Digital Marketing for the Future: Is Social Search the New SEO?

Digital Marketing for the Future: Is Social Search the New SEO?

When marketers talked about search optimization ten years ago, they were talking about SEO. And while SEO is still a thriving and effective way of driving organic traffic to a website, SEO alone is not enough. Modern consumers no longer rely solely on search engines to research brands and products; instead, they’re using a variety of tools:

  • According to a study published by Google, people spend three hours a day on their smartphones and interact with almost 5 apps in any given hour. Four app types receive the highest usage: email, social, messaging, and browser apps.
  • According to Nielsen research 53% of people use their smartphones to compare prices when shopping, and 52% use their smartphones to look up product information.
  • Additionally, Global Web Index’s Q3 2016 report shows that 94% of adults have at least one social media account, and time spent on social networking sites averages nearly two hours daily.

Social media is exerting an ever-increasing influence on brand perception and buying decisions, meaning search optimization can no longer focus on SEO alone. Effective online marketing in today’s world requires an omni-channel approach.

Facebook as a Search Engine

The search bar on Facebook is generally considered a means of searching for friends and connections, but Facebook wants to change that. The company has been working for years to create an effective search algorithm that allows people to search content posted to the social media site. The goal is to make content posted to Facebook relevant for more than just the 24 hours that it appears in site feeds.

“When people actually associate Facebook with answering the questions they have, that's when we'll be successful.” –Tom Stocky, Vice President of Search, Facebook

More than one-third of users turn to social media when looking for information about brands and products, and 67% of people admit that online reviews affect their purchasing decisions. Given that Facebook has the capability to connect search results with direct feedback from a user’s community of friends and connections, the site’s search has the possibility of becoming the go-to source for product and brand research in the future.

Social as a News Source

When asked where they go to read news, business, and lifestyle stories, search engines (79%) and social media (76%) were the top sources according to the results of a recent study published on HubSpot This has changed dramatically in the last two years: Facebook has seen a 57% increase, Twitter a 25% increase, and LinkedIn a 21% increase in usage for content consumption.

Additionally, Facebook actually drives more traffic to sites than Google. In a report published last year from Parse.lyan analytics platform serving some of the largest content publishers in the world—Facebook referrals grew dramatically in 2014 and 2015, ultimately sending 3% more referral traffic than the leading search engine.

Excelling in Social Search

The ever-increasing reliance on mobile for purchasing decisions is leading to a change in the way people search online. People are more likely to conduct thorough research online before making a purchase, even if the purchase is made offline. People are also spending more time in social networking apps, making a brand’s social presence critical in ongoing success.
To excel in social search, brands need to do more than just grow likes—they need to build social communities:

  • Encouraging customers to review products may be effective if Facebook social search takes off. Search results will be combined with reviews and comments from individuals in a searcher’s network, increasing brand/product visibility and credibility.
  • Utilization of social broadcast tools like Facebook Live will help to create an active social community, as will taking the time to provide customer service on social media.

Keep in mind that consumers have high expectations when it comes to social media interactions. Almost half of people who send complaints via social media expect a response within an hour meaning that brands will have to be really dedicated to the platform in order to be successful.

Social Search as the New SEO

As people turn more often to social networks for content—be it news content, product information, or purchase recommendations—brands that have taken the time to build active social communities, share quality content on social networks, and provide exceptional customer service will continue to drive quality traffic that’s more likely to engage and convert.

Social is a marketing powerhouse: it drives content consumption, enables expanded distribution, and connects content with reviews and recommendations from trusted sources. Businesses who maintain active and useful social communities will be one step ahead as we approach the social tipping point where an evolved, interactive search process is preferred.




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