Social Media and Search

Mar 10, 2009 8:16 PM  By

The search marketing industry is changing, says Lisa Wehr, founder of digital marketing firm Oneupweb, namely because most of the major search engines are indexing social media sites. What does that mean to you? I-merchant’s Tim Parry caught up with Wehr to get some advice on how Web marketers can embrace change in online search.

You say that SEM and social media marketing have become one. What exactly does this mean for merchants?
It’s time to embrace social media. It’s no longer a separate, additional online marketing service that sounds interesting and may be something to try in the future. The time to get involved is now.

People are out there talking, and chances are, someone is talking about your brand. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.— it might be good, it might be bad, but you need to get involved in the conversation. Do a Google search for brands you’re familiar with and you may be surprised at how many of the results are social.

An added-bonus of social media marketing is the insight a company can gain into its target audience. What do customers like as a whole, what are their interests, what do they talk about, who are they connected to? By getting to know your target audience, you can learn how to better market your services to them to fit their unique needs.

Does this mean merchants can’t survive unless they jump into every form of social media? Or do they need to pick and choose where they are going to be?
Every merchant is different, and every merchant’s target audience is different. It’s important to do your research to decide which social outlets are right for your company and your audience. Get to know them, find out which social networks they’re on, where your company is being discussed, and go from there.

And be aware of this. While becoming a part of a social network is free, the reality is it’s far from it. The time investment in making this a successful effort will far exceed other online marketing activities.

We’ve seen merchants add blogs and videos to their sites. But can they benefit from having their videos on YouTube and their images on social sites like Flikr?
Because the major search engines are indexing social content, companies need to get involved and start posting to sites like YouTube and Flickr to increase and maintain their rankings in search engine results pages. And don’t forget that people aren’t just searching for information on the major search engines anymore. Instead, they are looking for brands, information and reviews on sites they know and use like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.

Think of it as a type of online word-of-mouth marketing. A potential customer sees your video on YouTube, decides to find out more about your company, goes to your website and makes a purchase.

Or maybe a Flickr image leads a consumer to your blog. It’s about integration and interlinking these social outlets. And the more brand touchpoints you have out there, the better.

How about Twitter? We know people are tweeting, but is it now a searchable media? Can a merchant effectively drive traffic by using Twitter?
Do tweets get indexed by Google? The answer is no, but if you or your company has a Twitter profile, that presence will be listed in search results for the brand. Is Twitter a searchable media? Absolutely.

Twitter has its own search engine, search.twitter.com. This allows the searcher to view what’s happening on Twitter in real-time, about any brand, person or search term.

For instance, if someone wanted to see what was being said about the cable/phone /Internet service provider Charter in real-time, they would search for “Charter” on Twitter to read the latest posts. It’s a way to filter real-time information—something Google and Yahoo! do not currently offer.

While Twitter is an effective tool to monitor what’s being said about your brand, products, industry and competition, some merchants are using it more aggressively to drive sales. Take the case of the Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Truck.

The Los Angeles-based specialty food wagon sends out a tweet that provides the next location of the truck—and the results are amazing. More than 800 people who saw the tweet may arrive at the pre-established location, and some will wait in line for hours to get Korean barbecue on a taco.

With all these free sources of social media able to feed a merchant’s site, does this mean paid search is obsolete?
Absolutely not. Integration is now more important than ever. By integrating social media marketing, paid search, SEO and more, you expand your reach and visibility —which will ultimately lead to more sales.

Think of it this way: Greater awareness of a site created by a paid ad can lead to more online traffic, and people are more likely to click on a paid search ad of a company they recognize, such as one they’ve encountered in a social media channel.