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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,,, 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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248 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “10 Steps for Optimizing the Brand for Social Search”

  1. Pim says:

    Great source!

    Note: There's a typo in Facebook (first word of the article), it has an extra “o”. Feel free to remove this comment.

  2. PR_issues says:

    Thanks, Brian. You really contributed a lot into my knowledge about brand optimization and social networks. I think the idea of optimizing content for business has been in the air for quite a long time, though not everyone running their own business understands it to the full extent.
    I've created a webcast on social media use in business. If you have time and desire, you can check it and share your thoughts in comments

  3. Kenji says:

    Thanks for this analysis! It really got my head spinning this Monday morning. Sorry if this is somewhat of a tangent (and a little long).

    Among other things, your posting made me think about how search has evolved (moving from keyword to referral) and the impact it has on planning websites for companies (and their brand). Specifically, I was curious about how information architecture has changed to accommodate social objects and architecture. How do you organize information and make it easy to find information when more and more or your visitors want to dismantle it? How do you do IA when a lot of the content is off your site on social platforms?

    For many companies, even doing basic IA has been a challenge much less accommodating social media.

    I searched and found Patterns (and anti Patterns) on the web today by the American Society for Information Science and Technology! Looks like their on the ball! Here's what they talk about with interesting Pattern names:

    A Pattern Language Framework with the following Principles:

    5 Principle Patterns:

    Pave the Cowpaths
    Talk Like a Person
    Play Well with Others
    Learn from Games
    Respect the Ethical Dimension

    5 Anti Patterns:

    Cargo Cult
    Don't Break Email
    The Password Anti-Pattern
    Ex-Boyfriend Bug
    Potemkin Village

    Here's their summary page:
    Here's the wiki:

    *I have no relationship to this association.

  4. Maxiosearch says:

    As the bottom paragraphs mention, the whole internet is turning social as information is spread and shared more and more over social networks. In fact, the creation of more niche focused social networks allow users share their expertise and create a new channel to provide qualified information and engage with others. is one of those new social networks, providing small businesses and startups a way to find fast solutions to their day to day work.

    Hope to see you around soon!

  5. Iconic88 says:

    Great post Brian! Thank you.

    People will be able to see that the focus for businesses today is to develop and strengthen their relationships with their audience.

    Engaging, empowering and empathizing with the client will go a long way to nurturing client's into an 'ambassadorial' role for a brand.

    The majority of conversations are occurring at the 'frontline' of the communications channels be it social media or a walk-in into a store. The challenge for many businesses is how to harness this contact point into a long term ongoing dialog for which you've given a powerful recipe for success Brian.

    Strengthen the bonds with trust and you create a node of communication for your business that will likely do all your 'free advertising' via sharing through their online networks.

    Thank you Brian.

    All the best.

  6. Erik Johnson says:

    It seems that pass-along advertising is more important. It helpes when brands are made for the mind and easily passed along.

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