Are social media sites are changing the way we search for information, and causing less searches to take place on Google?
Mark Cuban recently wrote an interesting blog post which discussed how the progression of social media sites has caused him to do far less searches on Google. His reason is that sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are constantly updated with recent information at a more rapid rate than most websites. Therefore, making Google late on everything.
Mark states in his post that he places a significant value on recency, and accuses Google of doing a very poor job of indexing and presenting real-time, near-time or even recent information. He goes as far as suggesting that this lack of recency will impact our ability to trust Google and other search engines down the road.
“If Google isn’t indexing what is said on all of these social sites, aren’t they missing most of the information that is being communicated in the world?”
Yes and no, Mark. Yes, billions of people posting at a rapid rate is a pretty powerful thing for Google’s indexing to go up against. However, if Google pulled the plug on itself tomorrow, we would be absolutely lost. It would take years for a social media site to build what Google already has.
While I love to disagree with Mark because he’s a Mavericks fan (go Heat), he is correct that social media has changed the way we search for information of all types. For example, Mark turns to Instagram when he wants to know if anything interesting happened at an event, and I have done the same. It’s true that Instagram is a faster way to get more information about events as they occur, just by searching a hashtag. I can search the hashtag #heatgame or #letsgoheat on any given game night and see who is there, what they’re wearing, and what is happening in the arena through their eyes. What’s cool about the information on Instagram is that you learn little things that a news report may not include.
Instagram is also great for getting information about events that I may care about, but are not newsworthy enough to end up on Google (i.e. marketing industry parties, local charity events, a friend’s wedding that I couldn’t attend). Or on days when I miss Japan, I can take a three-minute vacation by searching the hashtag #harajuku and see what happened on the streets of Tokyo that day. I’m pretty sure Google is not capable of providing that type of experience.
Mark also claims to get his news from Twitter, and he is not alone. Twitter has a reputation for spreading news quickly among its millions of users, and according to recent research, nearly one in 10 American adults uses it for that purpose. By following the right people and knowing how to search on Twitter, the social platform is a great way to consume a lot of news in a short amount of time. It’s easy to be updated on the top news stories just by scrolling through your feed for five minutes.
I have no doubt that social media has changed the way we consume information, and the way we search for it. But I disagree with Mark in the way he beats Google down for not presenting “real-time, near-time or even recent information” in a timely enough manner.
I personally view Google as a well-aged wine collection. The search giant has worked really hard over the last decade to combat spam and create sophisticated algorithms that provide pretty quality results. While I may not find instant information about less-significant events like on Instagram, Google is perfectly efficient at serving up major breaking news quickly. Google also remains my go-to for finding answers to most questions I have throughout the day (I mean, how else would I know how to cook rice, determine if that spot on my arm is cancerous, or find out how to get from Amsterdam to Paris the fastest).
Oh, and in the case of sports scores, any true fan has Google Now, which knows your favorite teams and tells you the scores without even asking.