Social media plays a growing role in the buying decision process of connected (B2B) buyers and how people search, indeed in some leading verticals. However, the primary source to find relevant content for B2B buyers is still search. So, it seems pretty evident that search engines’ algorithms started looking more at social signals as they adapt to evolutions regarding how people consume and discover content, which is their goal.
To discover the younger (B2B) consumers use more social media, you don’t need a crystal ball.
If they don’t keep focusing on finding new ways to improve search engine results for their ‘users’, the different players will start losing these users. Social relevance is part of this ongoing task, and it will be completed with new technologies in the coming years (semantic etc.).
The quest for significance is not just your battle: it’s the battle of all Internet companies. On top of the just mentioned search players, who fight over their users’ love, web-based email clients do precisely. Social engagement and interaction (what do recipients do with the content you send them by mail) are ranking among the primary ways, how and where the ‘content carrier’ gets delivered and placed in the inbox.
The same fight over relevance is occurring among several other Internet platforms, including social networks. Search engines feel the pressure of social media search initiatives that include other elements such as reciprocity and the social graph. Nevertheless; search engines will always have a much broader approach to help people discover content for the questions they ask. What they increasingly will take into account though, and we all know it, is the social interaction with content and the ‘social relevance’ and ‘reputation’ of the author.
Search engines have moved from a pure ‘web page authority’ (content) to ‘human authority’.
No matter how you look at the “funnel” (yes, it looks different than before) or at the buying journey nowadays: social discovery, reciprocity, multichannel content and digital media rapidly join the ranks of more ‘traditional’ ways of finding relevant information to make decisions such as offline peer interactions, consulting, etc. Mapping the right content with the right stages, signals and sources your customers/prospects use for content discovery is essential to succeed.
The keyword to remember here is ‘social relevance’ in correlation with social graphs, how people search and decide, content discovery and customer-centricity. Social relevance determines search engine results, the chance of being found, and the driver of what you all want: social and content sharing.
Of course, the degree in which social and digital content is used and the social dimension of content discovery in the buying journey depends on several elements:
- The industry. In some industries, social media and content have been adopted much faster and more robust than others.
- The country/culture. In some regions, the use of social media is more evolved.
- The demographics. Needless to say that some job functions and age groups, to name two demographic criteria, use social more intensively than others.
- The individual. In the end, there are no general rules. It’s essential to have a single customer/prospect view that includes social media behaviour and content discovery patterns for your target groups and even individual prospects/customers.
Start looking more at social signals and analyse how online firms, even beyond search, are taking them into account. And make sure your content is socially, contextually and individually relevant throughout the journey.