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Social Networking & Media Optimization

Web 2.0: Social Evolution of the Net & Community Building

Web 2.0 revolutionized the technology powering internet communities. In the early days of the internet community was built through website services, newsletters and email discussion lists. These were for the most part push technologies, however, bulletin boards and forums changed that as users began to pull the information from the communities that interested them. Building web services using programming languages like JSON, AJAX and RSS has taken community building to the next level. Social Media and Networking sites pretty much use the same community building techniques as the older versions. The real difference is the quality and robustness of the services that can be offered to the community.

Personal and Universal Search has forever changed search engine optimization! In the beginning Social Networking optimization was primarily a link building strategy. Today Social Networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and the like are an integral part of many users web activity. Using Social Networking sites as marketing vehicles has seen poor results mainly due to users not being in a buying mode while on these sites. These sites have been very successful at building brand awareness, product and sale announcements and website visibility.

It is important to set marketing expectations low so appropriate resources and time can be devoted to this form of website promotion activity. There is a need to strike a balance or you will spend too much time in an activity that does not contribute much to the bottom line. It is also a mistake to ignore this activity entirely because of the poor ROI. It is important that your activity does not keep repeating the same techniques hoping for a different result. Once you find what does work for you repeat that activity often and try to expand the technique to other Social sites and always continue trying new innovative ways to engage this audience.

IWB believes like all previous iterations of community Social Networking sites will become niche oriented as the activity gains traction with users. We believe in the future Social should go from huge mega sites with no real common interests to smaller communities based on a commonality of interests among the users. LinkedIn was perhaps the first, however, the common interest is still pretty broad. SearchEngineLand's Sphin community is an excellent example of a Niche Social Networking site where Search Engine and to a lesser degree Internet Marketing is a common interest the community shares.

Marketing & Leveraging the Social Framework of the Net For SEO Success

For the most part leveraging this activity for the purposes of SEO is a crapshoot. NoFollow is often used to negate the link value from these sites, however, there are some indications the dampening effect on PR of NoFollow may not be as high as first thought. The bottom line is do not go into this activity for the purposes of SEO there are lots of other good reasons to engage in Social Networking!

The most important thing to consider is that NoFollow and its cousin the 302 redirect do not equal no value. They equal no value for the purposes of SEO! In our experience these sites still drive far more traffic then directories and in some cases Social shopping sites can drive more qualified traffic (higher conversion rates) and visitors then secondary Search engines like Ask and MS. Some even better sites can outdo Yahoo! on a good day or month!

As Google's FriendConnect and Open Social gain acceptance there could be, now, or at some time in the future a Social component added to search engine ranking algorithms. This algorithm would likely be very similar to the PageRank system in that it is an excellent way to identify and measure authority in a way that is likely to be easily manipulated.

The Socially Connected Web

Facebook, MySpace & LinkedIn the Mega Communities in the Social Networking Web

The mega Social Networking communities of Facebook, MySpace and the commercial niche LinkedIn have10's of M's of users. To date marketing strategies for these sites are proving to be mostly ineffectual. The primary reason for this is users are not engaged in the buying process when the initiate activity on these sites. Generally users are there for reasons directly contrary to a marketers needs. This can go to the extreme where brand and reputation can be easily tarnished by engaging users in a way they feel offended. These users are disinterested in advertising, however, they may ask their "friends" about products they are researching. To be effective marketing on these sites is only effective when it isn't seen as intrusive. To date IWB has found that LinkedIn (business users) can be used to raise brand through connections to "industry experts" and recommendations that are easily checked for authenticity and the relationship between those recommended and those providing the recommendation. Using the poll and a few "other feature apps" has worked fairly well for IWB and desme.

Web 2.0 and RSS Powers Blogs & The Social Web

Technology wise the Social Web is powered by Web 2.0 programming, web service Internet Protocols like SOAP and RSS which is the backbone of the blogosphere. Bloggers are 21st century journalists covering their interests with passion and enthusiasm not seen for some time. A commercial blog can be used to announce specials and new products. Blogs can replace or be offered as an alternative to email notifications, newsletters etc. because they push information to users who have requested it.

The biggest advantage to blogs over email announcements and newsletters is their creeping exposure. Microsoft's Vista has integrated RSS support on the desktop. This means that these activities can be moved from an email box filled with spam  and policed by the over zealous administrators at your local ISP to the users desktop. The move from email to the desktop has not been fast but... is hampered to some degree by Vista's slow uptake and the reluctance of publishers and commercial users to provide the service in addition to email.

Social Evolution: Surfing the Video Tsunami to YouTube and Increased Sales!!!!!

Riding a Tsunami like wave of  broadband and DSL breadth and availability video and in particular YouTube has reached critical mass to the point that 'DaTube' is the second most popular site on the Internet. YouTube has done this in what seems like a blink of an eye. Not even the daunted Google has shown that kind of dominance. As people gravitate to more and more video and Google continues to include videos in its Universal Search algos video is going to drive more and more sales and visitors. Although the jury is out on monetizing video with ads it is clear that an increase in conversion can result by including video on a page where the products being offered are more tactile or a real rather than virtual experience is expected for the sale to occur. To date IWB clients in the apparel, musical instrument, real estate and to a lesser degree marketing services have used video to improve sales.

Social Media, Tagging & Bookmarking Sites

Social tagging/bookmarking and content sharing sites like, stumblupon, digg and squidoo are quickly replacing browser bookmarks and to a lesser degree article syndication. These sites were at one time a useful link building tool for SEO. The value of many of these sites has been diminished to some extent by "NoFollow" being placed in the link. The reduced or no SEO value of the links from these sites has resulted in IWB deciding that theses strategies should only be persued for promoting a blog or website. The Squidoo and Stumbleupon "article syndication" sites do have value in that they actually result in traffic to the website. Digg is known as a good place to launch news and information distribution that can generate significant traffic. The one setback is ROI is low. It is mainly useful as an announcement site.

Flikr and Image/Photo Sharing Sites

Photo sharing site Flickr is owned by Yahoo! and made a huge splash when it came on the scene. SEO's loved this site for building links! That is... until it also started using "NoFollow" and making some sites become members paying fees. This is another example of how using these sorts of link building techniques seldom work out long term. Over the years we've seen example after example like this which is why we seldom use link building techniques to optimize a website. IWB's strategy is to provide and build high quality unique applications and content to entice webmasters to link to them to enhance the linking sites content. This provides the one way links needed to move up the rankings.

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