It has been noticed of late that more and more people are turning to social media instead of the usual portals or search engines when they want to find out something online.
To understand this phenomenon better, Nielsen carried out a study across 1,800 participants in August 2009. For this study, users were categorised into 3 groups. Those who used mainly search engines (searchers), portals (portalists), and social media (socialisers) during their research operations.
The study surmised that approximately 18% of people used social networks as their primary source of information. Although this amount is smaller than that of search engine users (37%) and portal users (34%), it is nonetheless significant and growing constantly.
A major cause for this change could be the fact hat the internet is literally flooded with information on all subjects, thus making it difficult for the average user to decide what part of the information to trust, thus creating more confusion, rather than clarifying matters. On the other hand, when they go to the social networks, there is a lesser amount of information available, and equally important is the fact that this information is provided by ones friends and family, which reassures the user that he can trust the matter provided there.
Another factor in favour of social networks like Twitter and Facebook is the fact that they provide information in real time, while the search engines take a while to get updated.
In spite of these facts, social networks have a long way to go before they can overtake or replace the search engines for search. For one thing, social engines are more useful for information like local recommendations etc. while information about general topics is more easily available on the search engines.
Also the search engines are already working on systems for better filtration of the information available, so that users are not overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of content.