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Optimize Your Brand for Sharing and Social Search in 11 Steps

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

In Part One, we focused on how to make your brand findable and shareable in social media. A white paper by Gigya validates the shift to, and resulting importance of, social search and its dependence on crowd participation. 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.

Honestly, there are too many top 10 lists, and I subscribe to the Spinal Tap school of numeration, so this list will go to “11!” Here are 11 steps for optimizing your brand for sharing and social search.

1. Keywords

This one seems elementary and trivial for many, but it can’t go unsaid. Social media is inviting new players within marketing and communications to the table. Their absence from traditional SEO practices requires the review of all keywords that stakeholders use to find relevant information regardless of the platform or network.

2. Brands Become Media

Essentially, for brands to earn the attention of desired audiences their content must be timely, relevant, irresistible, and shareable. Content production is only part of the equation. Establishing a cadence to entice people to introduce our work to their friends and followers is atypical.

Begin by defining an editorial calendar to produce and distribute relevant content for each and every network with rhythm and conviction. In the era of real-time and social search, brands now become the CNN of their industry while also socializing the content and experience to broaden reach and awareness.

3. Define the Experience

Modernize and socialize your site to complement the experience visitors expect in 2010. Once someone is introduced to your content and they land on your site or landing page, make sure it’s presented in a gripping format and the proper hooks are in place for easy sharing back to the attention dashboards of their social graph. Many Web sites are still stuck in the time of Web 1.0 and essentially represent a static dead end to the dynamic and interactive experiences transpiring in social networks.

4. Establish a Formidable Presence

Go where your audiences are already highly active, and also where they’re experimenting. Create enticing, compelling, and personable social profiles in the networks of relevance that convey a sense of “what’s in it for me?” Establish relationships based on context and make sure those relationships are fortified through the production and distribution of value-added content, combined with the art and science of reciprocity, response, and recognition.

5. Social Media Optimization (SMO)

Optimize the site and all social objects for traditional, social, and real-time search based on the keywords that are defined in step one. Invest time and resources in the eloquence of describing and defining social objects through titles, descriptions, tags (keywords), links, and active content promotion. Create content in the methods dictated by the communities you wish to reach (e.g., blog posts, tweets, videos, pictures).

6. Social Search

Now that Google and other search engines are experimenting with the addition of social search into results, the fusion of sharing and social networking improves the likelihood of someone clicking through to our desired objects. Data shows that, in addition to e-mail, visitors who find content shareable choose to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and MySpace.

7. Connect with Social Influencers

As attention spans continue to thin and as interesting content spins through attention dashboards at blinding speeds, brands must proactively connect relevant information to social beacons who can lend credibility and spark conversations and dialogue around the objects we introduce aligned by theme and context.

8. Employ the Human Algorithm

Google is already experimenting with a human algorithm of sorts for ranking real-time search results. The stature of one’s social capital ultimately contributes to the hierarchy, placement, and findability of the content and social objects we share online. Not only do we need to connect with social influencers to help us share our story, we also must identify and connect with individuals in the public stream and the back channel to ensure that the conversation generates ranked awareness.

9. Social Architecture:

Analyze how key individuals in your markets are discovering, consuming, and sharing content today and integrate one-click social functionality across all pertinent content platforms. Also, make sure to stay on top of the most promising trends because social sharing will continue to rapidly evolve.

Eradicate proprietary login systems and consider pervasive social logins, such as Facebook Connect and Twitter logins, as they’re designed to trigger social effects through reactions on the host site back to their respective social graphs. This extends the reach of content from a site that was once considered a destination to the networks of relevance in order to attract qualified visitors.

10. A Call to Action

Implementing calls to action remind someone that captivating content is worthy of sharing. Integrating the tools to instantly do so is one part; reminding them to do so completes the circle. However, sharing isn’t the end game either. Inciting responses in addition to sharing, such as posts, retweets, likes, etc, create paths that define and engender the experience you desire with destinations and calls to action integrated to close the loop.

Decide the activity you wish to inspire and integrate it into steps one through nine. Give them something to find and to talk about!

11. Listen and Adapt

Create listening dashboards to monitor all activity including the number of shares, discoveries, click-throughs, etc., and find ways to improve the experience, as well as how to ignite a greater volume of sharing.

If the socialization of content is defined by governing behavior, it is that of sharing and searching. The share economy currency is defined by likes, links, retweets, updates, comments, shares on Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, MySpace, et al.

