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Is 2024 the year that social search takes over (and ‘social SEO’ becomes essential)?

By Alexandra Whiteside, Social Media Account Manager

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January 24, 2024 | 7 min read

Searches on TikTok and Instagram have gradually been gaining ground. There’s no beating the behemoth of Google anytime soon, but No Brainer’s Alexandra Whiteside says that power is slowly shifting.

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Social search will continue to grow in 2024, says No Brainer / Markus Winkler via Unsplash

Could this be the year when OG search engines become second best? Could Google and Bing soon be a thing of the past as more gen Zs and millennials turn to social platforms to learn the latest news, browse events and answer everyday life questions?

And with a quarter of 18 to 54-year-olds preferring to search on social media, social search is still evolving as a trend. Popular search engines are starting to feel the heat.

The evolution of social search

The range of social searches is expanding too, becoming a ‘quick fix’ solution to find not just content and influencers, but local restaurant hot spots, and product reviews and recommendations. According to some sources, social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok trail only Google in customers’ searching preferences.

From TikTok Shop to sponsored content on our Instagram feeds, we’re surrounded by signals that spark action - to search for related content. In short, internet searching and browsing social media are the reasons most of us are using our phones.

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Social search will be the hottest trend in 2024

Here’s some more evidence: recent research by Hubspot shows that one in three of us opt for social media to find answers to our questions; 15% prefer social media to search engines. Gen Zs and millennials are leading the pack, with a combined total of 59% favoring social apps over internet browsers.

Arguably, this is in large part down to social search being better optimized for trends, speed, and user-generated content. And with new features and updates released monthly, social platforms know exactly how to appeal to their audiences.

‘Social SEO’ strategies will set marketers apart

Social platforms rely heavily on AI tools, especially when it comes to their algorithms, to understand the behavior and needs of users, and then to display content they will connect with.

This is especially crucial on TikTok; its algorithm uses data and insights from the user to determine what videos should show on their ‘For you’ feed – let’s face it, if TikTok kept showing you irrelevant content that you weren’t remotely interested in, it wouldn’t be long before you shut down your account.

This is where social SEO comes in to play. SEO strategies are soaring up marketers’ priority lists for 2024. The idea of achieving ‘virality’ for clients, whatever this may look like to them, has never depended more on this kind of optimization.

SEO marketers will have to work closely alongside social media experts to create fool-proof plans to reach this growing audience. This goes beyond the usual search engine results pages, to social channels, both in captions and text on videos to stand out.

The onward evolution of search

The way we search for information has always evolved over time, from newspapers to computers, and now to our phones. This is where the threat to online browsers comes in. If most users are opting to browse on their phones, the temptation to steer away from internet search engines and open a social app is so much more accessible.

The data here is stark: 94% of 18 to 29-year-olds own a smartphone, and as these generations grow up in a world dominated by these devices, we can expect to see a continued trend toward preference for social searches.

Gen Zs and millennials are also the audiences who connect most with influencers and content creators through social, following trends on these platforms. This shows a new power in search: to influence user searches, including to follow up on what they’re talking about, promoting, and so much more.

So, social search isn’t necessarily just about the user choosing to search on, say TikTok over Google; it’s also about the journey of how they’re persuaded by other pieces of content to continue their search (and where).

So, could this be the end of Google?

In short, no. At least, not yet. Using the web as a search engine is still outweighing other avenues as the favored choice of search, but if the figures for social search continue to increase, we can expect to see the playing field begin to even out.

As gen Zs and millennials come of age, this trend will only deepen. Web-based search engines will be monitoring this shifting usage carefully – not only in the consumer space, but also how marketers, businesses, and agencies will begin to invest more in social media and optimizing search results on these platforms.

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