How Twitter and Facebook Now Compete with Google

Last year I wrote a blog post entitled “If the news is important it will find me”. The point was that we all live in so many social networks, that someone will send us an update if something in the world happens that we would be interested in.  Back then I was guessing.  A year later I have data.

For the 1st time ever, more people are finding my blog from Twitter and Facebook referrals than via Google.  The total number of people coming to my blog is increasing. The percentage of people who find it via Google is declining. Significantly.

Thats huge. Why ? Because of the behavior implications for users, and because of the business implications for Twitter, Facebook and Google.

What if I decide to follow someone on twitter or facebook who is a guru on the types of cars Im interested in buying ? Could I not just query them and get a response and referral to a site that gives me the information Im looking for ? ie,

Anyone know a great source for information on Ford f150 trucks ? Need to buy one

@mcuban follow the @greatdealsotrucksguy

Anyone else like this guy

@mcuban I used it. Great source.

@greatdealsontrucksguy – any suggestions on where to get a used ford f150 in Dallas ?  @mcuban – Try this site. xyz.com  They know their stuff.  Or the response could be. @mcuban whats your price point ? Or it could just be a generic response. In either event, my actions are going to be influenced.  I followed this “person” for a reason. In this case

The best example of this is #follow fridays on Twitter. Where users recommend people to follow.  Users being influenced by users. A far different experience than the Google search experience. Its also where Twitters anonymity will benefit it as users are able to interact with privacy. Something you really cant do on FB. On FB if you have a friend who knows about trucks. You just email them with a question. Maybe you put it out there to your network. But chances are that network is limited in numbers. Those limits are not in place for twitter.

From a business perspective, Im sure Im not alone in getting more referrals from Twitter than Google Search. Thats money in the bank for Twitter and FB for commercial accounts. There is no reason why a big or small company, say Charmim selling toilet paper,  cant set up a twitter account and do whatever marketing they can to build the largest number of followers possible.  From there,  Twitter could  charge them on a cost per referral click originating from  their followers. As long as they cost per click is lower than competing options, why wouldn’t they do it ?

Things change. We are seeing  a change in our referral logs right now. That could translate into systemic change in user behavior and business opportunity

66 thoughts on “How Twitter and Facebook Now Compete with Google

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  7. Check out the latest Twitter research from some very bored people at Harvard:
    http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/42713/140/

    I think a WoW (World of Warcraft) model crossed with the monthly service fee business model, would give you a useful (and used) two-way Twitter-esque application that should benefit both users and businesses.

    Just a thought.

    Comment by buzzsaw55 -

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  10. I have just started to market the company I am currently working for via Twitter and it’s definitely an acquired skill, but effective nonetheless. Our referral logs aren’t reflecting much change yet, but I suspect they will soon.

    I’ve just written about the long-term viability of Twitter and those that are doubting it will survive or remain relevant. Check it out: http://naughtygeneration.com/?p=215

    Comment by naughtygeneration -

  11. Your stats about readers originating from Twitter accounts echo my own experience of late. I had been pooh-poohing Twitter for months until I realized that half of my blog traffic was coming from Twitter accounts. I’ve since become a Twitter user and I’m getting used to this short form of communication.

    Comment by rosswords -

  12. It presents an interesting opportunity for microadvertising. If you are introducing a new product, movie, tv show you could invite high volume social networkers for sneek peeks so when the product rolls out they have already created a buzz for it. The relative lack of sophistication means they could be bought relatively cheap, maybe a invitation to an “exclusive” roll out party, and then they use their credibility to sell your product.

    Comment by sourcreamus -

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  20. I’ve been on Twitter for about a year now. I’ve recently become more active and in the short space of time I’ve found a quicker real time response to my blogs and backlinks.

    Comment by webjock1 -

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  22. you are absolutely correct. I found you through Twitter. Great article. Insightful and thought provoking.

    Comment by Curtis Copeland -

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  26. Hey Mark. I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion that we are in the beginning of a systemic change in user behavior. I really appreciate the real life data you used as well to illustrate the point. Your blog post was forwarded to me because, interestingly enough on the same day you posted it, i wrote a guest column for Social Media Biz which covers a lot of the same issues you did but from a different tact. If you or your readers are interested, it’s titled, “How Twitter Could Overtake Google” http://bit.ly/AvGfQ

    Also, my new company http://www.lunch.com, is furthering a lot of the ideas that you raised by encouraging people to share their thoughts/opinions/passions and by doing so we are able to cut through all the noise and show them only the most relevant people and content. We call this the “Similarity Network.” I’m very eager to see what the next few years will create… this is an exciting time for sure.

