Adapting to Social Media as the New Ecommerce Search Engine

To some, the switch from Google to social media as a search engine may seem like another development toward content-obsessed brainlessness. But the evolution away from the known, dependable Google-exclusive searches is part of the growing social commerce movement, and it might benefit your ecommerce brand.

Accessing the search engine capabilities of social media means that retailers can stretch their reach further outside their ecommerce sites. Brands can employ social media to find even more users, improve conversion rates, and see increased engagement. As users get better, richer content and information when investigating you on socials, they can more easily decipher whether your product or service, brand, and pricing match their needs.

Why Are More People Using Social Media as Their Shopping Search Engines?

Google has long been synonymous with the word “search” – but social media is quickly climbing to, if not replacing, then at least sitting next to Google at the top. Why the sudden change? It comes down to who is using online shopping features, and how they use those features.

Historically, users have Googled product categories, checked out the first page – maybe two – of the search results, perhaps clicked on a product ad, and then found some links. However, those results are less enticing to users than they used to be. As younger consumers flow into the internet (we’re looking at you, Gen Z), that process is becoming more inaccurate and inauthentic, and it just isn’t what users want anymore.

Google results are tedious

Search engines have made updates in recent years to keep up with the online shopping obsession. Google shopping and Bing shopping, plus Amazon, gave consumers an expansive place to start their searches and end their hunt.

With a quick Google search, potential customers can find product listings, shopping ads, and more on the first results page. But sifting through those results, listed only as black and blue text linked to ecommerce stores, can be boring, especially for someone used to the excitement of well-designed social media.

Social media offers rich, authentic results

Compared to the dullness of a product search on Google, the search results online shoppers find on socials are thrilling. Videos, high-quality pictures, authentic user product reviews, and influencer content – consumers have cinematic results at their fingertips.

The peer-based review system Gen Z has grown accustomed to extends from online shopping for clothes and gadgets to restaurants, makeup, media, music, and more. Users, especially younger ones, gravitate toward social shopping because they want genuine and subjective results on products and online stores. When they have billions of products to choose from, finding the ones their peers like and trust makes shopping easier.

Up-to-date results are key

Though comparison shopping engines (CSE) like Shopzilla, Nextag, and Pronto try to keep the most accurate data feed about online retailers and product prices, social media is typically the first to find out about changes. Ecommerce sites, eateries, service providers and more often announce product details, changes, and closings on social media, updating their profiles to include the developments. While this data is sent to Google, it takes a while for that information to update. That short but significant period of time is enough to make socials the most accurate and up-to-date shopping sites.

How Do Paid Comparison Shopping Engines Compare?

The amount you pay for your advertising weighs heavily on each campaign’s success. Your average cost-per-click (CPC) on a comparison shopping engine might make them a favorite for your paid advertising, as does one other difference between these sites and their social counterparts, a product feed.

Google ads, with their targeted and measurable success, as well as the numerous other paid comparison shopping engines, offer something most socials don’t have yet: a product feed that includes comparison. Users can compare similar products and easily find the lowest price or best quality on price comparison websites like, Pricegrabber, Bizrate, eBay, and Yahoo Shopping. Allowing users to weigh prices, features, and reviews of different products, and the ability to compare products side-by-side, is an essential tool for online shopping. But as social media sites continue to become search engines for shopping, that functionality may be the next step.

Executives at Google and other search engines have noticed the trend toward social platforms and have taken immediate steps to keep up. Google has led the charge to create new ways to search with voice queries and combinations of images and text, even opening a path for the future use of AR glasses as a search tool. The company made the shift more pronounced with deals to index TikTok and Instagram videos in its search results. Now, when you Google a query related to either app, short videos come up that take you back to the app. These changes, plus future features, show that search engines know social media is coming for their spot at the top.

The New Marketing Potential for Social Media

If social media is the new search engine, what does that mean for your digital marketing strategy? Most likely, your strategy includes, or at least considers, both advertising on Google and social media platforms. While pay-per-click (PPC) comparison shopping engines are still a must, you should also take advantage of social media to broaden. Here’s how:

1. Understand how your socials are used

The way potential customers may find your social pages or website is now via a shopping search on the platform. Whether they search for “new boots” or “restaurants in Springfield,” your page should be appetizing. Consider how your pages and posts look to a new user and enhance them for those eyes. Make sure it’s easy for them to click through your product page to get to your ecommerce site, and ensure your content is engaging. For some platforms, the easiest way to improve click through rates is to make shoppable videos. Use your understanding of your customers’ journey to your socials to construct it effectively.

2. Optimize for the algorithms

As you optimize for users, you also need to optimize for the shopping search engines themselves. Apply your understanding of each individual social media platform and its algorithm to optimize for SEO, including the appropriate keywords and relevant content. With that, consider that users tend toward certain social platforms for unique interests. For example, YouTube is often accessed for news, tutorials, and education, while TikTok is the capital of recipes, fashion, makeup, gaming, and more.

3. Prioritize short-form video

Because Google is now indexing short videos in their search results, and because users are exceedingly interested in video content across all social platforms, it’s a sweet spot. Prioritizing short videos, à la TikTok or Instagram Reels style, means you get double the benefit on your socials and comparison shopping engines. However, short-form media isn’t as effortless as you might think based on the name. Don’t just make short videos. Make high-quality digital media that users will engage with and seek out.

Designing Your Digital Marketing Strategy to Leverage Social Search Engines

The changes you need to make to adapt to the move towards social media as a search engine take time to navigate. It requires extensive SEO knowledge, high-quality digital creative, and an understanding of potential and current customers to make the best of an exciting shift in how users engage with Google and social media. First Media partners with brands to create content that converts – and distribute it through our publisher channels. That means you get award-winning digital creative, plus the channels your customers already use. Our established presence on the social media platforms your users access lets your content reach new heights, giving you the opening to catch the wave of impending change in social media search engines.