For many companies, nothing has historically been more important for traffic than search, making search a virtual holy grail. But for some publishers, social is fast becoming the new search.

Take the Guardian, for instance. According to Tanya Cordrey, who is the director of digital development for the news organization, “It’s only a matter of time until social overtakes search for the Guardian.”

Cordrey made that statement at the Guardian Changing Media Submit, where she spoke about the Guardian’s Facebook app. explains that the app, which was launched six months ago, enables Facebook users to share in “frictionless” fashion with their friends all of the articles they read on the Guardian site. That, obviously, produces traffic for the Guardian and according to Cordrey, the amount of money made from this new traffic has already exceeded the cost of developing the Facebook app.

In terms of overall traffic, the Guardian’s Facebook app has caused traffic from social to spike above traffic from search in several instances, and the trend has the percentage of social referrals increasing. Hence Cordrey’s prediction about social overtaking search.

This is obviously encouraging news for publishers, particularly traditional news organizations that can use all the help they can get. But that doesn’t mean social is a panacea. There are three things publishers should consider when looking at social:

  • Audiences aren’t created equal, and quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Getting to know the different audiences and understand how they differ from each other is the key to building better relationships and maximizing monetization opportunities.
  • Privacy concerns abound in the world of social and they shouldn’t be underestimated. For obvious reasons, “frictionless sharing” has raised numerous privacy concerns.
  • Publishers should be careful about becoming too dependent on platforms like Facebook. Yes, Google isn’t always the best friend, but the publisher’s relationship with Facebook is very different and Facebook’s interests are arguably less well aligned with the publisher’s.