When social media impacts search – 3 areas to think about

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Search button - now more social and influenced by word of mouthToday I attended an event hosted by WOMMA UK which covered the ways that word of mouth is impacting search and looked at how search and social media are overlapping more and more.

Search and social are becoming increasingly intertwined, especially with the arrival of Google+, a clear indication of the search giant’s intention to further develop and improve the social nature of search results.

There are several important areas brands should consider when thinking about how word of mouth affects their performance on search engines. Here are three areas that brands should keep in mind when looking at their social and search strategies:

1. Word of mouth drives search traffic - be ready

  • People that “hear” about your brand (online, face to face, or otherwise) will want to search for you, for convenience, for education and for learning about new opinions. This means you need to cater for all the various different ways people will search for your brand and cover all the possibilities that  misspellings or misperceptions may cause.
  • “Reviews” is a very popular search term, so hosting these on your own site is a great way to generate authenticity and long-tail search terms.

2. Social and your online reputation

  • Consider the implications for reputation management. Is “scam” a prominent result on the suggestions for your brand in Google? Nobody wants to see that, but instead of covering it up, ask yourself why this is such a dominant sentiment. Maybe there is a miscommunication and customers are not fully informed as to what your provide? Treat this as an opportunity to intercede and communicate.
  • You can be proactive by using third party sites such as Yahoo! Answers, which generally ranks well and gives you a neutral platform to respond to negative sentiment.

3. Conversions and social media

  • Retailers – price is no longer a USP. Your customers will be seeking deep content, such as user reviews and friend’s recommendations. It is important for users to trust your site, or they will go elsewhere to research and/or purchase.
  • Remember that peoples’ decision making can be rational, but is predominantly emotional. Having social recommendations appear in search results and on page will appease the latter.
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2 Comments

  1. Tim:

    I think we’re fairly rapidly moving to a world where it’s impossible to “control” everything about your brand image. No matter what you spend on advertising, no matter what SEO you do, etc. Organisations have to realise that the truth will get out - if you have good customer service, people will reward you with good reviews. If your product is shabby, eventually this will catch up with you.

    The early days of Social Media use by organisations were an exercise in trying to use a new tool to perform the same tasks they had been doing for years - namely trying to control their “brand”. The smarter companies are now moving away from that and seeing it as an opportunity to interact with their customers. Not as an advertising exercise, but to drive real, tangible improvements in their products.

    I’m not saying managing your on-line image isn’t important - you obviously can’t ignore it, but trying to manage it? I think that’s a King Canute type scenario in the long-run….

  2. Jon Stokes:

    Thanks for the great comment Tim - I like the King Canute analogy, social media is giving so many people a voice that they can’t hope to control or contain them.

    For reputation management, I expect that the brands that get it right will benefit from a virtuous circle effect. If they are using social media properly they can gain insights and information that will allow them to anticipate and avoid potential issues for their reputation.