The Internet brought with it the concept of social media and humanity has not been the same since. In the span of 20 years, we have seen the birth and rise of many social media platforms. We all know about them; all of us are on them. It is quite possible that you are reading this very article because you were redirected here from one of these social media sites. As is natural these have gone through many changes and trends across the years and have become a part of our daily lives, our launchpads for the online world. What began with LinkedIn and Orkut have graduated into a hoard or other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the likes.
The way we interact with technology has changed altogether and it has become an integral part of our lives. Technology as an industry has also progressed in leaps and bounds and it might seem to some that it is now developing at such a rate that it is almost becoming hard for us humans to keep up. From entire rooms being dedicated to computers, we have come to an age when we can carry all our digital data in devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones and now even smaller ones, in the form of wearables like smartwatches, smart glasses etc. The Internet of Things has made it possible to have data in one integrated digital ecosystem. Another fairly recent development has been the use and rise in popularity of the voice search feature. Gone are the days of frantically typing instructions into your devices, hoping that the algorithm at work hashes out the most relevant result.
The rise of "voice search"
We have also seen the recent rise of Voice-controlled personal assistants. “OK, Google,” “Hey Alexa,” “Siri…” are some of the phrases and words becoming increasingly popular with each passing day. They are making us type less and speak more. A recent survey conducted by PWC found out that only 10% of the surveyed respondents were not aware of voice-enabled products and devices. Of the 90% who were, the majority have used a voice assistant (72%). A recent Google survey concluded that 72% of people who own one of these devices use them as part of their daily routine. The survey also found out what information these owners want from brands – 52% want information about deals, sales and promotions, 48% are in search of personalized tips and information to make their lives easier, 42% are looking out for information about upcoming events or activities, 39% want to find out business information such as store hours, and 38% use it to access customer service or support.
Gartner had originally predicted that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing will be screenless. While this may not have a very precise calculation, it must be said that voice enabled devices are only rising in popularity instead of the situation being the other way round. This might be a scary statistic, and an even unfamiliar reality, but Microsoft’s Purna Virji quoted this and put a practical spin on it to say,
“While there will be a shift away from screens, voice won’t kill screens – just like mobile didn’t kill desktop. We are training artificial intelligence (AI) to be human-like so that it looks at something, understands it, recognizes it and responds back. Consumers are willing to engage with AI if we can make them forget they’re not human.”
This shift to voice searches is also not an unpredictable one, as it is most often much easier to simply ask voice-controlled assistants any question or query like you may have asked a friend, than to actually think about the keywords and type them in hoping for relevant results. It allows people to multitask, it is much faster and more convenient than typing and the results are also pretty much instantaneous. The accuracy of the speech recognition systems linked to these voice search mechanisms are also improving, and now have a word error rate of only 8%, a figure which is only decreasing with each passing day.
Experts dealing with SEO have already started to take this new way of searching into consideration, and it is only a matter of time that this becomes important in terms of digital marketing and social media usage as well. If social media truly represents what is trending in the world, and is a mirror of society, on a global scale, it’s just a matter of time that voice searches make their impact on it. It is likely that social media platforms will have to integrate voice search mechanisms into their interface and ensure more and more device integration and ways to mine what customers are asking them when that data becomes available. This type of integration might be beneficial for the platforms in the long run, as they will enable users to post something and be connected with their digital world, without even having to open the applications.
David Neuman, Director of Social & Sales Strategy for RhythmOne, says that:
“Voice search is not only impacting SEO, but also social media, especially around how brands and marketers are developing content. Many users will tap into voice search to ask a specific question (i.e. “how do I fix a leaky faucet”, “how to make a pizza from scratch”, etc.). Brands should be keeping track of relevant queries and start to incorporate content (especially blogs and video) into their strategy that addresses these questions (i.e. “how do I fix a leaky faucet”, “how to make a pizza from scratch”, etc.). Brands should be keeping track of relevant queries and start to incorporate content (especially blogs and video) into their strategy that addresses these questions head-on. As more users continue to leverage voice search, brands that are taking advantage of this will likely see more traffic and engagement when pushing it out through their own social channels.”
Ensuring that voice commands are compatible with the platforms will also make the social media sites more accessible and easy to use, which might boost their user base. The more widespread use of voice searches and voice commands in social media is not far off. Twitter has already released a feature, which lets Alexa read out a user’s Twitter feed. The most foolproof way to optimise your content is to make them with titles that directly answer a question, as humans are most likely to ask full questions to clarify anything if given the chance. Creators should also structure their content the way we speak, and try to give clear answers to the questions that your target audience hypothetically might have.
Basically, at the end of the day, voice search is a relatively new technology, which still hasn’t been all that popular, in many cases due to a considerable majority not having the kind of devices required to do it. But it is slowly but surely gaining momentum and is something that the developers of the social media sites will keep monitoring.