Arriving at the Crossroad of Search and Social

When you look at search marketing and social media marketing separately, the adage, “It’s all a matter of perspective” comes to mind.

Those working in search marketing will talk to you about the exciting future of real-time search and the indexing of tweets in search results.

Social media aficionados will discuss the quick growth of user-generated content (UGC) and how excited they are about the new Facebook interface.

What’s more, many top SEOs (define) will tell you the single biggest competitive advantage in getting ranked is a good social strategy.

And any social media consultant will tell you how important it is to provide an outlet for users on ratings, reviews, comments, and a good blogging strategy.

The perspective comes full circle. Search and social now inextricably link the user and a good search marketing strategy.

Search and social – you cannot talk about one without the other. I came to this realization as I was working on two presentations for an upcoming conference. Building upon my experience running an agency that specialized in search marketing, one presentation examines real-time search. And I put on my social hat for the other presentation, “Is Social the Future of Search?”

Search needs social as much as social needs search.

Google needs a good user experience as much as the user needs a good algorithm to give it to them.

Social media is an extension of what the Web was built for: connecting people and their content. The gray days of the Web were more like one giant forum and wiki than anything else. Now, the Web has evolved to provide utility and ultimate usefulness to us, the user.

Technology advances, including the broadband infrastructure, make content publishing easy enough for my 70-year-old mother to have a blog, and instantaneous enough to where we feel as though we can communicate in real time. And that, for Google (aka search) and the user, means good times ahead.

Everything must start with the user in mind. Social media is the ultimate manifestation of usability in that the content and apps are usually 100 percent driven, if not created by the user. Blogs, forums, wikis, UGC…what can be more based on usability than these? Not only for the user now, but by the user. To everyone’s peril, if not focused right, marketers will lose. Reviews, ratings, and comments can single-handedly turn a self-published book into a best seller. One tweet, retweeted 1,000 times can mar a brand for weeks. And on it goes.

What does this mean for you?

  • If you are an agency, your creative is only as good as its utility.

  • If you are a brand marketer, sites and campaigns must start with the questions: “What does the user want? How do we engage on that desire?” We should not ask: “How do we engage?” That’s a big, yet subtle difference.
  • If you are a search marketer, look at good usability strategies. Bone up on your engagement skills to encourage more UGC and links.
  • If you are a social marketer, it’s your time to shine. But the only way you’ll shine beyond the initial glow is if you learn the trades of search and usability and apply it to your newfound job!

Meet Aaron at the Online Marketing Summit, hosted by ClickZ in San Diego from Feb. 22-25, 2010.

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