Search is Becoming More Social, Advertisers Stand to Benefit

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It’s well known that social media is enjoying unprecedented popularity, but Facebook’s recent success in launching its own unique social version of search (where sites are ranked by ‘likes,’ not links), has forced search engine providers to respond more aggressively to this now direct threat to their own core businesses. Social media has always struggled to find a way to transform their communities into a viable revenue stream. Search appears to be their pathway to profitability.

You’ll want to be knowledgeable about this trend—search engines behaving more like social media communities—as it may impact your digital marketing strategy. Be aware that their goal is to secure your advertising dollars, but this is great news for advertisers all around as healthy competition is usually to their/your benefit. We’re likely to see new search features and services (improving the user experience, attracting and retaining more users) and possibly better ad pricing – especially if the Google monopoly on search is weakened.

Facebook, given its half a billion users, is a real contender. June 2010 statistics, from Internet metrics firm comScore, showed them beating Ask.com, and dogging the heels of AOL, for overall search activity. While they are far behind Google, the market leader, it is important to note that Facebook is growing and gaining market share. There has been steady growth, every month, since they redid their homepage (in February) to promote their search offering to users.

Bing may be the only search engine of the top five (Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL, and Ask) sitting pretty, since they have partnered with Facebook and Twitter to gain access to social media generated content/rankings to use in Bing searches. They are likely to benefit, as well, from any of Facebook’s jousts to topple Google. A loss for Google will likely be a gain for Bing.

Fortune magazine’s August 16th, 2010 cover story, “Is Google Over?” discussed the impact of this new development. The article suggested that search engines are on their way to being replaced by social media gathering places such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (this also appears to be the motivation behind the hotly rumored Google Me project, Google’s answer to Facebook, and Google’s recent investment in social gaming).

Ask.com is evidentially addressing some of the same concerns with their new, revamped Ask.com site released as beta in late July. Answers will be provided by an Ask.com ‘community’ of real people, rather than the standard search engine links. Right now access is invitation only, but it’s worth checking out.

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