The History of Social vs. Search
The conversation of Search (both Search Engine Optimization and PPC) vs. Social Media started to ramp up in 2010. Old school search engine professionals were kicking and screaming that the new kid on the block (social media) could not compete with them for the varsity team. There was quite a bit of truth to that at the time, social had not yet evolved to be able to answer the questions; Who, What, When, Where and How!
- Who? Who are you marketing to?
- What? What are you marketing?
- When? What is the expectation of lead time for customer purchase(s)?
- Where? Where do you find customers and where will your customers be shopping (online or brick-n-mortar)?
- How? How do brands intend on communicating their story, problem statement, value proposition and call-to-action?
First, Let’s Try Social Search
My how time changes everything, by the time 2011 hit search was more a lot appreciative and respectful of social. The paradigm shifted to competition and even takeover! The big players in each space, Google in the search space and Facebook in the social space, were now investing heavily “social search”. Google was ramping up their Google+ social channel to attack social search from the left flank as a search authority. From the right flank Facebook, the social media authority, was experimenting with a new dance partner, Bing, attacking social search as a social media authority.
I do not know if you remember but I remember like it was yesterday, there was a lot of talk about Google and Google+ taking over social media as the next giant.
Google+’s freakish growth and what that means for Facebook. http://t.co/PeXfVtpc
— Bizop Marketing (@BizopMarketing) December 31, 2011
— Patrick Daugherty (@MySoulProspers) December 31, 2011
Social Search, Nobody had Home Field Advantage
There was one huge fundamental flaw in this competition, they were competing on a neutral field and neither side completely understood the field or elements they were up against. The competition did not last long and the audience (Wall Street, Investors, etc.) did not get the value for the admission price they paid. In the end, there was no winner and both sides retreated to competing on battle grounds in which they were more comfortable. I believe both sides realized that they were competing for 100% of nothing, 100% of a pie that did not exist.
Social and Search, Living in Harmony
The “Frenemies”, Google and Facebook, lived in relative harmony for a good part of 2013, 2014 and 2015. Facebook aggressively worked on tweaking and perfecting their paid advertising platform while Google stayed the course with AdWords and invested heavily in YouTube and offering more robust media buying services with their video platform. The simple truth of capitalism is that winners and losers are decided by the thickness of their wallet, for the years 2013 to 2015 both sides experienced steady fattening of the wallet (Google was a little bit more flat in 2014 though)!
The Next Chapter: Social and Search
Media and marketing executive, pundits and skeptics alike are all pretty much in agreement that as a global society we are at the beginning of yet any transformation, a transformation to Live Streaming Video, Social TV and ultimately Virtual Reality. Google and Facebook, or “Frenemies”, are both well aware of this next paradigm shift and both are hard at work planning a strategy to keep up with this monumental shift.
A New Battleground: Social, Search & Live Streaming
Coincidentally enough, the NFL (National Football League) was one of the catalysts for the next war. Much like Germany and France loved in coexistence for nearly 50 years after the Franco-Prussian war, the saber rattling and conspiring never stopped for the duration. The kindling that started the next war in the case of France and Germany was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand while the kindling that is starting off the next war of the behemoths is Live Streaming Video, Social TV and Virtual Reality stoked by the request for the NFL entering the live streaming space.
Ironically, the rights to Live Streaming NFL games was not won by either of these giants, rather Twitter was the big winner (or perhaps not a winner at all). I truly feel that both Facebook and Google believed that diverting resources to live streaming the NFL was too large of a commitment when they both have bigger fish to fry. Facebook is back at work innovating how to transform social media into a mainstream streaming service and possibly a broadcast network! Google, on the other hand, is thankful that their resources were not diverted from their cash cow, SEARCH!
The Takeaway: Social vs. Search
The conversation and debate of social vs. search is history now, not many people care to read or talk about it (except me of course). The reality is that both behemoths will continue to dominate their individual channels and both sides will continue to work on strategies to integrate into the next generation of technology. The worst case scenario for both sides is that they ignore or do not invest enough resources to stay relevant in an evolving world of technology (i.e. live streaming, virtual reality), I just do not see this happening in the near future.
I found this nice infographic from MDG Advertising from March 2012 that is a nice breakdown of social vs. search into separate categories and illustrated the winner for each category. Myself, I would LOVE to see an updated version of this infographic, I suspect social media has gained considerable ground in both lead generation and local business visibility.