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How social media giants do search

How social media giants do search Mark Healey

Did you know that social media consumes nearly one-fifth of the time users spend on the web? Well, most major brands and marketers do! If you think about it, social media has become the perpetual internet refrigerator. We check social sites constantly to see if anything else has changed or, in other words, to see if anyone recently posted new information relevant to our interests.

This continued reliance on social media has led to the expansion of advanced social capabilities -- specifically search. In serving both personal and professional functionalities, search features allow users to inquire, discover, learn, and connect. Today, effective marketers recognize the boundless opportunity to inject ideas and content into social media channels.

How 3 social media giants do search

However, in a revolutionary combination, search within social uniquely blends the way people think, interact, and communicate. Users flock to few social media sites for much of their daily information uptake. For instance, Facebook operates as a hub for sharing YouTube videos, tweets, news articles, photos, personal opinions, and even music.

By providing interactive search capabilities, social sites discourage users from exploring beyond network boundaries by offering a wealth of onsite data. The objective is clear: incentivize audiences to naturally repeat engagement and become the center of the web.

Let's examine the major social giants and their respective search capacities. We'll stick to three components: engine functionality, user engagement, and content optimization for brands.


Engine functionality
Though currently in beta testing, Facebook Graph Search will allow Facebookers to pinpoint specific content connected to highly targeted people, places, and businesses. And it will do this for more than 1 billion users. So say, for instance, you wanted to see results for the search query "biking." Graph Search will automatically provide you with an array of drop down selections related to biking: the Facebook page for biking, the interest, the people who like biking, your friends who like biking, photos of biking, and web searches of biking and biking gear.

User engagement
Users will be able to search in layers, opening the door further to semantic search. Semantic search technology interacts with the user by providing relevant suggestions to better understand what the user is searching for. This isn't a new concept and will only improve over time. Because of these multifaceted functionalities, people will inevitably change the way they interact with Facebook, using it for many purposes.

Content optimization
With Graph Search, brands -- especially local -- have an incredible opportunity to get in front of new and interested customers. Before metrics such as likes, comments, and shares convert to sales, businesses will need to optimize their pages by updating their timelines. Highlighting company milestones and telling a story will deepen impact. Established authenticity is critical to online reputation.

Furthermore, filling out all information categories, including location and contact details, while incorporating appropriate links, will maximize business search visibility. For example, if you sell hotdogs in Dallas, let Facebook know that you sell hotdogs in Dallas!


Engine functionality
When you hear someone reference a "search engine" you probably think of Google or Bing, not YouTube. Surprisingly, the network is actually the second most popular search engine in the world.

YouTube is positioned to accommodate all growing social demands -- whether related to music, news, education, fashion, comedy, television, etc. Searchers on YouTube can filter results by upload date, type, duration, and features. Sorted results by relevance, date, view count, and rating offer a variety of discovery metrics. Mixing search and social together, YouTube searchers can even seek out topically relevant channels to follow.

User engagement
YouTube recently breached 1 billion visitors per month and streams more than 4 billion videos to those users. In fact, every minute more than 72 additional hours of video are uploaded to the site.

In 2012, videos tagged "Obama" or "Romney" on YouTube accumulated more than 2.7 billion total views. More than 13 million people tuned-in to the Weather Channel's 70-hour live stream of Hurricane Sandy and "Gangnam Style" became the site's most viewed music video. Bottom line, people lean on YouTube to support their endless cravings to share and acquire new information. Besides, what would the internet giant be without all the hilarious comments?

Content optimization
Let's be real here, brands need to produce quality content (i.e., great videos) in order to attract subscribers, but first they need to make themselves easier to discover. This is where keyword optimization and tagging comes into play. Companies should use brand and industry-related keywords for channel and video descriptions, titles, and tags. Do your research to know what the consumers are looking for. An important note: Google truncates titles with more than 66 characters, so target keywords should be placed towards the front. For tagging efforts, the recommendation is to include between five and 10 tags that best describe the video.


Engine functionality
As any Twitter user knows, the 140-character post limit forces tweeters to get to the point -- a preference for those operating with weak attention spans. Because of tweet length restrictions, Twitter's search engine can easily find and display content related to users' search queries. Twitter's engine does a great job at sectioning search results, as well. Viewable result groups include tweets, people, videos, and images. Once a query is entered, Twitter's real-time human computing engine returns not only the most related popular tweets, but also the most recent. This instant, up-to-date capability rockets news around the world in a matter of minutes, reaching audiences well before major news networks do.

User engagement
Believe it or not, Twitter averages approximately 1.6 billion search queries each day, and users engage with the microblogging site for fast and trending information. Tweeters can use the well-known hashtag symbol (#) to organize topics, participate in conversations, and search for trending content. This trending content is pushed to popularity by a concerted effort of users or because of a prominent, specific event that interests many on an individual basis.

Content optimization
Twitter, in the eyes of many brands, is likely the best social channel for marketing to potential consumers. One avenue of improving visibility is to achieve Twitter verification. Verification is typically reserved for prominent figures in music, acting, fashion, politics, government, religion, journalism, media, advertising, and business, but the service helps to identify true accounts and reduce traffic to impersonators. To improve content visibility, companies should choose branded account names, present an identifiable picture, use desired keywords in their bios, and incorporate necessary links and hashtags. Brands should also look for opportunities to connect directly with customers by participating in industry-specific conversations and responding/reaching out to prospective influencers. Participation is key to building a voice.

These are simply the beginning hints of the future of search within social. Early adoption of social media's ever-growing capabilities will provide brands with a competitive head start, produce increased website traffic, and even positive customer sentiment. Today, we have web access virtually 24/7, meaning it's absolutely imperative for brands to cover all the bases.

Mark Healey is an SEO outreach specialist at ZOG Digital.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"The concept of search of the information in computer networks" image via Shutterstock.

Mark is a part of the SEO team at ZOG Digital (www.zogdigital.com), a Search & Social marketing company located in Scottsdale, AZ. ZOG Digital focuses on making optimized connections through Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing,...

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