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One Small Step for Bing '? One Large Step for Search

The social wars began in earnest among search's heavy hitters last year when Bing launched the first real time search platform, which aggregated tweets and Facebook status updates into a singular searchable interface. Google struck back swiftly, announcing a similar tool that went even further by actually integrating these social elements into the normal search results for queries that were relevant to recent events. While a significant development in the search world, this change had little material impact on the life of the searcher. Social media is an impactful research tool because it offers a personal connection with the people behind the information. When you take away this personal connection, as Google and Bing did in the early iterations of social search, the value of the information declines precipitously. With the announcement of their recent agreement, Facebook and Bing have taken a large step toward solving this problem. In mid'?October, Bing and Facebook announced an alliance in which Facebook will feed Bing their user data so that it can be integrated into the search results page. In addition to the traditional algorithm'?based results, Bing will now serve up 'Liked' results. These are pages that people within your social graph have 'Liked' in Facebook. While Facebook has indicated that they plan to open this information up to all companies (i.e. Google), there is no set timeframe for making this happen. Therefore, Bing will be given a significant head start to make real developments in the world of social search. Below are some thoughts to consider as companies digest this alliance: Make it easy to be 'Liked' (literally): The value of Like's is a hot topic, but this alliance certainly ups the ante. Therefore, don't make it hard for your audience to 'Like' your content. Put the Facebook 'Like' button front and center across your website and any other place possible where your content is displayed. Even if you already have a social sharing widget (i.e. ShareThis or AddThis) that includes Facebook, put the 'Like' button on as well. Make it easy to be 'Liked' (figuratively): Now more than ever, it is critical that brands remain relevant to their customer base. People are short on time and patience and will not waste either consuming information that does not apply. If the content you produce passes the relevance test it is likely that your audience will reward you with Like's and viral distribution. Drop the 'E' in 'SEO': This alliance does not mark the end of SEO, as some pundits would have you believe. Now more than ever, search is the primary way that people find information on the Internet. The difference is that those searches are happening in far more places than Google, Yahoo and Bing. Let's not forget that more searches happen on YouTube than on both Yahoo and Bing. To be successful, companies need to ensure that the fundamental principles of findability are woven into every piece of content they produce. This will broaden visibility in the universal search results as well as other social channels. People have always relied most heavily on the opinions of friends, family and other like'?mined individuals and social networking sites provide easy access to that sounding board. There is no question that the future of search will be more social and success in search and social will come to companies that truly understand and deliver a relevant experience to their consumers across all channels.

AMP's POV on Facebook Like

In April, Facebook released the latest widgets to further extend the reach of Facebook by allowing site owners the ability to easily integrate the 'Like' button, which is so popular within its native environment, into any webpage. This is an enhancement to the ubiquitous 'Share' button, as it requires only a single click and also passes back personalized information about other friends that like the same content when a Facebook user is signed in. Given the reach and continuous growth of Facebook and the increasing importance that social media conversations play in organic search visibility, site owners should strongly consider taking advantage of this new offering. Implementation of the Like button is relatively simple, using either an iFrame: Or Facebook's proprietary markup language, XFBML: The size and appearance of the button can be customized to align with the look and feel of the site. In addition, there are some additional custom meta tags that can be used to define the way that the 'Liked' content is present in the user's Facebook profile. While the net result of the 'Like' button is not dramatically different from its predecessor, the 'Share' button, the new feature represents an expansion of the borderless web. Sites like Facebook and Twitter continue to grey the lines between their social networks and the Internet around them and all signs indicate that users approve of these changes. As demonstrated by the explosive growth in active Social Media usage and RSS feed consumption, Internet users are making it clear that they want a more fluid and consolidated web experience. This change will require a shift in the way that site owners think about their content and also how they measure the performance of their site. Sites will need to be developed with a focus on content portability by providing the necessary sharing widgets and expanded RSS feed offerings. In addition, site owners will need to actively push content out to the masses. Finally, clean, analytics-driven site measurement models will need to adapt to take into account the consumption of content outside the confines of the website. While social media monitoring tools can help fill this tracking void, this is an area that still leaves a lot of room for improvement. From an SEO perspective, content sharing tools play a critically important role. It is no secret that Google and Microsoft are in a mad dash to figure out how to effectively integrate the millions of conversations that are going on within social networks each day into their organic ranking algorithms. Some initial attempts include mixing social conversations in to the organic search results for time-sensitive searches. While interesting, there is a long way to go. What we don't see is the fact the search engines are updating their algorithms to consider these conversations as a way to filter public sentiment about a brand or event. In recent history, the SEO world has relied on the inbound link as its currency for site authority, but it is plausible that day to day ramblings from the universe of social networking users may take over this role. The ways that companies actively engage and how well they facilitate content sharing in social media will be integral in shaping the way that search engines assess their authority in the years to come.

