In two years, 70% of consumers will rely on search and social combined -- up from 48% today -- when making a purchase decision, according to Chris Copeland, CEO at GroupM Search. The only reason the percentage may not skyrocket is if engines continue to integrate social, and social platforms like Facebook continue to integrate search, making both synonymous with the other, he says.
Copeland's prediction stems from the rapid adoption of search and social by consumers when making buying decisions. In a recent report from comScore and GroupM titled "The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway," 53% of participants admit that content in social changed their mind on a brand they considered buying.
On Thursday, Bing announced deeper integration with Facebook. So, when friends publicly like or share content, the results serve up in the query, along with a photo when available. The move follows a similar change by Google.
If Google, Bing and Facebook continue to combine search and social, what will the combination look like within the next few years? "A level of personalized search that a lot of people aren't quite ready for," Copeland says. "I don't think most people want to search, they want to find. If we get to a place where you're able to curate information from the signals, then you get to a compelling place."
Who does that? Good question. Copeland says Google has shown little interest in revealing algorithmic secrets to allow consumers to determine preferences and shape results. "If a company becomes successful merging search and social, they will need the power to search all of the data points to give the user the ability to determine what they value most."
Someone might value the social graph more than search, or LinkedIn vs. Facebook. When users get the ability to move the needle and determine the outcome, the merger of search and social will become nirvana and become the greatest advantage.