Social Search: From Drawing People to a Brand to Bringing the Brand to Them

Conventional search engine optimisation (SEO) focused on using various simple and not so simple techniques to optimise the web pages of one’s website(s) so that when folks searched on Google and other search engines, the brand’s websites came up high enough in the rankings for people to notice and click through to from the results.

This was great but what it meant was that people had to go to a search engine (perhaps leaving where they were), then search and click through to yet another site (taking them even further from where they may have been when they thought of searching).

But search in an increasingly social media-led world and the web is undergoing a rapid change in how people search and how brands need to present themselves to the searchers.

People no longer want to visit a search engine unless they really need to. They would rather look for information right where they are (and in the context of where they are). It’s little wonder therefore that YouTube is today the largest search engine after Google.

That’s because folks on YouTube would first like to look within YouTube itself, for video results naturally.

Likewise for folks within other social media networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Flickr to name just a few.

So brands need to take a new approach to search optimisation. Firstly, they need to ensure they have the ‘assets’ to distribute on the various social networks and other places folks visit – video, pictures, presentations, documents, blog posts, brand pages, etc. The array of social networks is wide and so is the range of assets that brands need to develop and distribute.

Naturally, sound principles of optimisation of these assets will help in the searchability. So while some things have changed, the basics of sound search optimisation remain unchanged.

Another aspect that influences how marketers see and use search is the eternal struggle between driving results (transactions) and building brand (relationships). Conventional search marketing (via Google and other search engines) is a great way to reach and influence the ‘hand raisers,’ but does not do as good a job in wrapping the brand around the user. And certainly, misses a trick when it comes to influencing the latent audience (read: non-hand raisers).

That’s where social search can step in and fill the ‘brand’ void. It’s helped on its way by the social environment in which it operates and the fillip that comes from the influence that peer power adds to the mix. Not surprising, since the very essence of relationship building is socialising brands with consumers and going beyond the transactional aspects.

So in a sense, social search is search come full circle. We still need to optimise, with a difference – we plan for a wider range of content (assets), and balance using search to pull people to an aggregator site by letting them find results right where they are.

Social media aggregator sites could well be the websites of choice for brands to build in the not so distant future. And the key success driver for such sites will be content; content created by the brand and content curated by the brand but created by consumers.

The ultimate determinant of search success comes from putting the brand within a click of desire of the consumer and then making that click worthwhile and meaningful to the consumer.

Clearly, the search for ideal search strategy when seen from this perspective turns into an interesting one and one worth watching closely…

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