  • 3 min read
  • May 5, 2010

AMP's POV on Facebook Like

In April, Facebook released the latest widgets to further extend the reach of Facebook by allowing site owners the ability to easily integrate the 'Like' button, which is so popular within its native environment, into any webpage. This is an enhancement to the ubiquitous 'Share' button, as it requires only a single click and also passes back personalized information about other friends that like the same content when a Facebook user is signed in. Given the reach and continuous growth of Facebook and the increasing importance that social media conversations play in organic search visibility, site owners should strongly consider taking advantage of this new offering. Implementation of the Like button is relatively simple, using either an iFrame: Or Facebook's proprietary markup language, XFBML: The size and appearance of the button can be customized to align with the look and feel of the site. In addition, there are some additional custom meta tags that can be used to define the way that the 'Liked' content is present in the user's Facebook profile. While the net result of the 'Like' button is not dramatically different from its predecessor, the 'Share' button, the new feature represents an expansion of the borderless web. Sites like Facebook and Twitter continue to grey the lines between their social networks and the Internet around them and all signs indicate that users approve of these changes. As demonstrated by the explosive growth in active Social Media usage and RSS feed consumption, Internet users are making it clear that they want a more fluid and consolidated web experience. This change will require a shift in the way that site owners think about their content and also how they measure the performance of their site. Sites will need to be developed with a focus on content portability by providing the necessary sharing widgets and expanded RSS feed offerings. In addition, site owners will need to actively push content out to the masses. Finally, clean, analytics-driven site measurement models will need to adapt to take into account the consumption of content outside the confines of the website. While social media monitoring tools can help fill this tracking void, this is an area that still leaves a lot of room for improvement. From an SEO perspective, content sharing tools play a critically important role. It is no secret that Google and Microsoft are in a mad dash to figure out how to effectively integrate the millions of conversations that are going on within social networks each day into their organic ranking algorithms. Some initial attempts include mixing social conversations in to the organic search results for time-sensitive searches. While interesting, there is a long way to go. What we don't see is the fact the search engines are updating their algorithms to consider these conversations as a way to filter public sentiment about a brand or event. In recent history, the SEO world has relied on the inbound link as its currency for site authority, but it is plausible that day to day ramblings from the universe of social networking users may take over this role. The ways that companies actively engage and how well they facilitate content sharing in social media will be integral in shaping the way that search engines assess their authority in the years to come.

What Winter Fear Mongering Means for Marketers

Based in the Boston area, we have been victimized by the local meteorologists. A week ago, over-hyped warnings sent people fleeing from a snow storm that never came. The grim forecast closed businesses, public offices and schools throughout the region. Unfortunately, the amount of snow that fell could easily be cleared with a kitchen broom in Boston and areas north. Business disruption aside, how did this media snow job affect people's Internet usage? Looking at the search history for the term 'snow' on Google Insights for Search, the clear spike in traffic shows that all the hype drove people to search engines. Obviously, this spike in activity presents a clear opportunity for marketers who offer products and services related to wintery weather. Surprisingly, there was very little uptick in activity from the likely suspects, such as ski resorts and snow removal services, who given the dry winter could likely use a little boost of enthusiasm for their services. In addition, inclement weather this time of year would be a great opportunity for clothing retailers, whom are likely staring at a lot of winter inventory with the new season quickly approaching, to spread the word about winter sales. And what about businesses that offer relief from New England winters (Think WARM Thoughts!!!). If I was considering a tropical vacation, fear of impending winter doom might certainly push me to book. In these challenging economic times, marketers need to be on the lookout for untapped opportunities that give them an edge. Over-hyped news stories, whether justified or not, certainly present a rock that marketers should consider turning over to get a leg up on their competition.

