Top Five Tips for Leveraging Social Search for the Future

Traditional search is fading as social discovery skyrockets in younger generations. Are you embracing the change?  

By Katie Maher

Google has found itself facing adaptation or death by social search. In fact, 83 percent of Instagram users say the app has helped them discover new products and services, and 40 percent of Gen Z use TikTok and Instagram to find answers over traditional search engines.  

GFM|CenterTable Associate Vice President Becky Cole explains, “Younger generations are shifting the way they seek out content. A simple Google search is no longer enough. They want authentic content and social platforms that can provide the exact type of immersive experience they are pursuing. It is changing the landscape of search.”  

Optimizing your social media content to appear in social search results is a powerful strategy to build more organic awareness and consideration than ever before. Read on to learn how you can leverage social search to reach new audiences.  

What is Social Search? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) has traditionally focused on optimizing your website so major search engines such as Google and Bing will serve your content among its search results when users input relevant key terms. The goal of traditional SEO is to surface your content to drive visitors to your website and improve the quantity and quality of your traffic.  

Social media platforms such as Instagram, Reddit, TikTok and X are being used more and more similarly to search engines for content posted within their apps. Social search is when users are proactively seeking content on social media platforms related to their interests and needs.  

To rank highly on a social results page, creators need to plan content that is optimized for topics they want to appear for and know users are seeking.  

At the same time, users are no longer served content of just the accounts they follow, but by several indicators that share additional content they believe will keep users engaged, and on the platform, longer. This is called social discovery.  

Just like with social search, social discovery can include optimizing areas of your post including captions, audio, post copy, alt-text and hashtags. The impact of each of these elements varies by platform, but by mastering them you can help your content and brand reach new audiences. This practice can be used for everything from profile bios to individual post hashtags and should be consistent across platforms for brand recognition. 

Building a social search and social discovery strategy begins by understanding relevant trending topics, doing keyword research and paying attention to platform specific guidelines.  

Content Creation Best Practices for Social Search and Discovery  

Below are five strategies to help your social content take advantage of social media search algorithms and reach new audiences:  

  1. Use Relevant Keywords 
    Platforms look for keyword signals in usernames, bios, captions, hashtags and locations. Using relevant keywords on your profile and in your posts can help the algorithm know whom best to serve your content to. 
  1. Take Advantage of Trending Topics 
    Social networks serve content to users that’s similar to other content they’ve interacted with in the past. Pay attention to hashtags, audio and topics that are currently trending to reach a wider audience. 
  1. Activate Your Ambassadors 
    Content that’s already popular and getting good engagement is most likely to rank higher in the search results. Popularity is determined by signals such as the number of clicks, likes, shares and follows a post is driving. Asking your ambassadors—users who are already fans of your organization, such as employees— to engage with your content whenever they see it can increase its popularity and visibility to others. 
  1. Make Frequent Updates 
    Freshness is a significant ranking factor for most search engines and the search engines on social media platforms are no different. Make a habit of posting consistently to signal to the algorithm that you have reliable, fresh content.   
  1. Avoid Spam 
    Search engines and social media platforms actively demote content they believe to be spam or irrelevant to their users. Since poor engagement on one post can impact reach on future content, avoid repetitive or unnecessary content that could be dinged by social media algorithms. 

Ensuring your content is optimized for in-app search and discovery is key for finding new users given the evolving usage of social media platforms. Adopting these five strategies will help you reach new audiences and increase your brand awareness through social search and social discovery. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you take your social media efforts to the next level.