Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Do your social channels have a nose for search?

A client who's experimenting with Pinterest was telling me about some early success in getting items repinned--enough to make him more interested in using it as a marketing tool. "But some of the repins are for things I posted a long time ago. How are people finding them?"

He was thinking of Pinterest as a big stream of posts. But I think of it as a powerful search engine--and if you're smart, you'll choose your social-media options based on how well they support you when people are looking for what you have.

This wasn't always the case. I found Pinterest's original search options clunky and random, but now Pinterest has the funding to invest heavily in expensive search-engine improvements, with a valuation earlier this year of $5 billion. (Keeping an eye on hefty investment is one good way to find feature-rich social options.) How has search changed at Pinterest? NPR describes it:
With a programming team that's largely been hired away from Google, Pinterest has begun offering what it calls guided search. Pinterest cofounder Evan Sharp told me that guided search helps you find things you didn't know you were looking for. If Google is great when you know exactly what you want, Pinterest can help you figure out what you want. As you search, Pinterest will suggest tags that you could add to help narrow your query. Search for hats on Pinterest, and you might get fedora or baseball or church lady as suggestions. The lesson here is that the simplest things we do on the Internet, when you multiply them by millions of people, create troves of data that were just inconceivable at any other time in human history. And in many cases, the companies who possess the data we've created over the past five years are still learning exactly how to harness it to do new things, whether that's making more money for themselves or delivering you up exactly the hat or photograph that you were looking for.
And that's a factor important in this mix. All the metadata and tagging in the universe won't help you as much as the crowd will, when it finds, likes, and shares your content. That's long been true on YouTube, for example, on which users conduct 3 billion searches every month. We talk a lot about online video being the 800-pound gorilla of social media, but it's the powerful search options in YouTube that help make that happen. Blogs have a different search advantage, since search engines read new posts both as updates to the entire blog, and as new web pages with their own distinct URLs, two factors that propel posts higher in search results.

I wrote a few weeks ago about whether your social media plan is open or closed. Often, you can evaluate social media giants with the same criteria when you're trying to determine how their search capability will help you. Generally, a more open network will encourage searching and find ways to support it. More closed networks may not yield all the options, preferring instead to give users more privacy control.

An exception to this has been Twitter, perhaps the most open of the social networks. Twitter, like Pinterest in its early days, has had frustrating options for search. But in its current quest for more advertising options and dollars, Twitter has just announced a search upgrade that will let users search any tweet. Facebook also is in the process of upping its search capability, and in the process, has booted search results from Bing on FB. Turns out Facebook wasn't referring all that much traffic to Bing, but you'll find that it's a great referral engine to YouTube, among others. There's a chart at the link with good data.

(Creative Commons licensed photo of a search dog from the UK Ministry of Defence)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

No comments: