In this first part, our group of ten executives and journalists chewed on the question:
“Is traditional search dead as a means of discovery?”
Watch the video for yourself, and read highlights of the conversation below.
Search is utility, social is discovery.
Search has never been about discovering something new, but rather finding what you want once you know what you want. Social, on the other hand, is all about serendipity.
“With search I think of words like utility and efficiency; it’s purposeful. With social discovery, there’s an element of surprise and then, hopefully, delight. You’re not necessarily sure what you’re looking for, because sometimes you’re not really looking for anything.” —Wenda Harris Millard, Media Link
Are social users more valuable?
This was surprisingly debated in the conversation, and the conversation reflected different experiences from different publishers; and reflects the difference in methods used to draw social traffic. For example, Forbes sees disproportionate traffic from LinkedIn to reach its largely male and older-skewing audience; while Wetpaint Entertainment uses the Facebook newsfeed to repeatedly reengage the site’s 1.4 million fans, almost all young women.
“When you talk about running a business, the person who comes in through search is a very valuable person – more so than the person who’s coming in through social. Social users are fleeting users, not necessarily loyal to the site.” —Lewis DVorkin, Forbes Media
Social is hard for marketers.
While marketers recognize the promise of social marketing, the methods and measurements are far from sophisticated for most. We need to get better at understanding and tapping into unexpected virality and the seemingly random discovery paths in social.
“In search, purchase intent is right there. But for advertisers in the social world, it’s harder to know exactly where that intersection is. You want to be part of that conversation, but you risk interrupting it.” —Greg Clayman, The Daily
Ultimately, social and search will converge.
As Google works to see if it can decipher the social code, and Facebook moves closer to taking over the entire digital world, we are headed toward a merger of search and social.
“If you look a few years out and you say where’s social and where’s search, they’re in the same place. There’s a merger between the two. These two spaces are on a collision course, and we need to start looking three years out to see how that collision course takes shape.” —Ben Elowitz, Wetpaint
“The intersection between social and search is growing. I go to Google and search “bunk beds” and I get a set of useless results. I go to Pinterest and you wouldn’t believe what I find. That really is the intersection of social and search: it’s utility-driven, it’s purpose-driven and yet the discovery is that much richer, that much more useful.” —Jeff Berman, NFL Digital
The next two parts of this three-part series:
For more perspective, download a PDF of the full publication Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.