The FDA Opens the Floor for Change

This past week I had the pleasure of attending the 2 day FDA hearing on the use of the Internet and social media for the marketing of pharmaceuticals. The purpose of the hearing was to open discussions about updating the current guidelines set forth by the FDA.The hearing format was interesting. Speakers, which included agencies, drug companies, public advocacy groups, site publishers and private citizens, addressed the FDA panel to provide feedback to 5 specified topics: What parameters or criteria should be applied to determine when third-party communications occurring on the Internet and through social media technologies are subject to substantive influence by companies that market products related to the communication or discussion? In particular, when should third-party discussions be treated as being performed by, or on behalf of, the companies that market the product, as opposed to being performed independent of the influence of the companies marketing the products? How should companies disclose their involvement or influence over discussions or material, particularly discussions or material on third-party sites? Are there different considerations that should be weighed depending on the specific social media platform that is used or based on the intended audience? If so, what are these considerations? With regard to the potential for company communications to be altered by third parties, what is the experience to date with respect to the unauthorized dissemination of modified product information (originally created by a company) by noncompany users of the Internet?Many of the agencies and drug companies shared their findings from private and funded research. There were several consistent themes that emerged from these studies: The Internet is a growing and significant source of information for people researching health information. The current lack of clear direction from the FDA is keeping legitimate pharma companies on the sidelines of getting involved with social media and many forms of online advertising. This leaves a void that is frequently being filled by less desirable and often illegal advertisers. Consumers and medical professionals want drug companies to participate in an open, non-promotional way to share their knowledge and research in the discussions that are happening across social media channels. While not as prevalent, some of the most interesting discussions where those that questioned the efficacy of the FDA guidelines in general. It would seem that in many cases, the issues of including fair balance between risk/benefit and access to prescribing information in marketing materials, as mandated by the FDA, is not what is putting consumers at risk. The problem is that this 'required' information often exceeds the level of comprehension for most consumers. So including a link to important safety information from a Tweet or search ad may satisfy the requirements of the FDA, but it is completely failing the objective of the FDA, which is to protect the public health. Likely the result of years of lawyering and policy making, the FDA approved language that makes up the small print in magazine and online ads and quick speak at the end of TV commercials has warped into something that exceeds the health literacy of the general public. The language needs to be simplified in order to be effective and the FDA needs to create a standard for displaying important safety information across health sites to aid in consumer recognition and accessibility. These changes would not require the FDA to introduce new policy to address the challenges posed by the Internet and social media. The current policies are sufficiently obtuse and can be morphed to apply to new media. Instead, the FDA needs to work with drug companies to provide the guidance necessary for acceptable participation across social media. Without this, we will continue to see an onslaught of unregulated online pharmacies and snake oil salesman, a situation that is both confusing and hazardous for the general public. Without clear guidance from the FDA, legitimate drug companies will be forced to sit on their hands for fear of overstepping the murky lines of compliance and the wealth of information that they possess will remain unavailable to consumers.

Facebook'?¦ The Future of Search???

Facebook has recently unveiled some new changes to the search capabilities which strikes at the heart of some major usability issues with the site. In addition to categorization of search results by origin (i.e. groups, friends, pages, etc.) the new search functionality allows users to reach out beyond their network of friends to see information from any Facebook user that has a public profile. I disagree with many in the industry that see this as an attempt to crush Twitter, which has always opened up search results to public profiles. Rather, expanding the scope of accessibility to information across Facebook will only help people make more connections with other likeminded individuals. The old platform made it easy to connect with people and causes that you already knew. This expanded search functionality will allow people to make those more difficult and vastly more available connections with people and groups that exist outside their direct or indirect networks. If this move is a threat to anyone, it's Google. The way that people find information on the Internet is changing. Search engines have done a great job of organizing the near infinite information that exists across the Internet, but most search results lack a degree of credibility. Social media sites put a person behind the information and people are naturally more adept at assessing the trustworthiness of other people then they are of websites. If Facebook can put a quality search platform behind the content that is flowing across their large and diverse userbase, it would certainly have the potential to impact people's dependence on Google's search results.

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