If the social sites were isolated I would comfortably ignore them as a waste of time. Unfortunately, search engines are convinced there is signal to be had on social networks (in spite of how easy they are to game with promotions).
If I wasn't super busy I would run one such promotion to prove my point, but I am already drowning in email.
Bing + Facebook
Bing is pushing Facebook integration everywhere. TV ads, on the search results, etc.
"Open" Cultural Revolution
How valuable is that email? How about "not at all" for $500 Alex?
I think Fantomaster is brilliant, but I would much rather read one of his blog posts that dozens or hundreds of Tweets. Sure knowing that 9,000 might have saw a message can be comforting, but 1 blog post will get you way more views (and with far deeper context & meaning).
How to Test the Value of Social Media
Want to see big numbers get small quickly? Try charging anything...as little as $1 & you will quickly see that social media is mostly garbage. Alternatively, try giving away $5 or paying for the in-stream ads that directly manipulate relevancy & once again you will see how worthless social media is as a signal...something that anyone can quickly buy.
Even scientists (who typically pursue the truth even if it is uncomfortable) are considering investing in manipulating their online reputation:
Online reputation is important to most researchers, and about 10% of respondents to our survey complained that they or their work have been misrepresented on the Internet. The web has a long memory, and rumours, lies and bad information can spiral out of control to be remembered by posterity.
For a lot of businesses the social media stuff will be nothing but blood & tears. A resource drain that money, time & hope gets poured into with nothing coming out the other end.
That said, I don't think ignoring it is a wise decision at this point. The best tip I have for most people is to try to set up automated systems that help your social signal grow automatically. That can mean onsite integration & perhaps a small token amount of advertising. Beyond that it is probably only participating as much as you enjoy it. And if you are more of a huckster/PR type, pay attention to how folks like Jason Calacanis leverage these channels.
The second best tip would be measure it with stats that actually matter. Revenue and profit are important. Time spent tracking the number of retweets is probably better spent building more content or improving your business in other ways. If you have something that works the rabbit hole goes deep, but if it isn't working then it is likely better spending your time being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
Inspired by Barry's implementation, we recently added the social buttons to the left rail of the site. That is probably one of the best types of integration you can do, because it is out of the way for those who don't know what it is and/or want to ignore it, but it stays right in the same spot (always visible) for anyone who is interested in those types of buttons.
What Makes the Web Great (for Small Businesses)
Two things that make the web great are the ability to fail fast (and cheaply) & the ability to focus deeply. If social media increases the operating cost (being yet another hoop you have to jump through) & robs valuable attention that could go into your website then it is 0-for-2.
Sure there will be some edge case successes (like luxury brands maintaining their positions), but success from newer & smaller players will be uncommon exceptions (often operating outside the terms of service).
Google Leveraging Search to Push Social Junk
It remains to be seen if an author will be able to carry his or her trust with them to their next gig, but if they can then that would make the media ecosystem more fluid & pull some amount of power away from traditional publishers. Some publishers are suggesting putting their book content online as HTML pages...well if they are doing that then why doesn't the author just install Wordpress and keep more of the value chain themselves (like J.K. Rowling just did)?
Google launched their Google+ social project & their +1 votes increase organic CTR (but highlighting that trend with "analytics" is almost like it is out of "Lying with Numbers" as one would expect a higher CTR since those who "vote" for you are more likely to be fans, who tend to be repeat visitors to your site ... which is exactly why we get more search traffic from Google for "seo book" than we do for "seo").
Google emailed AdWords advertisers encouraging them to mark up their pages with +1 & inside the AdSense interface Google also offers +1 integration tips:
The AdWords help files state clearly that +1 *is* a search relevancy signal:
+1's (whatever their source -- organic search, ads, or +1 buttons on publisher sites) is a signal that affects organic search ranking, but +1's do not change quality scores for ads and ad ranking.
Like any of the brand-related signals Google has been leaning into for the past couple years, the +1 button will favor big brands.
The impact & effect is so obvious that Google's help docs contain the following question: "Will the +1 button make it harder for my small business to compete with larger companies?"
Their answer to that question is generally "no" but that they would even ask themselves that question is fallacious Orwellian duplicity.
Would you trust the local plumber to work on your house if he was posting "exciting viral content" online about how some projects went astray? Now every plumber needs to become a marketing expert to not get driven off the web by Roto-Rooter & other chain-styled companies that can collect +1 signals from all their employees & some of their customers across the country or around the world.
Google knows they are tilting the search game toward those who have money. They even flaunt it in their display ads!
Google claimed that facial recognition was evil so that they could make Facebook look bad, but if you listen to Google for long enough you will see that they claim the opposite of their recent claims whenever it is convenient:
Google itself explains that not allowing its device maker partners to ship Skyhook's software was just, the way Google describes it, a necessary measure to prevent damage (Google says "detriment", which is the Anglicized version of the Latin word for "damage") from being caused to the whole ecosystem.
But Google does not want to allow Oracle to control Java the way Google controls Android.
Google today is saying that "social media is important." Just look at their wave of product announcements & their bonus structure.
I loathe the approach (and the message), but I accept it. ;)
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