We’re definitely not suggesting 2014 will be the end of the traditional search engine, the change will be the decline of search as the main referrer and a switch towards social being the key way we discover content.
When I started using the internet at home in 1997 my web experiences, like everyone else, started with a portal. This wasn’t just because web browsers and ISP made portals the default homepage, but also because most people’s web usage was very functional emails, news and information. As web usage and websites increased we needed something to organise the web, something that could quickly provide us with the information that we were looking for. Google search was that something, it brought the web together and enabled people to find all the wonderful things that the web had to offer. The websites and businesses that understood how paid and organic search on Google worked prospered and those that didn’t faded away. This remained the case until first social media and then connected mobile devices changed everything. Social media provided everyone with the opportunity to create and curate content on the web, while connected mobile devices allowed people to access content wherever and whenever they wanted.
As people spend more time on social networks they’re exposed more to peer recommendations which are invariably more relevant to people than results from an algorithm. Publishers like Vice are now seeing that over 50% of their traffic comes from social and Buzz Feed, one of the fastest growing sites on the web, design their articles around social shares – not Google spiders. A recent Deloitte media study has shown that there is already a generational gap in the UK between those that grew up with the internet and social media and those that didn’t- as those that did are not ‘search first’ but ‘social first’. Youths are usually the forerunners in the adoption of new technology that becomes popular (mobile messaging and social networking) and we can expect the age of those that are ‘social first’, to increasing greatly.
In terms of reach and usage, connected mobile devices are the only media that has grown exponentially over the past four years and is the only media that is still growing in usage. On mobile, the majority of time is spent on apps as it provides people with specialist experiences and access to relevant information. People aren’t just using one service to do everything, they’re using ‘everything for everything’. If they want to go somewhere for food they use the dining app to decided what to eat, the weather app to plan their outfit, the transport app to get there and a social networking app to tell everyone about it and rate it.
In 2014 people will become even more connected through both social media and mobile devices, which will result in many peoples digital experiences not starting with Google search.
Ruro Efue, Social Media Strategist