Social search supplanted indexed search in 2011: Info-Tech

Many small businesses have invested scarce marketing resources in search engine optimization in a bid to stand out from the crowd. But with indexed search collapsing in favour of social media, it may be time for businesses to try a new approach.

Around social media a major shift is taking place in the way we search. That was among the messages delivered by the London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group at the analyst firm’s recent technology trends and predictions event in Toronto.

Davin Juusola, vice-president of research and development for Info-Tech, noted that in 2008, indexed search engines such as Google has a 90 per cent share of all Web-based searches. By 2011, that had dropped to 50 per cent, and is expected to drop to less than 10 per cent by 2016.

“We’ve gotten so inundated with junk; it’s hard to find the good information you want,” said Juusola. “Google stripped-out all the personalization for a standard approach and it’s not that great an experience on a smartphone.”

What’s taking its place? Social-based search. People are turning to Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms for more and more searches. Instead of searching Google for Thai restaurants in Toronto, for example, they’ll leverage their social networks for recommendations.

“Consequently for organizations, investing all your time in search engine optimization doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Juusola “You need a social media monitoring platform.”

Businesses need to adjust their marketing strategies to recognize this shift and stay where the customers are. Being at the top of a Google search is no longer as important. More important is knowing what people are telling their peers about your business on social media, and having the opportunity to engage in a positive way if someone had a negative experience, before it can negatively influence their friends. Vendors such as Radian6, Syncapse, eCairn and Sprout Social all have offerings that can help in this space.

Social media and search is just one of five key trends identified by Info-Tech as changing the face of technology. The other key trends are cloud computing, mobility, security, and big data.

Cloud computing is being embraced by businesses of all sizes, but cost-savings tend to be more of a driver for larger businesses that can move more workloads to the cloud, retiring more on-premise infrastructure. For smaller businesses, agility and speed to market are more compelling benefits.

“Cloud offers a low cost of entry when provisioning new services, but that’s not the same as low total cost of ownership (TCO),” said Rob Dreyer, vice-president of research with Info-Tech. “For the first two years a cloud solution can offer better economic value than trying to build it yourself, but over time it (evens out).”

The consumerization and bring your own device trends play into mobility, and Juusola said burying your head in the sand on this front isn’t an option. Users will be using personal devices anyway, and ignoring the situation will be 24 per cent more costly than offering even limited support, according to Info-Tech’s research.

“People with titles that are beyond the standards are going to come to you for support, so you should really get out in front of it,” said Juusola.

But it’s about more than just managing the devices, said Juusola. Mobile applications are becoming a must-have for businesses of all sizes. While only 18 per cent of organizations have launched a mobile application, 15 per cent have one in development and 55 per cent are in the evaluation phase.

The combination of social and mobility is leading to a huge increase in the unstructured data an organization has to deal with, leading to the final major trend: big data. Legal and regulatory requirements mean much of that data has to be held onto for a period of time, and Juusola said tools such as predictive analytics can help organizations drive better business decisions by leveraging that data.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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