Future of Marketing Interview with Mark Schaefer: Is Search Dead?

Michael Brenner on Jan 22, 2013 in Marketing Strategy

Future of marketing: is search dead?What is the Future of Marketing?

Will it be defined by the implications of the social business? Or the rise of content marketing? Will it be found in the solution to digital marketing challenges in our mobile-connected world?  Will we see new models required to activate employee personal brands? Or is Big Data the Future of Marketing?

As you can see from the examples linked above, I have made plenty of marketing predictions on the future of marketing myself over the last few years. But now I want to bring in ideas from others.  Time to mix it up!

So over the last few weeks, I have reached out to a number of the great minds in marketing – people I respect, across a variety of disciplines, and asked them to answer a few basic questions and to provide their own view on the future of marketing.

In this first installment, I am proud to bring you an interview with the infamous Mark Schaefer who ponders whether search, as we know it, is about to disappear . . .

Q: Mark, please tell us about yourself?

I’ve been working in business for 30 years (but shhhh … we don’t have to tell anybody that!) primarily in marketing roles.  Today, I teach at Rutgers University, blog at {grow}, specialize in corporate social media workshops, consult, speak at conferences, and I’ve written three marketing books, including Return On Influence. So, I keep busy!

Q: Tell us about a tough or interesting challenge you face?

I consider myself a marketing strategist but I’m best known for my work in social media marketing. To be honest, this communication channel is still quite misunderstood, even though it has been on the table for 3-4 years now. A continual challenge is not only working on marketing progress, but educating leaders so they can make smart decisions in this space.

The most over-looked factor in social media success is coincidentally the most important one — corporate culture. I begin each consulting engagement with an honest assessment of the company’s cultural readiness to move forward with a social media strategy and then recommend counter-measures to get it in gear. AT the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how willing you are, or how much money you’re ready to put into it if the culture can’t support it.  It’s really rewarding to help companies make progress in this area!

Q: Do you have an interesting or provocative prediction on the future of marketing?

There are quite a few trends I’m interested in, the technological transformation of government and education, the advent of augmented reality, and the continual churn on the social web. But if I had to pick something “provocative,” it would be that search as we know it is about to disappear.

The information density on the web is ridiculous and getting worse every day. “Knoxville pizza” returns 8 million entries, none of them connected to my social graph or recommendations from my friends. This is why Facebook is going to dominate search. Today, Facebook IS the Internet for Millennials.

Facebook search has tripled in the past two years even before the company announced their new search product recently.  To some young people, Google is already obsolete because they never leave Facebook as it is. These people are your future customers and employees by the way.

The new Facebook search engine will provide meaningful “warm” results, cutting through those millions of entries to deliver something that it KNOWS you will like. How will it do that? C’mon. Facebook already knows you better than your spouse does. They just need to connect the dots … and they will.

I want to thank Mark for contributing his thoughts and invite you to check out Mark’s blog, follow him on Twitter @MarkwSchaefer and check out his latest book, Return On Influence.

So what do you think? Is search dead? Let me know what you think in the comments below. And follow the conversation on Twitter,  LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 28 comments
  • Stefan Funk


    Thanks for sharing this great interview. At the end, it is really a question of the search results your are getting and how you use your facebook account. In the past, to be open, I could not found anything useful within the results I got that I “might” like. I do think, you will only get meaningful results by either using your profile for private or business purposes.

    All the best,

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Stefan,

      I do believe Facebook search will be huge. I remember seeing a friend ask for vacation spot recommendations on Facebook recently. She received a number of suggestions about the same place from very different members of her social graph. Should be interesting to see Google’s reaction.

  • Sam George

    Two questions i would have wanted to ask Mark myself, i think he is bang on point with the future of search. Interesting to see how things come to pass.

  • Mike Toner

    If your online friends are a trusted source of recommendations and search engines are where you go for recommendations, it only makes sense that the search engine should know who your online friends are to help personalize your search results.

