‘Facebook the second most popular search service after Google’

Facebook is the second most popular search service after Google, according to a new report from Forrester, as social networks play an increasingly important role in user discovery.

‘The State of Search Marketing in 2014’ report highlights that Facebook was the second most used discovery resource this year, with 25% of the surveyed users saying that they find online information and websites through the platform. That puts the social network second behind just Google, on 36%, and ahead of other mediums including TV ads, TV shows and email newsletters.

Plus while Facebook is having the biggest influence of any of the social media sites, other platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest are also increasingly used for search. Forrester says 8% of people use Twitter, while Pinterest accounts for 21% of all traffic driven to websites via social media.

This is the first time Forester has measured how consumers find online information and websites, having previously focused purely on how they found websites.

Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk says the report shows that while search engines are still important, marketers must start making use of the “myriad of online and mobile sources” that consumers are now using to find websites and influence purchasing decisions.

“Retailers spend more on paid ads on Google than on any other online acquisition vehicle. But we believe that to make customer acquisition more efficient and effective, marketers must engage end users through multifarious online and offline channels during their moments of need and discovery.”

Facebook has upped its search efforts as it looks to improve targeting for brands and improve its search revenues. Forrester says it provides a good fit for marketers because it users act as “influences”, with 62% of users having more than 300 friends.

Forrester says the marketers that are using a “broader set” of discovery options are more efficient, with the best search marketers now investing in areas including content creation and programmatic. Shifting marketing spend will also help marketers identify what VanBoskirk dubs “super-shoppers” and “super-spenders”, those that shop the most often and spend the most online.

Among super-spenders, 7% used Facebook and 20% to Twitter, compared to 25% and 8% on average. They are also more likely to discover information using newspaper and magazine articles, as well as search.

‘Marketers ill-equipped for future of search’

Marketers admit to feeling “ill-equipped” to deal with the changes in search marketing. Some 42% believe advertisers are behind consumer trends and only 16% that their firms are in front of changing behaviour.

Only 17% of those questioned think their current SEO programmes are “very successful”, while 57% say they have limited internal skills.

VanBoskirk says marketers must improve user experience, focus on content and make is as easy as possible for consumers, especially super-spenders, to buy if they are to make the most of search advertising. Measurement also needs to be improved, she adds.

“When it comes to search marketing, most marketing leaders still measure only basic reach and results. But discovery marketing requires a perspective on how multiple sources of discovery contribute to an end conversion. Most marketing leaders, along with their customer insights counterparts, measure inconsistently, fail to assign an owner to cross-channel measurement, and waste data and technology resources earmarked for measurement support,” she says.