Many businesspeople are still very skeptical about the hype surrounding social media because they don’t really understand it. They do understand the importance of Google and other search engines: how it can drive traffic to their sites when people search for information about them and/or their products and services. But many times, the traffic coming from search engines is meaningless because the words used by searchers could have a completely different meaning than what they represent to you and your business. Just think of how many times the Hilton Hotel in Paris received meaningless traffic from Google from people really searching for Paris Hilton.
Search engines are very helpful when it comes to connecting people with the information they’re seeking, but the results are far from perfect. Mainly, because they are driven by algorithms and formulas while leaving out things such as semantics and context, at least for the time being. But, sometimes we need actual interaction with other people when we’re searching for answers to the questions we have. So, while search engines have become invaluable to us from a business perspective in terms of helping us find information, and helping others needing our services to find us, there’s no denying the growing importance of social media to both our personal and professional lives.
Sites such as Yahoo! and Google are usually at the top of the lists of most traveled sites. But according to Alexa.com, six of the top 10 sites are social sites such as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. According to Internet research firm Comscore, almost two-thirds of all Internet users visit MySpace at least once a month. And more than half of these folks are older than 35. Facebook has more than 100,000 users older than 64. And these sites are doubling in popularity at ridiculous speeds. I bet a number of you are bypassing Google and heading directly to Wikipedia when searching for certain kinds of information.
The reason for the rise of social sites shouldn’t come as a big surprise. It’s the same reason that the telephone became popular, why radio and television became important, and why the Web itself is indispensable to us now. Social sites have made it easier for us to connect with people on a much deeper level than we could have imagined a few years ago. In some cases, I know more about people I’ve never met in person than I do about some of my neighbors—all because it’s very easy to collaborate and share information on social sites. This can be as simple as answering a question on LinkedIn Answers, Digg-ing someone’s blog entry, or writing a book review that everyone in my Facebook network can see. These actions provide the context missing from the algorithms and formulas of the search engines, giving social sites an extra dimension that needs to be understood by people wanting to connect with others, regardless if it’s for business or personal reasons.
So don’t overlook the importance of social media to your business right now,