Social media is an amazing tool for modern businesses, prompting customers and clients to use their own time and creativity to advertise products and services they enjoy. It's an area in which a savvy business owner can build their brand for free, but things don't stop there. Recent search engine updates mean that social media can now have a huge effect on your search engine optimisation. Social media isn't going anywhere, and this is no flash in the pan. As time advances social media will be given a greater and greater role in search engine behaviour.
Why is this the case? It's partly because there's no better way of measuring how relevant a site will be to a search engine user than how much it's talked about. If everyone is mentioning your brand / business, sharing your content or writing about you, while no-one is talking about your competitors, then the search engine knows that your site is probably the one everyone wants to visit.
Search engines favour social media content because it's hard to fake - you can do whatever you want with your own site, but social media engagement depends on the behaviour of real people. But what does that mean for businesses in real terms?
Firstly, businesses need to tailor their social media presence to engage with possible customers. That means finding out what customers want to see from a business and providing it in spades. That doesn't just mean quantity, but variety too. While customers may share tweets and articles, they're more likely to share things like videos or infographics. The ideal result is that your content inspires more content - someone includes your video in an article or writes something that makes use of your infographic or other data. This kind of content can't be faked, and search engines love it.
But the bonuses don't stop there. As this article points out, even a company's own social media content can be directly used for search engine optimisation. Google currently includes recent tweets when calculating a site's place in search results, and it famously offers a boost in ranking to sites that have a presence on its social media site Google+. You can even seek out Twitter party invites or guest post invitations - these give your business a voice in places other than its own controlled content, allowing you to improve how search engines perceive your reach.
From the examples above it's clear to see why social media is a key part of any modern social media plan. A creative approach can hurl you up the search results, and as social media becomes a more and more ubiquitous part of everyday life the heights you can reach will increase. That means that when planning any kind of search engine optimisation you need to be dedicating major resources to social media. Don't let the old guard fool you; the answer to finding customers online is no longer in how you run your site, but in how many people you can persuade to talk about it.