Monday Mornings with Madison



Last week, we examined the decision most companies face of whether to allow staff to access social networking sites at work. This presumes that most employees want to visit social networking sites during work hours. Given the amazing popularity of social networking sites worldwide, it is a safe assumption. Or is it? Believe it or not, there are some people who simply don’t like online social networking. They are out there. You may even know some. Corporate marketers are both puzzled and pained by these individuals…. and now, thanks to recent developments, these people are also becoming a marketer’s worst nightmare. Why? 

Two New Developments
First, last week, Google announced an update to its search engine. It is now including social results when you are signed into your Google account. If you are logged into your Google account when you initiate a search, you’ll start to see results from your connections on social networking sites like LinkedIn or Twitter.  This move means that “keyword rank” is becoming a more malleable metric as Google starts to return more personalized results that vary from searcher to searcher. It also means every sales and marketing organization should be focused on building its reach and that includes social.

Second, Microsoft also announced last week that it expanded its partnership between its Bing search engine and Facebook by adding Facebook “likes” to any URL returned by its search engine in the U.S. As a result, a friends’ “likes” will be integrated into Bing search results.   What does that mean? If you search for restaurants in Manhattan, for example, you’d see the regular list of search results, but you might also see your friends’ Facebook photos under certain returns with a note that says they ‘liked’ this particular restaurant on Facebook. If friends publicly liked or shared any of the algorithmic search results shown on Bing, they will now surface right below the result, according to Bing’s blog. This announcement expanded on an earlier partnership agreement between Facebook and Bing signed last October, 2010 that promotes links that friends “liked” or shared via Facebook and factors them into the search engine’s algorithms to determine what appears first in search results.

According to Microsoft, the effort is “part of a longer journey” that will incorporate more social interactions into search. “This is the first time in human history that people are leaving social traces that machines can read and learn from, and present enhanced online experiences based on those traces,” the company said. “As people spend more time online and integrate their offline and online worlds, they’ll want their friends’ social activity and their social data to help them make better decisions. Integrating with Twitter data 16 months ago was one step, and exploring Facebook’s rich streams is another.” So, the number of “liked results” a person sees on Bing will depend on the number of friends a person has on Facebook and how often those friends “like” things.

Reach Is A Powerful Asset
A company’s reach is one of its most powerful assets. Social networking allows a company to push this reach to higher levels and adds more ways to communicate with prospects as well as current customers. Decision makers, influencers, and end users are in the marketplace – everyday; every minute — researching and looking for solutions to their major challenges. Recent changes by Google and Bing to their search platforms signals a giant leap in the quest to draw meaning from social networking within search results.  It also means companies need to make a giant leap in their social networking efforts too.

That brings us back to those individuals who just don’t like social networking. There are a lot of them out there. Consider that about 85% of people age 18-34 are on social networking sites, that also means that 15% are not. That’s a lot of people. One such person is Tomek Kott. This 25-year-old physics graduate student was so stubborn about not joining his friends – and the rest of the world – on any social networking site that his wife launched a mini-crusade against him. In 2009, using a tactic befitting a social networking fan, she created a Facebook group called “Tomek Kott Must Join Facebook.”  Pressure or not, he didn’t join. These off-the-grid ‘anti-social networkers’ are not operating in isolated, Luddite worlds. They just reject social networking sites.

Take for instance, Randy Hallet, the 30-something Webpreneur who was so fed up with the Facebooking of the planet that he is creating Garbo — “the anti-social network.” Named for the 1930s film star turned recluse, Garbo – the website – will allow users to quietly de-friend everyone in their Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Digg, and other social networks without anyone noticing. New friend requests sent on any of these existing services will be greeted with a one-line response: “I want to be left alone.” Hallet’s ambitious plans also include a national Do Not Tweet registry, which prevents people from saying anything about you on the microblogging service, and EnemyFeed, which does a similar service for a wide range of social media, including blogs. Garbo is now in beta-testing (in case any of the social networking renegades want to join now). Now that is a real aversion to social networking.

Why So Anti-Social?Why do these “social networking refuseniks” – as the Washington Post called them – have such a strong dislike to all things web-social?  The reasons are many. For some, it’s an aversion to the possible abuses that can happen on social networks. For example, embarrassing photos can be broadcast to complete strangers, damaging reputations and psyches. Others see it as a hidden haven for questionable people and even more questionable behavior, including identity thieves and predators. Still others see social networking sites as ephemeral, a craze that is here today and gone tomorrow.  But the most common reason given by those who are anti-social (networking) is that they see it as inconsequential. They view most of the verbiage on Twitter, Facebook, etc. as banal blather. They don’t want to know what someone had for lunch.

While all of these justifications may have some merit, the fact is that social networking is here now and it is undeniably having a ginormous impact on how people – and search engines – interact and parse data. Even if it turns out to be a fleeting fancy, it is impacting sales and marketing today… here and now. For anyone that works anywhere from Wall Street to Main Street, that alone should be reason enough to ‘get onboard the social networking express.’ Choo. Choo. That train is leaving the station.

“There’s no map to human behaviour.” Bjork

© 2011 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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