helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By Katy Howell, from social media agency immediate future

“relevance isn’t just about pages—it’s also about relationships” The official Google blog

As a social media agency, we’ve been watching the dynamic relationship between social and search for a while now; and Google’s recent announcement concerning the development of its social search function is indicative of the changing shape of search.

In 2011, search is getting social.

Google has announced that it will now be integrating social results throughout the search engine results pages; noting if friends have shared these links on one of the social media platforms that Google is taking information from (Quora, Twitter or Flickr); and providing users with more control over which of their social media accounts will inform these results.

Google’s social search acknowledges the value of peer recommendation and personal relevance but it depends on a user being logged into their Google account. In other words, it is an add on service or an adjustment to the algorithm.  We think that social is affecting search at a much deeper level.

Here’s how social search is making a broader impact.

In the social web, the consumer has a far louder share of the voice; and this is reflected in the content that the search engines are trawling and the results that they are therefore providing.  Consumer blogs, reviews, and recommendations are, increasingly, making the first page of search engine results – and that’s before we even consider real-time references or the power of – and potential for – peer-to-peer influence.
Personal opinion is as valued as product information; and, in some cases, more so.

Social mentions are informing the search queries that individuals enter. Social content is informing the online impression of brands. Customer service is no longer separated from product satisfaction; and, brand reputation is increasingly in the consumer’s hands.

search diag4blog

Search is becoming far more socially dynamic – but we think that this is an opportunity, rather than something to be feared.

Here are some of the key steps to consider.

Reputation Management:
•    Monitor: Stay ahead of the conversation. Monitor the volume and sentiment of online mentions and respond to any negativity before it becomes imprinted in the search engines.

•    Customer service: Customer complaints can often be part of negative conversation online. Long term planning and building strong relationships with customers can reduce the risks of negative content, as well as increasing positive mentions.

Content Strategies

•    Review: Social insights can provide a good sense-check for your keyword strategy. Listen to online conversations to check that you are optimising the right terms, picking up colloquialisms and spotting trending phrases.

•    Rich media: Distributing properly search optimised (and tagged) content across platforms and in different forms can increase visibility.

•    Quality remains key. Recent rumblings of Google’s attempts to weed out or demote spammy or low quality content highlight the importance of ensuring strong, relevant and authoritative links.

Search is changing and the process of discovery is no longer so linear. However, the principles that inform success and shareability are not that different, and the over-riding message remains the same. Open and honest relationships with key influencers and customers will have a positive impact on organic search, both in relation to peer to peer recommendation and the content that is created around a brand; negative sentiment will also leave an online trail, particularly if the avenues of communication are not open, and will be increasingly difficult to disentangle from.

For further recommendations, download the full Social Search white paper from the immediate future website.

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