Are social media becoming the new search engines?


When you think about searching online, do you picture the Google search bar, or the TikTok search bar? If it’s the former, you might be behind on the trends. Because while you’re optimizing your content for Google, younger generations are turning to social media to search for information. Almost 40% in fact. But should this information impact your content strategy? And is this just a trend, or are social media really becoming the new search engines?

What is the appeal of social media as a search engine?

With the internet being as chaotic as it is, young people (and particularly Gen Z) use social media as a way to easily find what they’re looking for. So what are they looking for? Genuine content. Videos made by real people who share their experiences about a certain topic, product, or service.

Example of Instagram (left) and TikTok (right) influencers

But young people also love short content. Both TikTok and Instagram have a limit on how long videos can be, which means you get more relevant content in a short time. Just think about it. Would you rather comb through a wall of text that is the Google search results, or watch a video of under a minute? The latter is definitely more efficient. 

How important is social media anyway?

To answer this question, we need to look at some facts. Let’s start with the most obvious one: how many people use social media anyway? The answer: around 56% of the world’s total population. Which is more than half, but not by much. The average person spends 2 hours and 25 minutes on social media every day. So there’s no denying that there are benefits to being present on social media as a company. However, compared to the whopping 6 hours and 37 minutes that people spend on the internet, you might think that social media is not as valuable as having a website and optimizing for search engines.

During YoastCon 2023, SEO expert Jes Scholz also spoke about the importance of social media in today’s search landscape. During this talk, she explained why, in today’s day of age, you need to optimize beyond search. Check out a short snippet of her talk right here:

Trust goes an even longer way

But it’s not just about sales. Research has shown that brand image has become increasingly more important to consumers. In 2022, consumers stated that they would pay more to purchase from a brand they trust, and what better way to build that trust than by using TikTok or Instagram, an app that requires businesses to show the faces behind their company? So while social media might not be your main venue, it can certainly be a good one to leave a positive impression on your audience.  

When you really think about it, is it so strange that social media is becoming more popular as a search engine when Google has become more like a social network? A few years ago, Google started to fundamentally change the way they work. And one of these changes was going from text to visual. Have you noticed that when you search in Google, you’re shown more visual results? Videos, images, reviews with photos attached. Instead of a wall of text that no one wants, Google now shows you authenticity.

And it makes you wonder: if Google thinks social media are a big enough threat that they changed the fundamental way Google worked, should you?

Everything is changing

Social media becoming search engines, conversational search gaining popularity, and AI tools taking over the internet… All that change can feel scary. The good news? You’re not alone in that feeling. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or tired because of the changing online world (even though many businesses use the slogan “the only constant is change” on their site, so really, what did you expect?), then so are many other people. And those people might prefer that you’re still doing things the old way. 

Is changing your strategy even a choice?

But let’s be realistic: many companies will follow in Google’s footsteps. They’ll utilize social media and Google’s new functionalities to stay in the game. And those people that also felt overwhelmed or tired? They’ve gotten used to the new functionalities. So while it might not sound fun to learn a new way of doing business, it’s the only way you’ll be able to move forward. Or move at all. Luckily, you can always hire a young person to help you navigate the highly addictive landscape of social media.

Read more: 10 copywriting tips for social media »

The post Are social media becoming the new search engines? appeared first on Yoast.