Everyone has heard of Twitter and Facebook by now. Opinions vary as to the usefulness of social conversation tools. Some contend they can have a legitimate business use (see Twitter: It’s Not Just for 15-Year-Olds.) Others decry them as time-wasting purveyors of mindless minutiae.
But did you know this real-time “social conversation” comprises a larger and larger share of searched Web content? Facebook is just one of many sources of user-generated content that is growing exponentially. With more than 400 million active users, 200 million log on to Facebook in any given day. The average Facebook user alone creates 70 pieces of content each month and as a group, Facebook members share more than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) each month.1
So user-generated content is filling up the content pool – so what? Why should you care about this?
If you are interested in how your Web site and your brand are perceived online, here are two reasons to care about user-generated content and real-time search:
1. All this user-generated content is indexed and searchable and it’s now competing with your Web site for attention from the search engines. Recognizing that searchers value up-to-the-minute content, search engines themselves have changed. Within the last year, the big three traditional search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing (formerly MSN Search) announced the launch of real-time search results. It was recently reported that 25% of search results for the world’s top largest brands link to user-generated content.2 Search engine optimization (driving qualified traffic to your Web site through sheer hard work of optimizing your Web pages to be attractive to search engines) has been changed with the advent of user-generated content. Search engines have begun to deliver your desired searchers to the people who are talking about you vs. to your Web site.
2. Not only is user-generated content competing with your content for your desired searchers, these same searchers have been found to put as much or more trust in this type of content than the content they find on your Web site. The Nielsen Study on Global Advertising3 reports that that consumers trust their friends’ recommendations at a 90% rate and other consumer opinion postings at 70%, equal to the trust they put in brand Web sites. This is not a new concept – word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing tool – but it heralds a game change in the way you acquire qualified prospects/customers.
Search engines continue to be the primary way people navigate the Web. In May 2010, Americans conducted 15.9 billion core searches.4 Comparing April 2010 with May 2010, Automotive, Business and Finance, Entertainment, News and Media, Shopping and Social Networking categories showed double-digit increases in their share of traffic coming directly from search engines.5 Of special attention is the fact that while the average user spent 1 hour, 21 minutes on Google during April (2010), Facebook users were logged on an average of 6 hours.6
The explosion of user-generated content and the increased reliance on search to navigate the Web has implications for the average brand Web site manager. If you are serious about your online brand, here are five ways you can promote your brand in real time:
1. Monitor and participate in the conversation. Join social networks not only see what others are saying about you but to add your (indexed and searchable) two cents to the conversation.
2. Use bookmarking and sharing tools to push content about your brand to new searchers.
3. Dedicate some aspect of your Web site (typically a blog) to providing fresh information for the search engines to find. If creating a blog is too much work, comment on someone else’s blog. This content will become part of the content search pool in no time.
5. Add a free feedback mechanism on your Web site like Kampyle that allows you to collect and manage your Web site visitors’ feedback and engage with them one-on-one.
Real-time search has and will change the strategies employed by Web site managers and search optimizers. What time zone are you in?
Addendum 7.7.10: Twitter is now the fastest growing search engine
According to co-founder Biz Stone, who spoke yesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Twitter now reaches some 800 million search queries per day. That’s over 24 billion searches per month, more than Bing (4.1 billion) and Yahoo (9.4 billion) combined. http://www.fastcompany.com/1667617/twitter-is-worlds-fastest-growing-search-engine?partner=homepage_newsletter
1Facebook Press Room: Statistics, July 6, 2010, http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
2Marketing Vox and Nielsen BuzzMetrics SES Magazine June 8 page 24-25 Chris Aarons, Andru Edwards, Xavier Lanier Turning Blogs and user-Generated Content Into Search Engine Results
3NielsenWire: Global Advertising: Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers the Most,
4comScore: comScore Releases May 2010 U.S. Search Engine Rankings, June 11, 2010, http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/6/comScore_Releases_May_2010_U.S._Search_Engine_Rankings
5Experian Hitwise: Google share of searches at 72 percent for May 2010, http://www.hitwise.com/us/press-center/press-releases/google-searches-may-10/
6Internet Stats Today: Social Media Use Increased in the USA, http://internetstatstoday.com/
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