I've read other articles that suggest that the collaborative and communal power of social media will be enough to put the search engines out of business. I find those articles intellectually stimulating but that's about as far it goes.
This article is not about the debate of social media over search engines. This article is about the importance of considering search engines and search engine optimization as part of your bank's social media strategy.
SEARCH STREET HAS A NEW NEIGHBOR
For many years now, search engines have been the "go to" destination on the Internet. Internet users of all types - students, teachers, professionals, housewives, retirees to everyone - have visited search engines when seeking answers for everything from how to solve quadratic equations to how to heal injured quadraceps.
With the explosion of social media, platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as non-commercial sites hosted by corporations and non-profits, information is now more widely distributed than just on traditional static Web sites.
As generic sites such as Facebook and Twitter continue to dominate in terms of growth and participation, searches can provide very strong results - particularly for information with recent timestamps such as political discussions, economic discussions and of course, gossip.
Unfortunately, the use of social media for more dated information does not yield as strong of a crop of search results. This is because most discussions that take place in social media tends to relate to current happenings within an area of interest.
For example, in today's news are stories regarding the departure of Disney Chairman Dick Cook. A Twitter search reveals a tremendous amount of content and links regarding the event. However, a search for Peter Schneider, former President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, reveals no search results. As such, Twitter, the social media giant, is very effective at producing information on recent events but ineffective at dealing with historical events (e.g., that which occurred prior to Twitter's birth).
So does that make Twitter worthless. Not at all. Just as the bulk of content created by social media relates to current events, so to does the bulk of content consumed relate to current events. It just becomes important for the user of social media for "search" purposes to recognize the limitations of social media.
INTERSECTION OF SEARCH STREET AND SOCIAL MEDIA AVENUE
So what does all this mean for you, the banker? Simple answer: seach engines are far from extinction. In fact, in my opinion, search engines will only become more relevant as social media conversations grow. I am constantly searching the Internet. The Google homepage is my browser default page. As social media conversations grow and as these social media platforms become fully indexed by search engines, the value of search engines actually grows. Through search engines I can find relevant information on traditional Web sites as well as conversations on social media platforms. Search engines become more valuable - not less since I rely on a single source to identify the needed information.
Given that conversations are being indexed and showing up as search results, bankers should ensure that they give their conversations as much SEO consideration as they do to their ordinary Web content. What this means is including relevant key words when sending out tweets or posting information to a Facebook wall. Another idea is URL shorteners (e.g., tinyurl, bit.ly, etc) that allow customized URLs. Use these shorteners to include key words in the URL. I don't believe social media is the search engine killer. If anything, social media may give search engines new life. As bankers, however, we should be aware of the role that social media plays and how to best utilize social media and those conversations we participate in, to provide as much return as possible.