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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 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

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!


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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 http://lifeisworthy-prissues.blogspot.com/2010/

  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: http://asis.org/Bulletin/Aug-09/AugSep09_Crumli
    Here's the wiki: http://designingsocialinterfaces.com/patterns/M

    *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. Startups.com 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.

  7. This is very interesting.

  8. Thanks for the insight. How would you use this for business to business? Would you use the same schedule?

    • briansolis says:

      Hello Jamie, I mostly work in B2B and one of the most interesting things that I've learned is when you start backwards…figuring out communities and voices of interest and the information exchanges between them, we can start to identify programming opportunities. Maybe this should be a separate post… 🙂

    • Thank you for your ideas. I think of the tools but need to think of the process.

  9. RoxanaT says:

    Very insightful post, I really enjoyed reading it. For my views on social media and its importance to business feel free to check out: http://contemporarypr.blogspot.com/

  10. AspenSpin says:

    Wow!! FB has passed Yahoo. That unbelievable. Another great article Brian.

  11. RoxanaT says:

    Very insightful post, I really enjoyed reading it. For some of my views on social media and its importance to business feel free to check out: http://contemporarypr.blogspot.com/

  12. prguyonline says:

    Thank you Brian for such an eye opening article. Very fascinating.

    It makes me think of one of my favorite books, The Tipping Point.
    Social networking provides an ideal platform for influencers/ trust agents who now play a pivital role in the marketing mix. Word of mouth has taken center stage.
    Bravo. You're a great educator.

  13. denispaulvc says:

    As usual, Brian, very interesting… Synchronicity… I just wrote a post last week entitled “Surfing under influence” (http://www.dvcom.ca/DvCom-blog/March-2010/Surfi…) about the fact that it is getting very “up close and personal” in search as we navigate / surf more and more following the recommendations and guidance of (real) people we know (in real) life and to which we are either directly or closely related to in Social Media. We are going back to navigating under the influence of “People You Know” instead of influence 'à-la-Google”; i.-e. page-ranking algorithm.

  14. BizSavvyMom says:

    I had some huge take-aways from this post Brian (nice to meet you). One of the big ones, which I promptly shared within my own FB group is this:

    “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.”

    There was a huge shake up in the Internet marketing community when John Reese (Income.com) deleted his twitter account or over 25k followers after accusing it of being a time sucker. It has disillusioned many who follow his opinions.

    This is because we as sellers of widgets just want our followers and fans to click and buy, There is little value placed on ENGAGING and SHARING. It's viewed the way commercial are: expensive and ineffective as a call to [buy] action.

    The other thing that stood out was the creation of an editorial calendar to create content for your networks.

    I am going to add additional share options to my site an implement this editorial calendar today! Thanks again Brian.

  15. keithshetterly says:

    Brian, can you elaborate on #5 and #6 on your list re: putting social media links on your home page? Different vertical markets are prone to different takes on this–for consumables and electronics, which have a high product churn rate, it would seem attractive to join a fanbase of that retailer's social media (for coupons, “secret” sales, etc.) as well as some socializing with other consumers. In other words, the vertical has a large daily attention from a “sticky” group of interested shoppers/browsers.

    Retail vehicle sales are not like that. There's a shopping group, yes, but it is transitting shoppers/browsers than any “sticky” group. People purchase new vehicles about every 2-3 years (and longer, nowadays), so their shopping attention isn't fixed very long relative to the market and the products.

    So, #6 “keep them on the page” is far more important to a car dealer than #5 “maximum engagement via social media from the home page”. Dealers invest in SEO effort, including social media referrals, to get the shopper to their website–Kelley Blue Book, for example, provides embedded trade-in evaluations just so the customer isn't bounced to another site for that from the dealer's site.

    Dealers want to engage them where they are and offer only actions that add ability to view inventory, make appointments, get phone numbers, and the like. And they, frankly, don't do a very good job of that already.

    It seems counter-intuitive to provide further confusion of social media links on a dealer's home page. What are your thought? Now, I'd think links like “put this car on your FaceBook” would be very valuable for SEO referrals instead.

    Thanks!

    Keith Shetterly
    keithshetterly@gmail.com

    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”

  16. Kristen Tom says:

    WOW! I'm really amazed at the statistics where it states that many of the referral sites are from social media. That's amazing.

  17. jey505 says:

    This is awesome! Thanks, Brain for clarifying a rather complicated subject. Here is a great way to look at social media as well! http://bit.ly/cseSe6

  18. Jon Buckley says:

    Hey Brian, how are things?
    Very interesting post, however, although Facebook and other networking sites are a great place to meet, engage etc, in the '2009 Edelman Trust Barometer' they found that only 15% of consumers surveyed believed social networking sites were credible as a source of info about a company. Engaging with the customer is essental online, as is trust and credibility. I don't think enough companies are spending adequate time maintaining and updating their website.

    I created a webcast called 'Understanding Social Media', feel free to take a look and of course your feedback would more than welcome. http://jonbuckleypr.wordpress.com/category/soci

    Cheers,
    Jon

    http://jonbuckleypr.wordpress.com/

  19. Tina says:

    This is really cool. I'm in a class at Michigan State University about social media and optimizing it. This article is right up our alley. I'll be sure to forward your blog to all my classmates. Thanks!

  20. lizzymagvire says:

    How did you got this result?? Because It was very unexpected and shocking for me. I was thinking twiiter is the most widely used social media site. And if someone ahead of it than it must be a very small marginal difference but facebook has extra ordinary ratings. How?
    fitflop

  21. Brian, nice post and very insightful. I definitely believe social media sends more traffic than Google search but the issue most have with social media traffic is that it is difficult to measure in terms of metrics and ROI. It would be interesting to know how many users from social media sites actually convert opposed to those converting from Google search. Until we are able to track social media conversions with accuracy big companies will continue to spend more dollars on search engine optimization and marketing.

  22. gucci says:

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  23. Ex Back says:

    hi, 10 Steps for Optimizing the Brand for Social Search. via briansolis.com. Brilliant study done

  24. Morgan Siem says:

    Great post, Brian. I know I'm late joining the conversation. I've been talking a lot about the impact of social on search recently. I just wrote a blog post about it after hearing a panelist at a luncheon on search say something to the effect of: social media is just a shiny object, with no place in a marketing strategy and valuable correlation with SEM. Glad to see you understand the value. I'm about to add a link to this post of yours in my blog post because I think it complements the argument very well. I'd love you're feedback on my post if you get a chance!

    http://www.mediatwopointoh.com/how-social-media

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  26.  Totally agree. And another argument for
    deep-links is that it looks just more natural. If there is great content
    on one of your “inner-sites” and you gain external links from sites
    with contextual relevance to yours plus a matching anchor text – this
    link is really worth something!

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