Search engines created a new ecosystem for consumers and marketers — and in the process made Google worth around $200 billion. If you put aside the hype, the core value proposition is simple: people go to Google looking for things, and marketers whose products or services are related to those things are thrilled to buy “sponsored answers” (i.e., ads) that show up with the results for those queries.
While there’s a lot of chatter about Facebook threatening to disrupt that money-pump of an ecosystem, the reality is that social networking isn’t a direct threat to “googling.” To be sure, it’s another amazing venue for marketers to connect with consumers, but in a very different context — one that is arguably better suited for brand advertising and organic social media marketing. (Portals such as Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL are probably the ones being more disrupted.)
Bernard Moon just wrote a terrific article on VentureBeat, Are Q&A startups a threat to Google?, that identifies a much more direct source of disruption to The Big G:
…numerous Question & Answer players that people unwisely dismiss but which are working hard to … become a danger to Google’s current search dominance.
Q&A companies like Quora, Peerpong and others are seeking to become the next Google in what many are eyeing as the next stage of search: capturing specific knowledge and providing the best answers to any question through the Internet.
Bernard sketched the following diagram of the Q&A landscape:
Given that this is a marketing technologist blog, you may already be familiar with Stack Overflow, the Q&A site for programmers. If not — go check it out. This is one of the best implementations I have seen of a reputation system that incentivizes quality contributions in a crowdsourcing community.
This is a much more accurate way of determining authority in specific queries than PageRank, the algorithm behind Google. It can still be challenging to find the most relevant Q&A thread for what you’re looking for, but once you hone in on it, it’s much easier to determine the “correct” answer. The supporting evidence to its correctness is succinctly and intuitively organized.
If I’m looking for an answer to a programming question — or if I’m looking to hire new developers — Stack Overflow has become my go-to destination. If other Q&A communities, especially in aggregate, are able to achieve a similar dynamic, it’s not hard to see how they could very well displace Google’s information-seeking ecosystem.
For marketers, this disruption represents intriguing new opportunities.