While 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.
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?
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.