Search engines solve a problem.
Finding relevant sites can be difficult. Search engines make that process easier.
The problem with search engines is that they return a long list of sites. The searcher must then wade through sites in order to find the most relevant site. In theory, the most relevant site is #1, but as we all know, that often isn’t the case.
Google made a few dollars by leveraging the wisdom of crowds. They looked at the number of back-links pointing to a site, then gave each back-link a score.
Marketers find search engines interesting because wherever there is attention, there is money. Search results command a lot of attention, so there is money in appearing in the results, in the right place, at the right time.
Social networks, like search engines, leverage the wisdom of crowds. And as these social networks grow in popularity and influence, there is money in appearing high on the lists the networks produce. Appearing high on these lists is fast becoming the new SEM. The skills required have a lot in common with public relations.
For those new to social networks, the following are the most popular “engines”/sites:
- Technorati – tracks 63.2 million blogs. Technorati is the recognized authority on what’s happening on the World Live Web, right now.
- Digg – Community news site. Users contribute stories, which are voted upon. Those stories with the most votes rise to the top.
- MySpace – community site which enables users to share photos, journals and other media.
- YouTube – enables users to share videos.
- Del.ico.us – Similar to Digg. Features community news.
- Reddit – Similar to Digg. Features community news.
- Flickr – Photo sharing website.
The key to social networks is timeliness. They provide a snapshot of what is happening today. There will be a new list tomorrow. And the next day. Search engines are focused on the historical. Search engines are mostly concerned with cataloging and archiving.
The problem with marketing in this space is the make-up and desires of the audience. Social networks center around social topics of discussion, which may or may not have commercial imperatives. So, social networks aren’t going to suit all companies, products and services in the same way search engines do. Putting a social spin on your product or service is the key.
How do marketers appear high on the lists and command community attention?
There is no one optimal approach, as all communities have their different quirks and agendas. One thing all social media sites have in common is the desire to share. Think about what would make someone share one piece of information over another. Read Seth Godin on being remarkable, and viral marketing strategies.