Information search: search engines or social media?3 November 2023
Once upon a time, when you wanted to find information, you relied on encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, or other relevant books for your research. Today, all you need to do is type the keyword you need into the Internet, and within a few seconds, thousands of results appear.
With the evolution of technology and the Internet, the way people conduct online research has changed. Over the years, we have seen various search engines and different sources of information to the point where people are now searching for information on social media as well. Social media platforms, in addition to being channels for sharing personal events, also serve as a means of dissemination and information sharing, allowing people to explore a wide range of topics, whether it’s travel, food, economics, current events, or something else.
Partly due to their widespread use globally, platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media are growing as tools for online research. Does this mean the era of search engines is over? Not necessarily, as Google remains the most widely used system globally, and its massive implementation of artificial intelligence promises to make it even more effective and irreplaceable.
However, something is changing, especially among the younger generation. This is demonstrated by a recent survey conducted by Capterra that analyzed how people search for content online.
The study reveals that 54% of users conduct online searches only through search engines (Google, Yahoo, or Bing). 41% perform hybrid searches, utilizing social networks in addition to search engines, while 5% of the sample admitted to conducting searches solely through the most popular social media. It’s worth noting that those who search for information in both ways consider the results provided by search engines to be more reliable and relevant.
The key factor lies in videos. 44% of the surveyed individuals claim to use social media platforms 2 to 5 times a day to search for video content, and 43% believe that the main advantage of using social media video platforms for research is the engaging nature of the content. So, finding the necessary information is important, but the new frontier of research also includes a significant level of engagement to make learning less boring and perhaps more effective.
This is particularly true for Generation Z, the most inclined to use video social media platforms, with 41% of respondents in this group stating that they search for content on video platforms more than five times a day. Following them are Millennials (born between 1978 and 1995) at 35%, Generation X at 28%, and Baby Boomers at 15%.
Another significant finding comes from users who employ a hybrid search approach. 22% of the sample says they have changed their preferences and started searching more on social media in the past two years.
YouTube is the most used social media platform, used by 77% of people who search for content through both social media and search engines, followed by Facebook (74%), Instagram (65%), and TikTok (33%). The study also reveals that the most sought-after video content by users includes:
- How-to content, sought by 63% of social media video platform users
- Entertainment or fun content (59%)
- Reviews (48%)
- Product demonstrations (46%)
- News (45%)
So, social media or search engines? Rather than being alternatives to each other, the study shows that social media and search engines are complementary and are used together depending on the type of information needed. Furthermore, it is clear that while text remains the preferred source of information, video has become a competitor, probably due to its speed and ease of use. Video also engages consumers on a deeper level and conveys information in a different, generally easier-to-understand way.
Oscar Giacomin / General Manager, Facto Edizioni
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