Social Networking is The Future…

There was a time when the most common and reliable way to find information online was to simply use a search engine, or Google it…  What did we do before Google?!  First and foremost, if you aren’t advertising your business on Facebook, you need to call me NOW.

Having said that, with the massive growth of Web 2.0 (interactive, dynamic websites that promote or operate as “social networks”), people can now easily find information and online resources that other human beings have actually recommended, also known as “social proof”.  Now the results are based on what we actually “vote for” as opposed to what a search engine’s mathematical algorithm decides to present to us. Combined with Mobile Marketing, where over 65MILLION people access Social Media sites like Facebook via their phne on a daily basis and people are “liking” or voting for posted content, this is something you can’t ignore.

Did you know over 250 MILLION people interact with Facebook on a monthly basis? (digitalbuzzblog.com). There are over 500 million users and it is now used by 1 in every 13 people on earth (!).  Though the social giant recently surpassed over 140 million unique monthly visitors,  few businesses or website owners are strategically penetrating this incredible resource for marketing their products and services – the best kind of social proof is referral from your existing customers.

Another prevalent instance of social proof is social bookmarking. Websites like Del.icio.us, Digg, and Furl (just to name a few of the hundreds of popular sites) allow users to share their personal favorites (bookmarks) with others.  Users can “tag” each bookmarked website with the keywords they feel are most applicable to the information on that site. Again, using Facebook as an example, how many times have you clicked on a link because one of your friends or circle of associates “Liked” the link?

What good does that do?  Now, instead of using just a search engine to find information, people can search tags that will display all websites bookmarked with that specific tag. This amounts to a human referral or vote for the site and its relevance to the subject being searched – sweet!

Other versions of social networking include social blog networks – primarily Technorati.com. Technorati indexes blogs based on the amount of incoming links those blogs have, as well as the tags associated with their posts. Google has just unveiled the +1 system and Bing now integrates Facebook Likes into their search results.

Lastly, two other social media networks that cannot be ignored who have revolutionized audio and video: YouTube and iTunes. These mega networks allow citizen filmmakers and broadcasters to share their visions with the world and spread the word about what matters to them.

Few businesses realize it yet, but these media networks are potential goldmines stock full of future Speilbergs, Bloombergs, and Oprahs – all potential broadcasters of your marketing message.

How Will Social Networking Help My Site Traffic Grow?

EVERYBODY that uses the net has visited at least one social networking site.  In fact, 1 out of every 20 website visits by EVERY single user is to a social networking website. Whether people want to believe it or not,  social networks are already eclipsing traffic from the major search engines like Google. Having said that, if you search for your company or business type in Facebook, what shows up?  You better believe you need to consider that and leverage the tremendous user base that is using Facebook as a “search engine” now.

So if your company is not present on any of the major social networks, or if you haven’t considered your mobile marketing strategy, you’re missing out on the easiest, fastest way to access almost 100% of all internet users.

How Do I Get Involved in Social Networking?

Working with social sites is similar to working with the media. Give them a good enough story, secret, tip, or resource that they can sink their teeth into and you’ll have an army of talkers spreading the word about you and your business.

And this translates into referrals, which convert into sales on an average of 667% better than cold leads (search engine results).  So even if you reach less people through social networking, your conversions will be far higher.

I target various social networks through a variety of methods:

Article or Blog Promotion

I create and manage several blogs for our various market verticals and clients (as well create article pages) that contain posts written purely to capture the imagination and interest of the client’s target market.

For instance, if you sell triathlon equipment, accessories, and training plans, I will develop a series of blog posts or articles that discuss a controversial or “hot off the press” topic that triathletes either find highly valuable as an information resource, or highly intriguing or emotionally stimulating (like how to improve your overall Ironman time by over an hour).   I then promote this article to various social bookmarking and blogging networks, as well as popular bloggers – who will then circulate the story and generate traffic back to your website.

Social Promotion

Particularly effective for clients who target teens, young adults, musicians, or other highly active social groups, I implement social promotion campaigns on networks like FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube to spread the word about your business.  Even if your business does not target the “YouTube crowd,” I can almost always devise a creative campaign or strategy to get the net buzzing.

How Does Social Networking Work With SEO?

As more and more internet users begin to use tags to find information (a tag is a keyword that a human associated with a website, vs. a keyword that a search engine attributes to a website), Search Marketing professionals cannot ignore the growing dominance of the social networks.

However, I view the partnership between social networks and search engines as an excellent and balanced marriage.  Sure, social networking gets you in front of people who no longer use search engines in lieu of finding their information through referrals or bookmarks/tags.  But the added, and perhaps more exciting bonus, is that while you grow in popularity with social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, your search rankings will continue to increase as a result!

Your popularity signals Google that you are an authority in your market according to your human audience.  As the internet progresses to a more “socially driven” landscape, people will find information based on social proof and recommendations from your own circle of influence, rather than relying solely on search engine algorithms and not necessarily being presented with targeted, meaningful results.

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