Social Search: What Does This Mean For Marketers?

by | Nov 25, 2023

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In a recent LinkedIn Live session, I had the privilege of discussing the surge of social search and its implications for organisations with Roger Jones, Digital Strategy and Transformation Consultant. 

To watch the session, see the video below:

For those who have been watching my LinkedIn Lives or reading recent blog posts, this is part of the series of events where I’ve been diving into content from my upcoming book ‘
Planning for Success: A practical guide to setting and achieving your social media marketing goals’. 

To begin this session, we start with a key observation: the traditional boundaries between social media platforms and conventional search engines are blurring. 

Why Should We Focus on Social Search?

There is a growing preference, especially among younger demographics, for using social media as their primary avenue for search, slowly edging out the traditional reliance on search engines such as Google.

I’ve come to realise the criticality of this trend. Regrettably, in many instances, social media is often treated as an afterthought—an add-on at the end of marketing campaigns or press releases. However, the unfolding trend for discoverability via social search means it’s more important than ever that this no longer happens. 

The data, on people’s consumption patterns and online behaviour, signifies that social media has superseded its early Web 2.0 role in making connections, having conversations and building communities. 

What is the Theory and Intent Behind Social Search?

Let’s pause and rewind to the theoretical essence of search. We’ve been pondering over search intent—how crucial it is to comprehend the various types when users are searching online.

When considering tools like SEMrush, intent is broken down into navigational, informational, commercial, and transactional categories. 

  • Navigational intent aims at finding specific pages.
  • Informational intent involves learning about a subject. 
  • Commercial intent signifies the research phase before a purchase.
  • Transactional intent simply implies the immediate purchase.

The distinction between search intent on social media versus traditional search engines is evident. Social searches tend to lean more towards navigational or informational purposes, while traditional searches centre on commercial and transactional intent.

This resonates across different industries, be it B2B or B2C. Understanding the questions users pose at each stage becomes pivotal. These questions, not just keywords, drive content creation tailored to the user’s journey.

An Example: TikTok Search 

There has been an evolution, steering away from keyword-driven searches toward a more intuitive approach—asking questions. This shift is further amplified by the rise of visual search, where contextual exploration takes precedence over traditional search engine results.

Introduced at the start of October 2023, TikTok’s Search Ad Toggle feature enables advertisers to toggle their campaigns, ad sets, and ads to appear in search results within the platform. This integration of an AI-powered search function within TikTok’s algorithm is a game-changer.

The Impact of AI

It’s essential not to overlook the AI chat’s profound impact on search. Consider this: there are 8 billion searches on search engines and 2 billion on social media daily, while AI chatbots witness a staggering 22 billion interactions, including searches for information.

There is an immense potential for large language models when aligned with structured data. When structured data is effectively applied to content, it significantly bolsters its searchability. 


Key Takeaways

  1. Shift in Search Behaviour: The preference for social media as a primary search avenue, particularly among younger demographics, is reshaping how people discover and engage with content. This shift holds a range of implications for businesses.
  2. Navigational vs. Transactional Intent: The intent behind social media searches tends to gravitate towards navigational or informational purposes, while traditional search engines are more aligned with commercial or transactional intents. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for tailored content creation.
  3. The Role of Structured Data: Structured data emerges as a key player in enhancing visibility across platforms. Its application bridges the gap between search engines, social media, and AI chatbots, offering a comprehensive approach to content optimisation and visibility.

Are you ready to embrace the opportunities for social search?

Our Social Media & Content Excellence Audit includes a review of social search readiness. Find out more, here.


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