When Does Social Media Matter in SEM?

Does SEM (define) include social media? If so, to what extent does social media matter? Determining whether to include specific segments into a greater SEM discipline is a legitimate exercise. It’s a form of self-regulation for the industry and, at a more granular level, for individual companies within the industry.

The question of whether social media matters in SEM is decided no differently than any other type of Web site. Social media officially matters to SEM when search engines’ algorithmic treatment of social media sites intersects with user queries. In other words, when social media pages hit the SERP (define), it’s time (in fact, it’s almost too late) to start paying attention.

Good News for Corporate Brand Managers

Before I get into specific SEM opportunities, let’s consider the bigger picture of brand management. Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed a real change in how the public perceives brands on the Web. It’s a shift that benefits the brand overall, but it requires the entire company, from boardroom to mailroom, to be diligently aware of its brand properties and how they’re discussed on the Web.

First, and most important, is the fact fewer people expect a company, brand, or person to be perfect. Perhaps one product recall, political scandal, or subpoenaed e-mail too many has left the public believing (rightly) that no company is perfect. Consequently, the new scandal isn’t the scandal itself but an inability or unwillingness to respond to it.

Second is that, as Sean Carton pointed out recently, even if you still want to pretend you’re perfect, you can’t.

Yet just because the public no longer expects your company to be perfect doesn’t mean you should stop working to own as much of the SERP for your company and brand names as you can. Following are some sites you can use in your constant battle for SERP real estate.

LinkedIn Company Profiles

LinkedIn has been a workhorse of social networking sites, sort of a baked potato to FaceBook‘s bag of Skittles. People likely spend less time per visit on LinkedIn than they do on other networking sites. This is fine for most of its users, as LinkedIn is designed to work for you while you’re doing your job, rather than trying to avoid it.

A few weeks ago, LinkedIn released a beta version of its company profiles. It’s a natural fit for the site and has been well received so far.

Your HR department or some other official body must get into LinkedIn to consolidate and verify certain issues. Chances are that scads of your employees already use the site and have listed your company in their profiles but have been inaccurate in describing the company. As a result, LinkedIn company profiles are only as accurate as the details individual users have added. Watch LinkedIn. It regularly offers additional information about verifying, updating, and configuring corporate profiles.

Because LinkedIn already has a significant search engine presence for individual users and networked groups, it’s only a matter of time before its company profiles begin to show up in results on searches for your company name and, potentially, for searches on specific departments, teams, or product lines.

Yahoo Pipes

Yahoo Pipes is the best information aggregator you’re probably not using. It’s an extremely powerful tool that enables you to sort specific RSS feeds (as well as other data) and extract only the information you require. Here’s a pipe constructed using various ClickZ feeds. I understand about 5 percent of Yahoo Pipes’s potential functionality. Even so, it’s an invaluable asset in my quest for total information management.

Several months ago, I began to notice Pipes pages showing up in Google, Yahoo, and Live.com SERPs for specific companies as well as for people within those companies. At first, their presentation on the SERP was disjointed and unhelpful, but thanks to user tagging and better optimization by Yahoo, they’re now a legitimate presence on many searches. The added benefit of Pipes is that they’re an unbiased look into whether people find your feeds helpful and relevant.

Like all organically generated results, the likelihood of Pipes pages showing up in queries related to your company, product, or service is directly related to the quality of the information in your feeds. But don’t hesitate to jump-start the discovery process by building and tagging your own Pipes.


Take away two key ideas today. First, imperfection is the new black. Companies are graded today based on the grace they use in responding, not hiding the problems themselves. Second, continuing to try to own as much of the SERP as possible for your terms isn’t a crime. New tools regularly emerge that can assist you in that effort.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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