10 Steps for Optimizing the Brand for Social Search

Facebook recently overtook Yahoo as the second most visited site in the United States. And in doing so, Facebook along with other social networks set the stage for a confluence of social and search that fundamentally changes who we, as a society, discover and share information, and in turn, where our attention is directed and driven.


Source: Mashable

Make no mistake, attention is shifting away from traditional destination sites and instead, it is fixated on personalized attention dashboards that funnel social feeds, the activity and focus of social graphs into one clickable view. It is, for all intents and purposes, changing how we discover and share information. In fact, Nielsen observed that 20% of social consumers today, use social networks as their primary navigation hubs, relying on contacts and trending themes to point them in the right direction.

For media properties and brands, optimization combined with targeted and enterprising social networking now plays an instrumental role in capturing the attention and essentially defining the action of our customers, peers, and the trust agents and authorities who influence them.

Referral traffic is quickly migrating away from traditional search to social networks, and in some cases, at alarming rates.

Gigya reviewed data from Compete from November 2009 and observed that some of the top media properties were already realizing a dominant effect in traffic from social networks. For example, USAToday receives upwards of 35% of its referral traffic from social networks and just over 6% from Google.  People Magazine receives 23% of its referrals from social networks and 11% from Google. And, CNN earns 11% of its referral traffic from social versus 9% from Google.

Referrals from social networks will only continue to soar over time as we’re introduced to new information where our attention is focused and when our attention aperture is open to clicking through to new, socially-influenced content.

If the socialization of search and commerce is driven by any one behavior, it is that of sharing. If it wasn’t worthy of conventional appreciation and recognition before, the share economy is now certainly worthy of contemplation and analysis. In the share economy, currency is defined by likes, links, retweets, updates, comments, shares on Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, MySpace, et al. And, its impact only grows as Social Media becomes pervasive.  This is why providing the necessary means for individuals to not only discover your content, but also readily share it across the social web is paramount to the survival of brands in the era of social search and also social media.

In a recent article, TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld reviewed the state of social sharing based on data provided by Gigya, which powers sharing widgets on more than 5,000 content sites, including ABC.com, NBA.com, PGA.com, Answers.com and Reuters. In the study, it was revealed that almost one million items were shared over the Gigya network within 30 days. Facebook ranked at the top of social sharing, but Twitter wasn’t far behind.

Distribution of shared items
Facebook: 44%
Twitter: 29%
Yahoo: 18%
MySpace: 9%

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Facebook alone counts over 5 billion pieces of content shared within its network each and every week.

According to AddThis, a sharing network installed on more than 600,000 Websites, Facebook also ranked on top, but email ranked second, with print, yes print, and Twitter placing in third and fourth respectively.

Top 10 Services, Overall
Facebook: 33%
Email: 13%
Print: 9%
Twitter: 9%
Favorites: 8%
Google: 6%
MySpace: 6%
Digg: 3%
Live: 3%
Delicious: 3%

At 400 million global users strong, and rapidly growing, Facebook is a mandatory content and engagement play for any brand and media property.

In February 2010, Nielsen reported that Facebook users are averaging seven hours per month, up 10%, sharing and connecting within their social graph. If we used Compete’s numbers, Facebook would rank #2, just behind Google.

Social Architecture is How We Connect and Define Experiences

Gigya recently published a white paper that documents the shift to and the resulting importance of social search and its dependence on crowd participation.

As a result of its research Gigya recognized that online businesses must optimize in order to earn referral traffic from social networks.

With the advent of social feeds—a live stream of friends’ activity shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter— consumers can more easily rely on trusted personal relationships to determine what’s worthwhile to read, watch, play and buy online.

Information is already socializing.

The difference between our present and our future is defined by the roads and bridges we build between relevance and prevalence.

Publishing content is no longer enough. Wiring search systems to deliver consumers who hunt for information in social networking to our existing static Web sites is outmoded. And, earning friends and followers is only as effective as our ability to return value to their feeds and online and ultimately, real world experiences. We are confusing our elementary steps towards digital and social significance with the illusion of progress.

It is now our responsibility to create and connect meaningful content directly within the places where our audiences communicate with each other and also interact with the social objects that compel them to share and react.  In parallel, we must optimize that content to improve findability and also integrate the tools and services that simplify the process for sharing within the networks where people engage today and tomorrow.  By creating a connected social experience, we activate our content and community and empower a new genre of branded information catalysts.

Everything begins with enhancing and optimizing connections and experiences for the social web. The key is to incite participation and sharing…on our site as well as across the most active social networks that are material to our business strategy.

10 Steps for Optimizing the Brand for Social Search

1. Modernize and socialize your site to complement the experience visitors expect in 2010

2. Optimize the site and all social objects for traditional, social, and real-time search

3. Create meaningful and personable social profiles where consumers are active today (pay attention to where they will be tomorrow as well)

4. Establish an editorial calendar to produce and distribute relevant content for each and every network with cadence

5. Add social connectivity to the home site to facilitate maximum engagement (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google, Yahoo) – eradicate proprietary login systems

6. Integrate social sharing functionality at the source of engagement – keep them on the page

7. Enable the social syndication of that content within one step

8. Manually introduce content and social objects to stakeholders and social beacons

9. Create paths that define and engender the experience you desire with destinations and calls to action integrated to close the loop

10. Monitor the activity and find ways to improve the experience and also sharing

Bonus: Give them a voice to make sharing more personal and contextual

The Future of Search and Business is Social

Indeed, the future of search is social. Better said, the future of information discovery and dissemination is social, now powered by the very people who were once fed information as dictated by mainstream media and brands.

The rapid evolution of search fuses traditional search algorithms and destinations with new formulas and services defining social graphs, social networks, semantic and real-time. As social becomes the axis for which all search is predicated, advanced SEO/SMO and a maturing human algorithm reinforced by the stature of one’s social capital will ultimately contribute to the hierarchy, placement, and findability of the content and social objects we share online.

Google and Bing are already implementing sweeping changes in their algorithms and reported results to include activity from the social and real-time Web. It’s also the reason why Google rushed Google Buzz into the spotlight. Information and activity are now influenced by the greater collective of social contacts with whom we forge relationships and relations in each and every network where we engage.

How does this information change your Web strategy for the year?

Update: Don’t forget about email

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Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!


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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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