People Are Increasingly Turning To Social Over Search

    September 24, 2012
    Chris Crum

To be clear, people are still turning mostly to search for seeking the answers to their questions. However, the gap between search and social networks is narrowing.

Are you getting more traffic from social media than you were a year ago? How’s it looking compared to search? Let us know in the comments.

There are plenty of sites out there that are getting more traffic from social media sites than they are from search engines. In fact, Google’s constantly changing algorithm almost demands that sites diversify their traffic sources and rely less on Google (the clearly dominant search engine) for the bulk of their traffic.

Doing great in Google now? There’s no guarantee that will last. You’re relying on an algorithm, and algorithms don’t care whether or not they have a substantial impact on your business.

Social media, on the other hand, is much more about people, and regardless of where they share it, people will always share good content, and are not necessarily influenced by over 200 mysterious signals when they share it with their own networks of friends and followers.

With that in mind, it might be good news that social media is apparently gaining ground against search in terms of the traffic it can drive to websites.

Paid Content’s Robert Andrews has a short, but interesting piece on the subject, citing UK Experian Hitwise data indicating that UK visits to major search engines dropped by 100 million through the month of August to 2.21 billion, and dropped by 40 million year-over-year. He shares the following comentary from Hitewise:

“The key thing here is the growing significance of social networks as a source of traffic to websites. Search is the still the number-one source of traffic, but social networks are growing as people increasingly navigate around the web via recommendations from Twitter, Facebook etc.”

This bodes well for Facebook, should it launch its own search offering in the near future, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hinted at.

“We’re basically doing 1 billion queries a day and we’re not even trying,” he’s quoted as saying, adding that “Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have. At some point we’ll do it. We have a team working on it,” and “Search engines are really evolving to give you a set of answers, ‘I have a specific question, answer this question for me.’”

As Andrews notes, people are increasingly finding answers to their questions in social networks. This is why a Facebook search engine could be worth something to users. It’s why the search engines like Google and Bing have added more social content to search results, and it’s why Google is now failing in its mission to index the world’s information and make it universally accessible.

A recent survey from Greenlight Digital suggested that a Facebook search engine could instantly grab 22% of the market share.

According to recent research from Webmarketing123 (pdf), the number of marketers able to attribute leads and sales to particular social channels more than doubled (leads from 15 to 31%, sales from 23% to 60%) year-over-year.

“Compared to last year, nearly 50% more B2Bs now identify social media as having the most impact on lead generation (2011 vs 2012),” the firm said in its report.

In social media engagement, the firm says, “B2c marketers are ahead with 70% moderately to highly engaged (40% highly engaged), but B2B is catching up, with 63% at those levels of engagement (27% highly engaged), overall, only 1 in 10 have no social
media program.”

90% of B2Bs have some level of Social Media engagement, according to the research, with 63% describing themselves as “moderately to fully engaged,” and 25% “very” to “fully” engaged. The majority of this group, Webmarketing123 says, are seeing a return on their investment. Top areas of investment (for the 60% that spend) are Facebook & LinkedIn (where 40% are active), and Twitter (30%).

Other research from RichRelevance indicates that for ecommerce, Pinterest is increasing in terms of traffic value (specifically average order value).

Webmarketing123 says that 20% of the marketers active on social media aren’t sure if they’re generating leads, and a full 40% aren’t sure if they’ve closed sales attributable to social media.

We looked more at the search-related data the firm collected here.

Are you finding social media to be valuable for traffic? Leads? Conversions? Let us know in the comments.