Last week I ran a corporate training program for a large ad agency in New York and we had a lot of discussion about search and social media.
We know that people search for things. A lot. Especially when making a purchase. This isn’t a surprise (or new). This is why companies have websites.
Social Integration is New
What is new is social integration in search results. Social media is ranking higher and becoming more closely integrated into search results than ever before. Things like videos, photos, wikis, blogs, discussion forums and now even twitter are showing up with top results on search engines.
The screen shot below shows search results for “gulf oil”. You can see that social media sources accounted for 4 of the top search results. A blog listing from the Huffington Post ranked 4th, user generated images were 6th, twitter results were shown 7th and user generated wiki results from wikipedia came up 9th. 40% of the top 10 search results were user generated. This means that when people are searching for information about your product, category or brand they are more likely to find content generated by other people vs. your carefully crafted brand message.
Key Implications of Search Results and Social Media
There are a number of implications for marketers:
- You have even less control – The integration and high ranking of social media means that you have even less control over how your brand in perceived in the social space. User content and opinions will continue to dominate on the web.
- Twitter May Be Uninformed – During the swine flu outbreak the NYTimes ran an article pointing out that twitter was a source of mis-information about the outbreak. Of course it was. Average people usually are a source of misinformation. My mom is a source of misinformation (sorry mom if you read this). Social Media search results may not have the right information, but people are eager to trust what they hear from friends, family and people like them.
- Listening is More Important than Ever – Given the prominence of user generated and social media results in search engines it is important that brands at least understand what people are saying about them and what may show up in search engine results. Knowing is half the battle. Know where there is misinformation or perception issues.
- Inform the Conversation – If there is misinformation about your product you need to develop an action plan to share the right information and help inform the conversation. Building relationships in advance is key to this (as you’ll need friends and advocates to help share information).
- Create Your Own Content – Since video, wikipedia, photos, blog posts and social networks are all showing up in search results, why not participate in them? Create your own branded assets and syndicate on social sites to increase your visibility both on those sites and in search engine results.