When searchers can't find something on Google, they might turn to another search engine like Yahoo, Windows Live or Ask. Or they might turn to one of the growing answers sites.
But lately, more and more people are turning to Twitter.
Brian Clark, author of the popular Copyblogger.com, turned to Twitter when searching for software recently. "I'd been looking for a photo editor, and Google wasn't really giving me what I need. [I'm] not sure any other search engine would have either."
Clark was looking for was direction on which product to choose. "What I needed was a personal recommendation, either from someone I knew and trusted, or by consensus from multiple people."
He's not alone. Lisa Creech Bledsoe, director at Calvert Creative, a social media consulting firm, has been using Twitter for both business and personal use. She's finding that Twitter offers her something that the search engines can't: human interaction.
"Because I deliberately cultivated a Twitter community of my industry peers, I knew they could give me the answer quickly. I can also 'refine' my 'search' on Twitter because I'm talking to actual people, as opposed to posing questions to an algorithm," said Bledsoe
Human feedback is what Wendy Piersall needed recently when launching the process of rebranding her site, eMoms at Home. Her reader base had expanded beyond moms, and she wanted her site to reflect that.
"I just needed real input from real people, which obviously Google can't provide like that," said Piersall. "It was more important to determine what our readers thought of this word -- that's when I turned to Twitter."
Twitter has certainly not replaced Google. Instead, Piersall finds that the two complement each other. When Piersall was looking for a new word that reaches her audience, she needed to research what was already out there. "I certainly first Googled it to determine how [a] word is already being used by other companies/sites."
Lisa Creech Bledsoe shares that sentiment. "Searching for the right information isn't necessarily an 'either/or' situation (either I use either Google or Twitter), it's sometimes a 'both/and.'"
But where are Yahoo, MSN, AOL or Ask in this discussion? A recent comScore report showed that Google has increased its dominance over the search landscape. And that is reflected in Bledsoe's search behavior. "I use Twitter for search and for business reasons all the time now, and I go to all four major search engines when I'm doing research for my clients, but interestingly, I rarely use Yahoo, MSN, or Ask.com for personal use."
Some of the major search engines are expected to begin adding more social media elements to their sites. Until then, Twitter and other social sites, may well be on their way to being the Google alternative.