When we have a question, we usually do one of two things. Either search Google to find the answer or we ask our friends. Before we had the internet, asking our friends meant actually verbally asking them. Waiting until work or school when you saw them and asking them in person. Then came calling, texting, email and so on. Now, of course asking a friend means posting on someone’s Facebook profile or asking an open question to all of your friends in your network.
The Way Your Audience Makes Decisions Is Changing
There’s a shift in behavior thats happening. Its a shift from curious consumers searching Google for information to those consumers relying more and more on the opinions of their networks. Your friend’s recommendation on which cell phone to buy may not be as credible as slogging through a dozen online reviews but hey, they’re a lot less boring and they do know what YOU like… Right?
Bing may call themselves a decision engine and add a bunch of fancy algorithims and features but at the end of the day they aren’t much different than Google. But they are onto something. Consumers DO want decision engines but they want personalized recommendations from their trusty networks. And the activity on Facebook has shown this. Last year in August, Facebook passed Google in time spent on site for the first time ever.
Now check out Facebook vs. Google in visits from the last year below. Facebook is growing and continues to stay ahead of Google.
Of course these metrics should only be taken with a grain of salt but they are hugely important to note for companies online. Google has recently made two big announcement to support this.
First, they’ve started adding search results from people in your network. For example if I follow Joe Blow on Twitter and he tweets a link to a new cell phone that I look up later, chances are his tweet will show up if I search for that cell phone in Google. Here’s an example after I searched for “Verizon Thunderbolt” Notice Google tells me who shared it and how long ago the tweet was shared.
Secondly, A few days ago, on March 30, Google introduced the +1 button which an unmistakable similarity to the Facebook LIKE button. This is what Google describes the +1 button on their site,
“The +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out.” Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1′s can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.”
After a few failed social media attempts (Google Buzz, Wave…) Google is at it again with the new Google +1 because they know how important recommendations are to friends and if they don’t do something to further integrate social networks into search, they’re going to keep slipping behind Facebook.
The Bottom Line
Your audience is gradually relying less on strangers for information and more on their networks. So how is your company adapting? In the following weeks, I’ll be highlighting several case studies on companies who’ve successfully integrated parts of their businesses, such as customer service, marketing and market research, to fit the changing needs of their customers. If there’s a specific industry you’d like more info on, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to dig up some information and case studies on it.
Thumbnail image by Jen Marquez