Are Social Media Channels the Preferred Search Engine?

Google and Bing! are currently battling to see which search engine can best leverage new AI tools. But a formidable challenger has emerged in the search engine category from an unexpected medium: social media.

In a recent report, a stunning 82% of consumers have declared their preference for social media as their go-to search engine, leaving traditional search engines like Google and Bing in the dust. What’s more, two out of five individuals would rather rely on TikTok than trust the giants of search.

The trend of using social media for information searches is rapidly gaining momentum, even as tech giants battle it out for supremacy in generative AI. A survey of 1,000 Americans unveiled some eye-opening statistics: Instagram takes the crown as the top-choice platform for social media searches, with an impressive 55% of respondents favoring it. Following closely are YouTube (54%), Facebook (51%), and Twitter (44%). While TikTok ranks last in popularity as a search engine (42%), its user base consists mainly of young and affluent consumers—a prime target for marketers.

Americans across all generations seem to have embraced social media as their preferred means of querying rather than turning to traditional search engines. As ad-dominated search results become increasingly omnipresent, social media platforms are stepping up as viable alternatives. In fact, more and more consumers are leveraging their Facebook and Instagram connections to find answers to localized queries, such as recommendations for the best margaritas or nearby coffee shops open on Sundays.

However, just because people are turning to social for their query needs, it doesn’t mean they are satisfied with the results. A significant 40% of internet searchers express their dissatisfaction with current search results, citing reasons ranging from irrelevant outcomes to outdated information.

When it comes to searching for businesses, restaurants emerge as the most sought-after category, closely followed by personal care services. Hungry searchers commonly use terms like “restaurants,” “good,” and “fast food” to kick off their quest, quickly followed by “near me,” “popular,” and “best.” In fact, social media platforms, particularly Instagram, are gaining popularity as go-to sources for discovering restaurants and fashion brands. Marketers across industries should take note and dive deeper into this phenomenon, exploring how they can leverage it to their advantage.

There is also an intriguing divide between generations. Research reveals that younger age groups tend to be less satisfied with their search results compared to Baby Boomers, who seem to have a slightly higher level of contentment. It’s fascinating to observe the different social media platforms each generation prefers for their search engine needs.

This paradigm shift holds tremendous potential for businesses and marketers, signaling a potential rise in new search related tools from Meta, TikTok, and other social media organizations. Search engine optimization (SEO) is already instrumental in boosting sales and brand visibility. However, with the emergence of social media as a powerful player, it might just become the next major leap in gaining unparalleled exposure, potentially surpassing the impact of Google.

We know that we’ll be staying on top of the trend and looking for new strategies and tactics that can help our clients better leverage the power of social search.