The Rise of the Social Web and Implications for Brands

Social media influencers have been batting around the topic of the “Social Web” for awhile but what does it really mean? Does it simply mean the social media landscape as I used to think? Or does it signify something greater? How did the Internet become Social?

Facebook’s Paul Adams provides a great explanation in his “A New Creative Canvas” video (11 min 52 sec in). According to Paul, and as we know, the Internet was originally built to unite content sites. But, as Alan points out, today’s Web is being rebuilt around People! This is a tremendous shift and one that marketers and brands must pay attention to.

Facebook-Studio "A New Creative Canvas" video

This means that when I visit a site, I potentially bring my friends with me, my interests, and also their interests. Even further, this means that I also bring my opinions and am influenced by the opinions of others. In other words, your Brand is a social object, and ultimately at the mercy of your audience (real people) for influence and measure.

Case in point, Facebook just introduced Graph Search, an internal search engine driven by one’s social community. According to Facebook, the distinguishing feature of Graph Search is “…results returned are based on factors that include information that has been shared by your business and the connections of the person searching.” For example, looking for a great restaurant to go to? Facebook will reveal restaurants that your friends Like.

Facebook Graph Search

facebook graph search

Never to be outdone here, Google has long provided search results based on your connections and browsing habits. For example, if I search for one of my digital Address Book friends or colleagues, they will bubble up in my search results faster than if Google were not aware of my relationship. And with the rollout of Google Plus, Google now factors your Google + presence (which includes your Google Profile + Authorship ID if you’re a blogger) into its search engine results.

Take this one step further and examine your website’s Google Analytics results. What are some of the biggest drivers of website traffic? Your social media channels—again, a brand’s social influence can really boost analytics results.

If you think about it, LinkedIn is a community comprised entirely of people and is a pure social application. LinkedIn is all about WHO you know and who your connections know.

Gaming is largely driven by social factors as well. In fact, Paul Adams cites that “social gaming IS social connection” and the game itself is just wrapping around that.

When it comes to User Reviews where do you turn? To communities such as Yelp and Amazon that are powered by social influence. You’re much more likely to frequent a restaurant people like on Yelp or a product folks favorably review on Amazon, so this again is a very important consideration for brands.

In closing here, ultimately this all means that brand marketers MUST consider social impact in all of their marketing efforts. How do folks relate to your brand? What are they saying about it? Are those opinions and interactions favorable? If so, how can you as a marketer help your fans influence their social circles and be your best ambassadors? I will continue to explore these topics throughout the year but for now, I’d love to get your perspective so please feel free to add commentary.