Will Facebook eclipse Google for search?


Facebook, the new kid on the block, overtook Google as the most popular website in the US this week.

My friends are early adopters. Last year at this time, whenever I walked into an Internet cafe and peered over the laptops, I saw that majority of the browsers were open to Facebook. The rest were using search engines like Google, photo sharing communities like Flickr, and free email portals like Yahoo mail.

Now, this week, the rest of the world caught up with my early adopter friends — the social media site Facebook has overtaken Google for the first time, becoming the most popular website.  According to the Social Media Examiner, five new studies have verified my casual Internet Cafe research.

The Financial Times reported that Google and Facebook accounted for 14 per cent of all internet traffic last week, with Facebook receiving 7.03 per cent and Google 7 per cent.

While the lead is slight, the upward trajectory is clear. It should be more than enough to convince online businesses to immediately shift more of their ad dollars into Facebook ads. And businesses, whether online or off, can no longer ignore the value of marketing to their customers and communities via Facebook Fan pages, Event pages or Groups.

More people are starting to filter their news through people they trust — friends who point them in the direction of interesting articles and trends on social sites like Facebook or Twitter — and fewer are using search engines like Yahoo, Google and Ask to find news and information.  People are also paying much less attention to their overwhelming and overloaded email in boxes — and more time sending messages to each other on Social Networks instead.

In a sense, social nets are turning into both a replacement for email and a new kind of specialized search engine, with human beings, rather than page ranks, deciding what information is hip, interesting and important.

Simultaneously, marketers are scrambling to shift their budgets from print/radio/TV PR over to Social Media marketing. Job openings for “Social Media Gurus” are proliferating — so if you’re in the sales, marketing, video, advertising, graphic design or media professions, you need to get up to speed and shift your business immediately to include the social sphere.

PR agencies, also, are quickly repositioning as Social Media agencies. From small local businesses, to the Fortune 500, social marketing is hot, hot, hot — and the newspaper is not, not, not.

It tipped. In the mid 90s, everyone needed an online campaign. Somewhere around the year 2002, every business suddenly needed a website. Now, we’re seeing the same urgency for all businesses to have a Social Media presence.

The average American spent 7 hours on Facebook in January. (Heck, my friends spend 7 hours a day on Facebook, and hardly ever use email anymore.)  Facebook doubled from 200 million to 400 million users last year — giving it a user base the size of the third largest country on the planet!  For the time being, we can’t afford to ignore Facebook. But in the future? Who knows.

Social media sites come and they go. (Remember all the hype about Friendster, once upon a time? Remember the Well? Remember Tribe? Remember Compuserve?) but whether Facebook remains the front runner or gets replaced something new, Social Media is the media, just as the Internet is business.

Ignore social media at your peril. It’s not going away.

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