There's a huge link, but it isn't a "link" in the form of connecting one site to another -- it's something more basic than even the common hyperlink. It's as simple as this: being found.
Even on social sites, you want to be found. People may not know your name, but if they're searching for a great bistro and you aren't listed in Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Yahoo Travel, you might never be found.
Controlling your name by having a Web site is smart. However, how many people are really searching for your company's name? Unless you're a household name like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, McDonalds' or Hershey's, people most likely won't find your products or service by your name in a search engine these days.
But It Isn't My Site
Companies fear social media sites because they have very little control over what other people say about them on these types of sites.
Get over it.
People say bad things about you offline just as much as online. At least online you have the opportunity to find out why they're saying these bad things about you.
There are more than a few advantages to participating and having a presence in social media sites.
- People are increasingly turning to social sites for searches: When a search engine fails to return a relevant result for their search, users look to social sites like Yelp and Twitter (to name just two of many), to find more up-to-date and relevant results for their inquiries.
- People believe their friends before they believe a search engine result: If a friend in a social media community has publicly recommended a lawyer, a massage therapist, a restaurant, or any other service provider or product the social community allows reviews of, that friend's review becomes golden. It's more believable because the friend shared their experience and you've come to trust that friend. You don't have a relationship with a search engine.
- Social media isn't just a Web page: Increasingly, social media sites are offering different ways to access their communities and information beyond the typical Web page. The iPhone and iPhone Applications (Apps) are fast becoming a point of entry to many social communities. TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, MySpace, and TweetDeck all have applications that don't require a browser.
- Search engine results: A byproduct of being involved in social media is that a lot of times your profiles on those social media sites will rank in the search engines for your business, brand, product or service name that you have worked the profile with. You certainly shouldn't being doing social media just to stack the search engine results. However, it can help thwart attempts by competitors to capitalize on your name.
Searching and Being Found Isn't Limited to Search Engines
We've become so accustomed to think of search as Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft (now Bing). Businesses that are so focused on the search engine rankings driving their traffic are forgetting about how people live their lives and how they're changing their search habits as technology makes things more convenient.
It doesn't always just happen by going to one of the three major search engines. Although a majority of searches take place here, this isn't where it's always happening.
Let's take this scenario; your 5-year-old decides it would be really cool to see how his toy car can swim in the toilet and decides to send it on a trip around the toilet bowl by flushing it. Next thing you know, you've got a major water problem in your bathroom and you aren't exactly handy with a wrench.
What do you do? Run for the yellow pages book (assuming you didn't throw it in the recycling bin shortly after it arrived on your doorstep)? Run to the computer, turn it on, wait for it to boot up, go to a search engine, and go through five links listed, only to find them all too far away from you, all while water is leaking everywhere and causing more damage?
Or do you reach for your smart phone that has access to the Internet, use the Yelp application you downloaded, and use it to locate a plumber in your immediate area and read the reviews to see how they rate at fast service? You'll be on the phone with them much quicker this way, learning how to stop the water until they can get over to your house.
What satisfies the need to find what you need in the quickest, least painful, most reliable way for you? More people are turning to their phones in situations like these, or instances where they're hanging out with friends and looking for answers to questions like "what restaurants nearby have open tables?" Generally, they're finding the answers by accessing social sites through means like smart phones, or simple desktop applications.
Being found, is the key between social media and search. Search isn't limited to just a search engine anymore. Use that key to unlock a whole new potential for businesses in social media.
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