Search Or Social: Which Is More Effective?

Barely a day passes without yet another piece of American research winging its way across the pond.

In the majority of cases, the research is either of little use, or often so blindingly obvious that you have to wonder why the researchers bothered. The latest study comes from GroupM and comScore and confirms that American consumers prefer to use the combined forces of search and social media to inform their purchases.

search or social

You’re probably reading this and thinking to yourself, well you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work that one out, and, of course, you’d be right: I guess we all probably assumed as much anyway. What’s interesting about this particular study, however, is that for the first time it puts some statistical flesh on the bone: unfortunately the results aren’t quite as clear cut as we might prefer.

If you wound back the clock a few years, you could guarantee that any potential customer would always start their purchase research by going through a search engine. With the advent of social media marketing, that automatic assumption could no longer be set in stone. It comes as a surprise then to discover that search engines are still consumers’ preferred option when making any sort of purchase decision: 60% of those polled always turn to sites like Google and Bing before deciding to buy, whilst 24% choose to visit company websites. Surprisingly, only 18% preferred to use social media as their first port of call.

What has changed, however, is the number of consumers who make use of social media to complete their secondary research before buying.

40% of the people who went through search engines will undertake further research and look to sites like Facebook, Twitter and youTube for advice and information. Social plays a crucial role in helping customers not only become aware of new brands and products, but also in helping them eliminate those products or services that do not have glowing reputations. The recommendations and opinions of other social media users play a vital role in determining whether a purchase is actually made.

Unfortunately, just when you thought everything was simple and straightforward, someone had to go and throw a spanner in the works. The study also found that 46% of American consumers actually prefer to do their research the other way round, opting to begin with social media before progressing to search engines.

Statistics are capable of being interpreted in many different ways.

Homer is famously quoted as stating that 71% of people know that statistics lie: Simpson, that is. It’s up to the individual to decide exactly where the truth lies. However, if there’s any reason or logic to this research, it’s this. Search and social media are inextricably linked now, and both play a significant part of informing every consumer purchasing decision. The moral of this story is simply that any business that opts to put all its eggs in just the one basket, runs the risk of missing out on a significant part of the market. Every company has to use both of these marketing channels if it is to reach the broadest possible audience.

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