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The Difference Between Search And Social Media Chatter



Well, the year is almost finished. That means it’s time for everyone and their mother to start releasing their “best of the year” lists. One of my favourites of these lists is the Zeitgeist that Google releases, which documents what the world searched for the most over the past year.

This list got released yesterday and had some interesting things in it. But I was most interested in the top 10 searches world-wide, which looked like this:

When I saw this list, it got me thinking about if social media chatter was reflective of what people also searched for. So using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two.

I pulled up social media chatter for the top 5 world-wide searches and found that there was definitely differences. Just to note, when I did my search through social media I tried to keep my searches as close to how Google listed their top 5 searches. For example, when searching for the iPad 3 I only searched for variations of “iPad 3″ and not “new iPad” as it is sometimes referred to, or I searched for variations of “Hurricane Sandy” and not just “Sandy”.

The results that I found were quite different from Google’s. In fact, the only search that kept it’s same place between both lists was Diablo 3 in the fifth position. In my results Gangnam Style was the most talked about in social media out of the five, while it came in second on Google’s list. Here is the order of results as by social media chatter:

I then looked at the mentions of each of these search terms for when they were being mentioned. This also wielded some very interesting results. Whitney Houston was talked about the most on the day of her death in February and then trailed off throughout the year. The iPad 3 was getting a lot of talk leading up to the big announcement about its release and then continued to be talked about for a long time after it was released to the public. Possibly the most interesting in this chart is to see how Gangnam Style was talked about. Gangnam Style started to be noticed around the beginning of August but didn’t peak until September. It then seemed to have remained a popular topic all the way up to today.

Lastly, I broke the comparison down by channels. Again, I saw some interesting, but not so surprising results. Hurricane Sandy was talked about the most through online news articles as the media was all over this devastating story. Diablo 3 saw it’s most talk happening in forums as gamers are notorious for talking and sharing gaming tips and tricks through forums and message boards. Whitney Houston came out on top in blogs, while Gangnam Style was all the buzz on Twitter.

It turns out that each of Google’s most searched terms for the year were also popular topics to discuss in social media, but it appears that the two don’t match up. There were some big differences between the way Google’s top five and mine looked. It’s not easy to say exactly why that is, but my guess would be that people talk about what’s interesting at the time in social media, where as search is used more to find information about anything at any time.

Finally, I thought it would be interesting to take a bit of a closer look at each of these searches individually. Below you will find each of the five searches done individually. I provided the activity summary for each search, which shows how many times each term got mentioned and where, a popularity graph to show when throughout the year each term was being discussed and a word cloud so we can see what was being said about each term.

Whitney Houston

Gangnam Style

Hurricane Sandy

iPad 3

Diablo 3

What do you think about these results? Why do you think that social mentions and Google searches don’t match up? Let us know in the comments.


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1 Comment on The Difference Between Search And Social Media Chatter

Rick Weiss said : Guest Report 5 years ago

Sheldon, Good comparison between search/social. Your breakdown of the different uses of social spaces in discussing these topics is my favorite part. My perspective on why search and social are different? People use them differently, and topics get their legs differently on social channels. Search is broadly speaking a solitary exercise, and has a much larger and broader user-base than social channels. Everyone with an internet connection searches for things, whether they're doing it on a desktop or cell phone. And they're usually doing it to inform themselves, or others in the same room. Social tools bring in other motivations. Looking at Diablo 3, the forum is a huge part of PC gaming culture. And a game like Diablo, which is ALL about customization, gives a lot of room for gamers to share build strategies, item information, and so much more. Forum threads top search results for games like D3, so I'm not shocked it's on both lists, and not at all surprised it tops the charts on Forums.

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