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Hello, Social + Search

February 17th, 2011 | | Social Media & SEO

Hello, it’s your trusty correspondent Jessica, writing in my sweatpants from my bed. Why not from my desk in beautiful, sunny Greenland? Well, because I’m sick today, and the blog must go on! Sick days generally follow the same pattern: I wake up feeling a little iffy. Try to psych my body into thinking it’s fine and whip together some Good Work for the day. Body inevitably catches onto the trick about 1 pm and falls apart, forcing a nap, some Nyquil, and any other number of measures which are sure to knock me out of the real world for a while.

If you work online all day, having to take a three hour nap in the middle of the day can be a disturbing phenomenon. You get very used to having information filter to you naturally in the course of your workflow, and having that awareness removed is its own little emotional trauma. When I wake up I feel uncomfortably disconnected, and today was no exception. Feeling crummy but at least conscious, I reached for the phone on my nightstand and thought, please world, Help a girl out. Tell me what’s going on.

My thought process was something like this:

  1. I feel terrible. Reaching for my phone was my main effort for this hour. No way am I going to be able to check all sources of news I would like to in order to understand what’s going on in the world.
  2. Hey, I know a lot of people who care about the same kinds of news/events as I do.
  3. Thank goodness, they’ll pick up the slack for me while I lie in bed with only one eye open. I can read what they think is important enough to share and that’ll keep me in the loop.

Amusingly, what did my friends (who are overwhelmingly search marketing-biased) tell me was going on today? Basically they told me that I’m not the only one who is relying on people I trust to gather information more effectively, and that the search world is accelerating its accommodation of that truth. So on to the news!

First, Google announced today that they’ve made more updates to Social Search, including the integration of the social search results with the other natural search results it returns (rather than grouping social results at the bottom of the page) and allowing you to link social accounts to your Google profile without publicly sharing that information. You have to be logged into your account to see the Social Search results, and we’ve not yet reached the point where Google is assuming you’ll want to see social info from Person X just because you follow Person Y and Person Y follows Person X, but every little step towards further integration is a demonstration of increased importance.

Second, SEOmoz recently posted a useful little analysis of the SERP ranking impact of a single tweet (well, a single tweet that got retweeted) on a single keyword. The concept that tweets can influence organic search rankings outside of Social Search as described above has a much wider potential impact, so this instance is particularly interesting to those of us trying to stay ahead of the curve rather than waiting for search engines to tell us something’s important.

After browsing around and deciding I was satisfied in my awareness of the SEO goingson for the day, I naturally got philosophical and stared to consider why I felt safe in my understanding. I know the behavioral patterns of the people I follow from previous observation, and I know which types of information each of them are likely to notice and share. Nonetheless, the level of faith I’m putting in the people I follow is high, and whether that’s okay or not is a topic for sociologists to debate. The main point of importance to us as marketers is that it happens. I’m not the only one putting that faith in my friends and industry associates. People want to rely on others. It helps reduce our daily mental workload to delegate responsibility to other people and to make assumptions, and so even if we don’t do it consciously we have a tendency to develop subconscious mental categories and associate people and subjects within them. Using mental shortcuts increases the efficiency of our thinking and our brains don’t really care if it sometimes comes at the price of absolute exhaustiveness.  If we are socially connected online to the people we’ve placed in these categories, all the better, because we can access the information we assume they’ll be giving at any time.

There is, of course, a lot of information swirling around about social search and I’m sure that will continue as cross-integration continues. People are concerned about how it will impact traditional marketing. If it’ll make SEO irrelevant. Etc. and so forth. These concerns aren’t invalid, but marketers being worried about it isn’t going to make people stop using social platforms to share and gather information (see above: it makes life easier). The world evolves and so does marketing. You have to learn and keep up to maintain performance, and such is life. Social integration with search has the potential to give inordinate power to some over others- it’s not the great social leveler; but all types of marketing are essentially contests that pit the cleverness, intelligence, and charisma of one entity against that of others.  It’s time to accept that we all want to catch up on the world in our pajamas and make sure we’re accommodating the fundamental social changes that the rise of social media platforms represents.

Jessica is an Account Supervisor at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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  • Deanna Hatfield

    Fun read – really cute article!

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