Will Social Nets Replace Search For Content Discovery?

Nielsen offers a blog post that shows the various ways that people discover content online. Search is at the top, followed by “portals” (which feature search boxes); at the other end are blogs and social networks. However Nielsen argues that certain categories of people are increasingly social media tools as content discovery sources:

We saw the power of opinions posted online in our global study earlier this year about trust in advertising, and the point came up again in our recent findings. Social media is becoming a core product research channel. Almost 15 percent of Socializers most trusted information they found on blogs when researching new purchases online, while nearly 20 percent trusted most the information they found on message boards.

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Then the provocative question is asked: “So are social networks replacing portals or search engines?” Nielsen then says:

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.

But it’s not an either/or, zero-sum situation. There may be some number of queries that people pose to their networks before or in addition to their use of search engines. Overall, “word of mouth” on social media sites is a complement to search engine usage. No doubt social media tools will continue to grow as content sources; however I don’t think we’ll see Facebook or Twitter replace Google or Bing any time soon.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Google: General | Microsoft: Bing | Search Engines: Social Search Engines | Search Engines: Word Of Mouth & Buzz Search Engines


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • jfloyd

    I wrote a little bit about this phenomena in April. I think that social media has distinct advantages over search as far as being a top referrer of content.

    People use their networks as “portals”

    Networks can be hyperlocal

    Networks can provide information that is contextually relevant

    Social media is in real time

    social is direct and filtered

    Power of eavesdropping

    I would be interested to compare the thoughts from the Nielsen report with may lay estimations a few months back http://www.jeremyfloyd.com/2009/twitter-facebook-replacing-search/

  • http://www.thuk.c.o.uk Splinter09

    I’m sure it wont be long before Social Media becomes the second source for content discovery. Right now for me Twitter has become a very useful tool to discover content, but I a tend to do is blend the info I find on Twitter with what ever I can find on the with normal search.

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