    J.R. Johnson
    http://www.lunch.com/jrjohnson

    Comment by jrlunch -

  27. Mark, I believe this may be the case with Facebook but not so much with Twitter. I remember when Facebook first came to Toronto, there was a mad dash for almost everyone to sign up. And every one did. Lots of people were talking about it. A similar trend is happening with Twitter except, there are far more of my friends who don’t have a use for it nor understand it. I think Twitter belongs to a smaller niche as compared to Facebook. I still think Google’s presence will be stronger in the next little bit as it is tried and true. Cheers.

    Zaid.

    Comment by rasidz -

  28. Mr. Cuban,
    Undoubtedly I will get castigated for doing so but at this point I really don’t care. Like so many affected by the economy and financial downturn, I am experiencing hardship (aren’t we all right? Not really). Yes check all the prerequisite questions are you looking, do you have a degree, what have you done for yourself..please spare me the diatribe of useless litany. Sometimes we just need help plain and simple. As I watched televison one night and saw a brief profile of yourself (don’t ask in what context) I figured after endless interviews, postings, job searches, training, praying, and effort..why not just simply ask for help.
    I don’t want a financial handout to bail me out for life. I simply just want to get current on my mortgage for goodness sake, just so my family has a roof over their heads and the kids can goto school and not worry about things they shouldn’t have to at their age. At least if I can manage to get current that will buy me more time in my effort to find gainful employment, I am college educated, hardworking, and quite frankly desperate. I have never asked for help before and never even considered doing so publicly..but if that is what is required to even remotely have the possibility of helping me save my home and family then so be it…there it is.
    If you can help great, if not I understand and thank you for your consideration anyway. I hope you at least get a chance to see it. Thank you for your time.

    Comment by maasaipress -

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  30. So does this mean that I need to increase the number of people that follow me? Or that I follow? Once again, I suspect the answer is, “it depends on what you’re using Twitter for”.

    Me, I think of it as the people I’m following are the ones hanging out in my kitchen (assuming my kitchen fits 135 people), and the people following me are the ones out in the livingroom that I can, once in a while, yell out to.

    Comment by andyjacobson -

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  32. Honestly I think the increasing number of visitors to your blog is from the ESPN stories about how you used your blog to apologize to Kenyan, most people are coming to your blog from espn.com.

    Comment by maxadamson -

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  34. You were totally right Mr. Cuban. I remember the article where you mentioned about how to beat Google. I don’t think you can ever necessarily beat google. However you can take some of there market.
    Google is a powerful search engine, but that is it.
    I remember like roughly 5 yrs ago i wanted to buy the domain name BOOBLE. I never did i check now it is a porn site. Huge mistake by me. Sometimes those mi$$ed opportunities can cost u dearly.
    I really enjoy espn poker on ther i am called Whitewoody. It is the fairest poker site in the world. Thats why i am a member. Anyway I would love you to play Mr. Cuban i will give you 1 million sir to come play there. People will die if i give them 100k but for my mentor i will give 1 000 000. The reason I do this is cause you have a killer instinct you are the best.
    I am in the High Rollers Hi Lo on espn.

    Hope to see you play

    WhiteWoody

    Comment by wildwhitewoody -

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  36. This is absolutely happening. The missing ingredient in Twitter Search, though, is the earned authority of the people making tweets. it’s an essential piece to minimize the surge in spammy accounts being created. I think Twitter will ultimately follow this path with some fancy algorithms. Until then, I am certain many outside companies consuming tweets via the API will fill in the gap.

    Comment by dan90266 -

  37. Great point. Something I see being exploited more in the near future.

    Comment by teeoh -

  38. Current.TV is wonderful. I would love to hear your thoughts on Current.TV and it’s role in the future of media.

    Comment by darryl3 -

  39. Pingback: The Future of Social Media: Carving out negative spaces for our cyber selves | Simon Mainwaring

  40. Hi, Mark,

    Your post inspired some thoughts on the future of social media, so here goes…

    Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed (sorry MySpace) are in a dead heat race to make the most of the rapidly approaching real time web. Each offers their own, unique package of connectivity and information based on different ideas about how to foster organic human interaction and generate sustainable business growth. Even Google has joined the pack as more and more people use Twitter and Facebook to find information or news rather than search engines.

