Should Google Be Afraid of Social Media?

in Google

I don’t think it should.

Not everyone would agree – there have been so many articles and blog posts and comments lately saying that people now spend more time on social media sites than they do on search and news sites (in fact, Facebook recently surpassed Google in US traffic); that the recent slew of Google developments and changes, including adding social results to search results; adding a “past hour” filter to search results; adding social search; and of course Google Buzz – are all a result of Google’s frantic attempt to retain market share in the face of fierce competition from social media sites.

There are even articles saying that people now use social media for search instead of turning to search engines.

Personally, I don’t see search engine search going away any time soon, but this is me – my own personal experience – and I might be wrong. I still rely on Google to search for reliable information (still grateful for the highly relevant results they bring me time after time), while my social media use is mostly to interact and build relationships and not so much to get information.

Part of it is the social networks’ inability to properly filter out spam and scams. Google has invested so much in keeping results high quality and relevant and filtering out spam while social media networks are still allowing spammers to take over quite frequently, which – to me – seriously lowers their credibility as sources of information.

In addition, there’s the issue of relevancy. Unlike Google search, a Twitter search brings lots of results, but they are not ordered by relevancy or by authority. Sifting through them can be time-consuming and frustrating. So I don’t necessarily agree with Don Frances, who recently wrote, “You’ll only ever get to a fraction of this [Twitter] material, of course, but it’s always more diverse, timely and strange – more organic – than anything turning up in an old-fashioned Google search.” Organic – perhaps, but relevant? Not necessarily.

Twitter search IS very relevant and much more helpful than Google search when searching for events that are happening right now. Social media definitely moves much faster than search engine crawlers, and so – for example – when Gmail is down, Googling “gmail down” brings up a bunch of irrelevant results from past Gmail failures, while performing a Twitter search for “gmail down” brings immediate, relevant results from other twitterers who are experiencing the same problem.

The same is true for news – Twitter is much better than any other type of media at reporting news as they happen, at least for the first few minutes until traditional media channels such as television start reporting them.

Having said that, I still find that in the vast majority of cases, when researching a non-immediate topic, the top ten traditional Google results are all I need.

Similar Posts: