which then gave way to portals ― aggregators of content and links ― which then led to the rise of “search” as the dominant form of Internet navigation or, how we get to where we we’re going on the web. However, as with most forms of evolution, change is constant, and over the past two years search navigation has appeared to shift to social media.

We continue to see that social media has not only changed the way consumers communicate and gather on the Web, but also impacted content discovery and navigation in a big way. But how? Is social media taking the place of portals and search as the hub of online navigation?

Nielsen goes on to categorize people as either ‘searchers’ who primarily get their data from search engines, ‘portalists’ who use a portal site to access data and ‘socializers’ who use, you guessed it, social media to get their information. As this last group grows there could be some significant implications moving forward for everyone who is using the Internet for business.

JPEG Start Search

As a result the socializer group actually feels that there is too much information on the Internet. Much more so than those who simply use search engines. Think about it. A search engine user takes it on faith (the vast majority of the time) that the entire Internet for a keyword or key phrase is boiled down to just 10 best results. Of course, if they only take their online sophistication that far then the Internet does appear to be easy to manage. Socializers, on the other hand, spend a lot more time online and hear / see a lot more than regular Internet users. It can become very noisy very quickly.

So how do they manage this? Through their online social network of buddies, of course. At this point, now the real recommendations and buying decisions are happening based on what other people, not an impersonal engine says. Hopefully, they are giving actual experience to help their online connections make more informed purchasing decisions. That’s the theory at least. Take a look at the significant differences in how socializers and searchers use various formats for information. Why Wikipedia is even part of the discussion baffles me but what do I know?

JPEG trustedsource1

So what are you? Searcher? Portalist? Socializer? A little of all of them. Will social media displace search engines as a primary source of information in the near future? What does it mean to you TODAY as an Internet marketer? Share your thoughts and let’s learn from each other.

  • I use social media [for lack of a longer, more descriptive term]
    to learn what’s out there, and more info about a solution or brand
    the same way I hope people take information I share through the same mediums;
    trusting a person they know, more than a search result.

    I use Google plenty. But if an Andy Beal were to say something like
    ‘3rd terrible experience with xyz hosting, despite direct contact. Changing hosts’,
    I wouldn’t care what Google came up with. His review would outweigh them, hands down.

    Google knows this, and it’s why they’re trying get social
    [read: the stomach ache that is sidewiki], among many other recent changes.
    I love the search engines for some of what they can do,
    both as a search user, and marketer.
    And there are some quality folks trying to put a face on them (think Matt Cutts).
    But here’s where the Board’s greed deserves a “foot meet bullet” moment;
    trying to be users *entire* web experience to monetize people’s online
    experience from dusk to dawn, actually turns me off to them even for the things
    they are good at.
    You wouldn’t walk up to friends at cookout, introduce yourself,
    and say “I overheard you, use my laptop and click on these results.
    Never mind what your buddy Andy said”.

  • I am very much a searcher who uses the portals to keep up to date on things in my areas of interest.

    It is amazing how just going over your Facebook feed, how you can catch up on the hot topics of the day really fast.

  • Frank, here’s a helpful supplement to your article called “The ‘No Duhs’ of Social Media.”
    .-= FFcommunicator´s last blog ..Breaking Boundaries =-.

  • This is a most interesting post about the shifting realities of the online medium.

    I believe that for the number of socializers to increase, social media sites will have to show significant improvement in their own search capabilities. We are beginning to witness some major improvements in Twitter through Twitter portals, groups, directories, and of course the Twitter search engine, etc. Those cumulative upgrades may spearhead a revolution in how we look for information on the web and will have ripple effects across the board.

    Thank you Frank for such a stimulating and thought-provoking post.
    .-= Oscar Del Santo´s last blog ..SEO y PPC: La Unión hace la Fuerza =-.

  • I combine a few methods to get information.I am a socializer when it comes to getting information. I seek information and see first what my friends and family think of the product or service and if they have ever used it before. Then I become a searcher and I research the internet about the product or service. If there is something going on in the news, I ask friends and family and then back to being a searcher. I think it is important to combine and not rely on one method but on a multiple of methods to get the best results.

  • Will social media displace search engines as a primary source of information in the near future? hmm…

    Such a great question! Your analysis really makes one think. Gosh, I just realized I’m a socializer more than a searcher.

    I laugh at how many people ask their friends on Twitter a question instead of looking it up. We seek our friends’ opinions first (or we’ve just become lazy).

    Maybe Google’s move into more personalized results, as much as I want to fight it, provide the information we are really looking for. However, will we go to Google to find it?
    .-= Dana Lookadoo´s last blog ..Free Keyword Tool! Thank You, WordStream! =-.

  • I’ve taken the notion of social media’s encroachment on traditional search one step further.. by tying it to the all important buying process. To read my full take, visit:

    Keep up the great articles! 🙂

  • I’m a search, but I will dig much further than the first page for hidden nuggets. I haven’t tried twitter, so no comment. Facebook seems to get crowded when you have a bunch of friends updating throughout the day. I presume, twitter is similar.

    Social mediums will grow, but replace search, I don’t think so. Social mediums will be used in conjunction with search. See what your “friends” think and then see what the SEs think. After all, how many of your friends have actually used an LXR DSLR 30MXTZ?!? :O)
    .-= ChrisCD´s last blog ..CD Rates California =-.

  • I use social media – Blogs, Facebook, Wiki etc. – to get hard specific facts about a topic that I need to know about. This is the future of Web 3.0 (yah yah i know) that the information will come find you instead of you trying to find it. We will soon harness the power of collaboration online to deliver the best answer to a question or query and not results.

    Google is a great way to find quick information about a certain topic no question. You have to remember a few things though… 1. Google delivers results, not answers. 2. These results are based on tireless efforts of SEO and other methods to be found on the first or second page. So just because it ranks high in Google doesn’t mean that it is the best resource for you.

    When was the last time you Googled your name? Do you know what comes up!?

  • Since I’m on the Internet a lot (social media startup) I’ve started noticing something. I’m using Google less. Sure I still use it for the quick, random searches but I’m still using it less than ever before.

    With the rise of social media people have found that they like the answers that people give a whole lot more the the answers a computer algorithm gives, especially if they have a relationship with the person. The problem at hand is that most of the time, the people you are asking are not the people who have the answers. like ChrisCD said (see comment above), “After all, how many of your friends have actually used an LXR DSLR 30MXTZ?!?”

    So how will we find the right people? If you’ve read Seth Godin’s book Tribes, you know that people with similar interests like to form communities. If you are searching for great online content related to “how to play the guitar” you need to find a community centered around people who are experts at teaching people “how to play the guitar.” They are probably bloggers, speakers, teachers, etc.

    And while there is no single social media site to fully facilitate all these different kinds of communities and people-given answers…

    …I’m working on it. 🙂

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