    Yet as anyone who dabbles in social media will tell you, connectivity and access to information are no longer the problem. In fact, information overload is fast becoming an issue.

    As real time communication becomes a reality, social media will be recast as curation. That means the very same Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed we now use to get information will be reframed as filters.

    Yet it’s not a knock out competition. Right now we each choose Facebook, Twitter or Friendfeed depending on our preference for how we like to connect with others and information. In exactly the same way, these social networks – and others that aren’t even created yet – will provide of spectrum of choices for how we like to filter information. Our considerations will be the same as ever – how much connectivity we want, our tolerance for exposing our private lives, our comfort level with technology and time constraints.

    So, in a sense, the same technology that allowed us to deep dive into cyberspace to connect and share in unprecedented ways, will now serve to carve out boundaries for the penetration of that information into our lives. They will be seen as tools that allow each of us to shape negative spaces for ourselves in which we are not in communication, cannot be reached and have nothing to share.

    picture-12(Ahhhh…that was nice.) These spaces are the cyber equivalent of ‘going outside for a walk’. Obviously in today’s connected world the ability to communicate has nothing to do with your physical distance from others. Instead, one must increasingly carve out invisible boundaries in black space to define the limits of you as can be experienced by others.

    The subtler differences between the same dynamic in cyberspace and the physical world is that our choice for information is much wider on the web, the available content is therefore much more specific to our personal interests, and, now, the filtering tools are far more sophisticated. Yet the net result is the same – a space reserved solely for ourselves in a world where our real and virtual lives are increasingly blurred.

    This reframing of purpose is important because, even though the user experience may be the same, the dynamic in our relationship with technology and information is headed in the other direction.

    This shift is not linear but part of a larger cycle. The next few years will be characterized by unlimited information, unprecedented connectivity and pride in curatorship. No doubt technology or human ingenuity with then provide a further redefinition of how we live that will initiate the next iteration of this cycle. For new technology must always engage with certain timeless qualities of the human condition that include the competing needs for privacy and connection.

    http://www.simonmainwaring.com/blog

    Comment by Simon Mainwaring -

  41. Interesting subject. I’m very new on Twitter and will be checking to see if it impacts my blog’s traffic. @KitchAnn_Style

    Comment by Ann Porter, CKD -

  42. Mark…congratulations on the agreement for the EBIF Mavs widget. I look forward to the interactivity while I watch the games next year. I hope the product manager at BIAP is a MFFL! :) By the way, I still remember watching Abdul Jeelani at Reunion Arena back in 1980, when it all started. Hmm…maybe I should be the product manager over there. I sure know what functionality I’d like to see, in addition to the normal info picked up by Stats, Inc. How about a “Mark Cuban Wired” feature, so fans can hear your comments real-time via the EBIF functionality? Now THAT would be must see iTV!! :)

    Comment by balsears30 -

  43. I love the line “users being influenced by users.” As the founder of #followfriday, that was exactly what it was meant to be. A way for one user to suggest to another user someone to follow. Because of the inherent trust that relationships bring, those recommendations are stronger and last longer than random connections.

    Twitter even acknowledged this in their blog posts about the changes they made this past week. That discovery from a trusted source is so much more valuable.

    The startup I work at: Lijit (http://lijit.com) is trying to do the same thing with search. Rather than have one place to go, Google, we provide a distributed search model through a blog widget. Now people can allow the people they trust the most to apply some level of context to discovery.

    Google and other search engines have been built to provide one answer to one question. How does that engender trust or facilitate discovery? Twitter, Facebook, Lijit and others are built with the concept of the importance of trust and discovery.

    Its a brave new world, wonder where it will take us?

    micah
    @micah

    Comment by micahb37 -

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  47. Thanks for putting together these thoughts on the power of social networks. You are absolutely right, I experienced the same traffic increase to my blog from social network sites. Fortunately traffic from google has not decreased drastically yet.

    Go Mavs!

    Comment by giemmevi -

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  50. Like Eminiplayer above I also found your Blog via Twitter from someone else’s Tweet on Tweet deck.

    Comment by colmadwpblog -

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  52. Just did a presentation on this in a college class. My argument was you could find news easier on twitter search than Google, especially breaking news. You google something and it may not be the first thing up. You Twitter search the same term and chances are 100 people have already posted links.
    Twitter is going to get a lot bigger.