    Friends: This is what Facebook knows better than Google.

    But for now, “Facebook’s Graph Search is as much a search engine as Google’s Google+ is a social network.”

    This rapid integration of search and social is all about helping searchers find more of what they’re looking for through their online friends and social connections.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Mike, it’s a great quote and a spot on depiction of the current vision but not hard to see where this could be going. Interesting times indeed!

  • Jimmy Cooper

    I think it’s an interesting prediction, and one that I think could potentially come to be. The question, though, is to what degree. I don’t see traditional search being replaced completely. Unless Facebook provides better ways for managing multiple “personas” within a profile, its search will still be geared towards those personal “at home” queries, like what to eat, where to vacation, what to buy, etc.

    When you’re in a professional or business context, those searches will become less relevant. I rarely talk about my professional interests on Facebook ( I save that for LinkedIn), so these types of queries won’t provide many relevant results, at least for me. If there ever comes a day when LinkedIn and Facebook share data, this could change quickly, but for now, I dunno. The search context really comes into play – search for personal vs. for business or for school or for research.

    Another interesting point he made, though, was the idea that young people today never leave Facebook. If that is the case (I’m not so sure…), then this too will ebb and flow. It’s almost a throwback to the original AOL, where the entire internet existed inside this walled garden/utopia. Facebook was smart in extending their platform beyond just their site, and I think that’s where the real value is for them. “within Facebook” becomes the Facebook-connected internet, which I can definitely see.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Jimmy. I think that whatever happens, the current landscape across search and social is going to change. Which brings us back to the other big point in Mark’s interview: that culture is what drives success in social media for businesses. I think as our millenials turn into corporate leaders, we will see many of these kind of predictions start to accelerate.

      • Jimmy Cooper

        Here’s a great post from Forrester on first impressions of their new Graph Search. https://blogs.forrester.com/zachary_reiss_davis/13-01-23-testing_facebook_graph_search_first_thoughts

        It touches on to what I was alluding to as well. If Graph Search can get access and mine the “Facebook Connect” data, I think there will be some great value in it and possibly cause some drama for Google. But hey, Google could use some drama… 🙂

      • Jennifer

        As I’m just from the new generations I’m disagree with these points. We always use to search out about anything on Google. The smallest thing we don’t know about than we usually answer just Google it.

  • Wesley Picotte

    There’s no doubt that Graph Search can impact certain search categories, but to say that search as we know is about to disappear is a huge inflation of reality. Mark (whose blog I follow and think is great — and I think the observation about company culture impacting social media readiness is so spot-on) is not the only social pundit making such claims and so he, at worse, joins a chorus of social pundits that has long chanted a dislike for SEO. Or he’s just being provocative, which is fine, and if so nice work on eliciting the following thoughts, Mark:

    If I search Google for the term “Dominos Pizza” with personalization turned off, I get exactly you’d expect – organic result #1 is the corporate website, and alongside this, local search results that include hours of operation, address, and links for directions. I get this along with 30+MM other results, but what I’m presented is perfectly satisfactory.

    If I search for the “best pizza in Portland OR” (where I live), again with personalization turned off, foremost among the 3+MM results are local publications that periodically create reviews, Yelp (a social site…hmmmm), local results with Zagats ratings included, and more. All well and good, but as the customer journey shows for many types of products, I may seek out social validation for what I learn through a web search.

    If we look at these examples objectively, I cannot see how Facebook does the former more effectively, therefore ‘disappearing’ this type of search from engines like Google. Conversely, if I don’t trust Yelp or the local pubs, or rather if I trust the opinions of my social circle on Facebook more than those found on Yelp, Graph Search very well could do a great job on the latter.

    BUT, that’s only if my friends are foodies – or at the very least — if I trust that my friends have good enough taste in pizza. Or if they care about pizza. Or if they talk about their favorite pizza on Facebook.

