Ad:tech blew away previous attendance numbers this week with nearly 11,000 attendees converging on the Hilton New York for yet another three days of case studies, interesting topics du jour and a series of wild parties that someday might just put the annual traditional media blow-outs to shame.
Search marketing information ranged from the basic search optimization and paid search management sessions to forward-thinking, next-generation information-- including one thought-provoking session on social search that included yours truly.
In "The Search Evolution: How Social Search is Changing All the Rules" I was joined by Emil Ismalon, co-founder and chief technology officer of the social search thought leader and technology provider Collarity, and Peter Hirshberg, chairman and chief marketing officer, Technorati.
By the time we wrapped up, we could all agree the world of internet information retrieval is about to change, but what should you do about it?
Is it in the search?
Not anymore. Social search is simply an extension of social media as we know it today. Early ranking methodologies in search relied on automated robots to "scan" the web for text and index websites. Today's method of matching interest to action and content includes weighing link popularity of websites and determining a relative ranking of said content.
Of course, soon after indexing technologies were implemented, search engine optimization was born and search marketing "tricks" began to defeat the integrity of basic indexing systems. Search engine optimization is still alive and well with both approved (a.k.a. white hat) and unapproved (a.k.a. black hat) optimization practices.
Today's marketer has to think beyond the search box to engage the consuming public. The practice of brand reputation management is becoming increasingly popular but the practice of conversational marketing is the latest iteration of the brand management practice online.
While search sites have begun to evolve, and marketers struggle to get their arms around the blogosphere and YouTube phenomenon, the consuming public isn't waiting around to see how it will all turn out. They are building, shaping and interpreting right before our eyes.
The next evolution
Control is an illusion perpetuated by infantile egomaniacs, someone once said. Control or at least control of brand perception, is so last millennium according to Technorati's Hirshberg. "The web is really just a series of communities," said Hirshberg as he showed the audience a map of internet blogs.
Technorati is in the business of keeping track of what people are talking about and now offers a "conversational marketing" advertising platform that marketers can use to engage those interested in topics relating to their offerings.
Emil Ismalon reviewed the Collarity approach to social search which, simply put, provides for like-minded individuals to anonymously help one another find relevant information on the web, thereby bringing control of determining relevancy back to surfers.
"Tell me who your friend is-- I will tell you who you are," said Ismalon.
Are you seeing the convergence dynamics yet? Social media is beginning to define the consuming public's mindset and social search functions are the catalysts that will change how we view information.
What you need to know now
If you still aren't sure about how quickly the change is occurring, think about the words laptop battery and what mental picture comes to mind? Is it the same picture you had before the web was bombarded with exploding laptop pictures?
Here's another example: TMX Elmo is the most hyped-up little toy of the year and when it was released, YouTube received a video of the little red hype and consumers filed in to watch the video by the millions. Consumers also visited purchase points but the impact of social content and its relationship to search is very clear.
The message to marketers is simple: While social search technologies are advancing quickly, these technologies will not reach critical mass before consumers take their own route to determining relevance and finding information about your brand.
In the short term, conversational marketing practices and reputation management applications for your brand have to be increased. Keeping an eye on what people are saying and even helping them along with the conversation is paramount to keeping your brand in good standing. You can also direct or steer conversation with traditional brand-based search engine advertising or natural search engine optimization tactics.
In the long term, advanced technologies in customized, community-based search applications may overtake the existing link popularity based ranking methodologies.
For now, consumer behavior should be sending you a message about the perception of your brand's product and services-- keeping an eye on the search is now more important than ever.
Kevin Ryan is the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. .