    Comment by danbrechlin -

  53. Pingback: The Value Of Twitter As Compared To Google

  54. Good point! I found your Blog via someone’s Twitter post with a link to your Success & Motivation post; excellent stuff! Hilarious that Bill G stole your girls :D

    Comment by eminiplayer -

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  56. Longtime reader, 1st time poster. Great recognition of the paradigm shift in how we connect with information and its implications on the web ecosystem.

    Yelp and user review websites were the first biz models to package digital WOM (word of mouth) and maturing social networks scale the quantity and accessibility of WOM marketing. I made my SXSW dinner decisions in Austin from @lancearmstrong’s Tweets.

    The problem is too much noise and evaluating credibility (intentions) of individuals outside our direct network. Could the solution be a “quality” filter for social media sources… could a quasi-pagerank system based on social media metrics (followers, comments, reviews, posts, ect.) be used for finding/ranking all the @greatdealsotrucksguy making truck recs?

    Mr. Cuban, who do you think is best positioned to capitalize on this “systemic change”? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this subject.

    -JMN-
    @nejman

    Comment by nejman -

  57. Pingback: How Twitter and Facebook now compete with Google |

  58. This is true for power users and probably maybe the “upper-medium user” bracket, but for most, their voice just gets lost on Twitter. Mark, you had an instant voice on Twitter and probably will for any other medium like it. I don’t think the average user has a similar experience, nor the patience to build up their virtual friends/followers to get there.

    Comment by vodkafish -

  59. Personally, the Google model is all about praying to the god of the algorithm and there is a lot of goodness (and efficiency) in that, to be sure.

    But, what Facebook and Twitter promise to add is an overlay to this model by enabling users to leverage intimacy when it serves their purpose (ala Facebook) and the wisdom of the crowds (ala Twitter) when that’s the tool required.

    Twitter is the un-algorithm (i.e., not built for specific workflow and purpose), which has the goodness that structure is abstracted from it, making it easier as a platform for things like trust, context, related, local, now to be overlayed by an ecosystem without breaking the core underlying message structure.

    It’s akin to CB Radio for the age of mobile broadband, something that I blogged about in:

    “Right Here Now” services: weaving a real-time web around status
    http://bit.ly/i40h

    Check it out if interested.

    Mark

    Comment by marksigal -

  60. I reached that tipping point of social vs. search refers a couple of weeks ago.

    The Unified Theory of Interweb Economics states:

    1. Advertising is a function of your traffic volume, the more traffic come to your site, the higher rates you can charge.
    2. Social sites such as Facebook and Twitter have a lot of link sharing going on as friends post links to share them with each other.
    3. When Facebook and Twitter send more traffic than Google search referrals, advertising dollars will follow the source of that traffic.
    4. Google’s dominance in online advertising will be threatened.

    http://everwas.com/2009/03/facebook-twitter-send-more-traffic-than-google.html

    Comment by iankennedy -

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  62. This is very similar to what i’m hearing from Fred Wilson and his blog (AVC.com). There is a change a-coming indeed. The days of Google being the only frontpage to the web is coming to an end.

    I find it interesting that lots of people who discounted Twitter as being “stupid” and “pointless” are now coming aroudn to seeing the uses of it. This isn’t you (Mark) specifically but many other business thought leaders

    Comment by Mike Lewis -

  63. one last thing…Twitter and FB are like steroids for Gladwell’s tipping point. Now Salespeople, Mavens, and Connectors are all seemlessly linked only Social Networking allows us all to be much better connectors speeding up the information sharing process. Instead of relying on a few gifted connectors technology enables us to ALL be connectors. Again the possibilities are endless.

    -Chris (@cjcase12)

    Comment by cjcase12 -

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  65. Great to hear this…just today I was thinking about the endless capabilities for someone to market themselves on Twitter. You can do a twitter search for keywords or people who are associated with your product and then reach out to those users with your tweets. I’ve also noticed some start up blogs and other companies doing this to me. For example I had a guy with a wedding advice blog start following me. When I got the email notification informing me that some “stranger” was following me I was naturally curious and of course checked out his profile and subsequently his site. Now, had i any desire to get wedding tips then he would have potentially gained a customer.

    The possibilities are endless. My mind is spinning circles.

    -Chris (christopher.j.case@gmail.com)

    Comment by cjcase12 -

  66. What better way to gather and filter information than the social networks that we’ve been using to do so for thousands of years?

    Comment by Michael F. Martin -

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