The potential and overall impact of social objects, either discovered or shared, only expands the reach of the brand as social media becomes pervasive. Providing the necessary means for individuals to not only find your content, but also actively share it across the social Web, is paramount to the survival of businesses in the era of curated search, social influence, and channeled attention.

Originally posted in Search Engine Watch.

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

Search and Rescue: How to Become Findable and Shareable in Social Media

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Search isn’t an isolated experience. The act of looking for information is now fused with validation, which means the socialization of search will unite discovery with context and relationships. It all begins with where we purposely search for relevant content and also where we respond to interesting information that crosses our path.

ComScore’s most recent search engine ranking report offers new insight that will make us rethink how we publish content, increase its findability, and facilitate sharing.

In comparing February to January, Google remained on top with 65.4 percent of all core search activity. Yahoo followed with 17 percent and Microsoft ranked third with 11.3 percent.

Things become interesting when we analyze search queries as opposed to core search activity. The landscape broadens beyond traditional search.

Just behind Google, but ahead of Yahoo, YouTube ranks second for search inquiries overall. In 18th and 19th place, Facebook and MySpace also make appearances in the top 20 list respectively. Perhaps most intriguing is that neither Facebook nor MySpace offer true search functionality — but they still account for increasing search activity. Facebook is up 10 percent between January and February.

What does this all mean? As social networks gain in prominence, the amount of relevant information within each ecosystem increases in value and, as such, we deliberately seek content within the networks in which we engage.

It’s the Journey That’s Important, Not the Destination

Destination sites across the board are losing traffic and ultimately favor, simply because destinations are obsolete as intended or designed. The days of the traditional “start page” are coming to an end, only to be replaced with the “attention dashboard” — a dedicated application that aggregates the activity of those we follow in social networks into a series of digestible streams.

TweetDeck, PeopleBrowsr, Seesmic, HootSuite, Brizzly, and Facebook each represent a new generation of attention dashboards as they funnel social feeds into one clickable view. These streams look a lot like slot machines as information flies through dedicated columns, almost blurring the text beyond legibility. But this is where attention is focused and the content that appears within it represents the future of the information life cycle.

So how do we compete for attention if attention itself is learning how to adapt to a new media landscape?

Our job is to ensure that information travels outside of our domains and to the communities of interest in order to create a bridge back to our hub. And, content must adapt based on consumption and sharing patterns with our existing and potential stakeholders.

This is an important point and one that can’t be ignored. Social activity indicates that we are already moving away from the act of proactively traveling to traditional sites as a source of new content.

With the dawn of social media, the activity that brings social graphs and networks to life is quickly changing how we discover, learn and share and it is also forever reshaping the idea of online destinations as they exist today. It all comes down to attention and understanding where it’s focused and how it is tempted, lured, or distracted to click away from it.

The socialization of information is changing everything.

Connect with Attention Where Attention is Focused

Competing for attention is paramount. We lose most of the battles before they’re begun because we’re working against years of behavior that now represent the complete opposite of tomorrow’s consumption and sharing patterns.

Everything begins with identifying where attention is focused, combined with the new laws of attraction.

Gigya Referral Traffic

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 percent of its referral traffic from social networks and just over 6 percent from Google. People Magazine receives 23 percent of its referrals from social networks and 11 percent from Google. And, CNN earns 11 percent of its referral traffic from social versus 9 percent from Google.

Peer-to-peer activity strongly influences the resulting behavior of impressionable nodes defining social graphs, much in the same way we rely upon trusted referrals from our real life contacts. The more something appears within the attention dashboard, the more likely it is that someone will click through. In addition, the more intriguing it seems, or the stronger the reaction it engenders among peers, also increases its enchantment and thus beguiling spectators to willfully lunge towards a shared experience, most likely triggering a public response that continues the social effect.

Social Architecture and Connecting the Dots

Information is already socializing and changing the behavior for how people search, find, react, and curate. The difference between our present and future is defined by the roads and bridges we build between relevance and prevalence.

As content producers, our responsibility is to connect information and stories to existing and potential stakeholders. It’s also essential to package and optimize our content as social objects in order for them to work for us in our absence, when individuals actively seek content through contextual searches.

In part two, we’ll look at 11 steps for optimizing your brand for sharing and social search.

Originally posted in Search Engine Watch.

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

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