    Or if the results really are “warm”. Maybe, just maybe, I once liked a local pizza joint to get a coupon special. Turns out the pizza sucked, though, AND I’m lazy and never unliked the place. If I conduct the second search example above on Facebook, Graph Search will produce that like as a result, but this is hardly akin to knowing my spouse better than I do (really??).

    There are a lot of ‘ifs’ here, in any case, hence my comment that it’s far too early to sound the death knell for search as we know it. Meanwhile, the pizza example barely scratches the surface for many of search categories that simply are not relevant to the Facebook audience. Since we’re on a B2B blog here, lets say, just for giggles, that I search on “NAS storage SMB”. Wonder where I’m going to get relevant results for this one?

    Lastly, there’s another problem with the social pundits’ wagon circle about search as we know it, and it’s this little thing called content marketing. Certain brands use Facebook to extend the reach of their content marketing, true, but only when it makes sense. This activity is leverages across many other channels and platforms, too – social, email, paid, SEO. These tactical extensions of a content marketing strategy all need a place to point somewhere, and that place, in one form or another, need to include a capture mechanism for marketing investments to be able to pay off.

    Facebook cannot become this destination for all brands and verticals, nor can Social Graph replace this need.

    • Michael Brenner

      Wow, Wesley, thanks for the detailed observations. To be very clear, I asked Mark to be provocative and I also used a LOT of hyperbole in the title. I made it a question as I extended Mark’s actual statement which I published verbatim in the hopes of engaging folks like you to provide your thoughts.

      So if you’ll excuse my dramatization, I do believe what Mark is suggesting (that search and social are evolving) and that Facebook Graph should not be ignored. I do not believe SEO is dead if you define SEO as “publish great content and you will get found by people searching for it” as opposed to the definition many people use of SEO as “the tricks you deploy to game search engines.”

      I agree with you that Facebook will not be the only destination for brands. In fact, I think channel proliferation will continue.

      Thanks again for your thoughts and hope you’ll come back!

  • Michael Cannon

    I think Wesley’s comments are spot on and the hyperbole does a disservice to the marketing profession…let’s be provocative when there is a real truth to expose…when there are so many more important issues to discuss.

    For example there is a decade of research that says about 50% of our customer communications (marketing content and sales conversations) are not relevant to customers and well over 50% of the marketing content is not useful to helping Sales (inside, outside, channel) create and win opportunities.

    This “issue” represents a big opportunity for Marketing. The internet, et al. enables Marketing to do a lot more of the selling and reduces a salespersons value add (what can you tell me that I do not already know).

    This “potential” for Marketing to be so much more relevant to revenue can only be realized by addressing its greatest failure…most of what we produce is not adding value.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Michael, I appreciate your comment and agree with you that Wesley provided us with an informed and thoughtful and constructive comment that added greatly to the discussion.

      I also agree that the majority of the content that companies (not just marketing) produces is not adding value, is not helping customers, and simply serves to overly-promote the company and what it sells. I spend a lot of the space on this site addressing that issue with my own ideas and suggestions. And I appreciate every additional thought and constructive idea for moving us all forward.

      But why does this happen and what can we do about it? Those are the key questions. Mark gets to the why when he mentions “company culture” as a factor in social media success. Well culture is the main factor in the marketing and the entire businesses success. In previous posts I have also talked about how a customer-centric, empathetic approach is the only way to change the kind of content companies produce from ignored sales promotion to helpful, valuable content that engages audiences and drives conversion.

  • Sean McGinnis

    I agree with Mark in principle. Facebook has the POTENTIAL to dominate the face of the web over the next decade – I argued as much January 20th a year ago. https://seanmcginnis.me/facebook-track-dominate-semantic-web/

    That said, I don’t think Facebook is quite as far along as they otherwise could be. There’s a LOT of work between here and there. I think they’ll get there and I look forward to experimenting with the new search product to see how far they take it.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Sean, thanks for stopping by and for citing your own prediction that seemed so spot on. I think you’re right Facebook should be further along. Personally, I’m not gonna bet against either Facebook or Google. I think they both will have a role to play for a long time in social and search.

  • Chris Herbert

    I respect Mark and have read his book Return on Influence. I don’t believe search will go away anytime soon because humans are curious creatures. Through history we’ve searched for lost civilizations, buried treasure, a soul mate, the weather, the ski report and the current score of the big game. I don’t see Facebook changing human behaviour and curiousity.

    I would be shocked if Facebook replaced search engines anytime soon as well. Google has no intention of losing market share and revenue from search related products. They will innovate and compete to win.

    Facebook is a closed system which controls the rules of engagement, the user experience and how developers can integrate their products. This closed approach will make it difficult for Facebook to be “the” destination for search. Too much control on one side is not a good thing.

    Also, there are times when your friends advice will not have any bearing on your decision to buy something. Sometimes they are simply wrong.

    A very provocative prediction Michael and great reading. Thanks for posting.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Chris. I have a nice little series on the Future of Marketing coming and look forward to hearing your views.

      I really liked Mark’s comment about culture being the biggest impediment to social success. It is such an obvious statement but yet one so few have tackled and lived to talk about it.

      The Facebook prediction was a bit provocative. I do believe there will be some displacement. I used an example in the comments here. My wife and I were looking for a vacation spot. We asked our friends on facebbook and had 3 very different people in our social graph respond with a similar recommendation. That is a search we would have done on Google before. I also just saw someone on Facebook asking about which fitness band is better. Again, an example of facebook displacing Google.

      I do not believe Google will ever go away. But I am not going to bet against either one of them (Google or Facebook). Thanks again for your comments.

  • Paula Cusati

    Great discussion! I agree that search is going to change and that both Facebook and Google will play a role. Michael will your series on the Future of Marketing consider the B2B environment? I’m not sure that Facebook search will play an important role in B2B marketing but there certainly wIll be an impact from social in the B2B world. Would be interested in hearing thoughts on how that might play out. Thanks

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Paula, Thanks for your thoughts and I agree. The series is probably more broadly focused on “Marketing” but the folks I’ve invited to participate are mainly B2B. Would you like to cover this in a guest contribution?

      Regarding, my opinion, I don’t necessarily disagree with you but frankly, I’m not sure how big a role Facebook will play. I mean what you said makes sense, intuitively and probably quantitatively. I’m just not sure how much that will change with millenials raising up the corporate ladder, the consumerization of IT in the B2B landscape, the blurring of more personal social channels (like Facebook or Pinterest) with more traditional ones.

      So I will stick with my original contention that I will not rule out Facebook or Google from any discussion on the future of marketing, even in B2B! (Great question btw).

  • Paula Cusati

    Thanks Michael. Would love to be a guest contributor to your series. Looking forward to connecting.

  • Chaz Green

    This is a fun topic and well defined by Mark and led by Michael. I think key to the title is the question and nothing wrong with a controversial headline.

    At no point in the article did I feel that Mark was saying search was dead or even dying, just evolving. Friend recommendations being added to search results is such an obvious next step. Whether it is Facebook, Google or Twitter for that matter, it will happen and is happening.

    As I see it, it will be the open solution, one that embraces all competitors and works together that will end up leading search and and social networking. Right now search and social are two separate things but as this article points out it is just a matter of time before they are one in the same.

    • Michael Brenner

      Excellent clarification Chaz. Change is coming to this landsacape for sure, we just don’t know which flavor it will have. I read today that Facebook likes is a bigger driver of SEO juice than inbound links. That’s a huge change, if true. Shuld be an interesting space to watch in the next couple of years.

  • Alessia

    As someone from the new generations and Team Twitter I tend to disagree. We use Google as a verb to mean search on Google. Don’t know something? Google it. We do think of Google and search as inseparable.

    • Michael Brenner

      It’s a great point Alessia! Can’t overlook the power of that brand affinity and the staying power of momentum.

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