Google’s latest algorithm changes highlight the importance of social media signals in calculating a website’s ranking in search results. Companies and SEO practitioners have recognized for some time that promoting content through social networks builds authority, drives traffic, and helps a website’s search engine relevancy.

While social media is an important element in any SEO strategy, widespread social media participation has led to significant changes in the way some companies interact with their customers. This has led some to suggest that it is the forerunner of a completely new and better way of doing business, calling it ‘social business’.

Social media has become a recognized channel for marketing in recent years and complements traditional print, television, and radio media while also providing unique advantages. Through social media your company can now reach an audience of people who have expressed an interest in, or already use, your product or service. This provides a highly targeted audience that is already predisposed to your product and that can make recommendations to a potentially large circle of their friends about its benefits. Because of the nature of social communities, opinions expressed there are regarded as honest and less tainted by marketing motives which means they may carry more weight with potential new customers. This may be the reason that Google has decided to place more weight on links from social media sites.

Social media, however, can provide more significant advantages than simply increasing your company’s website ranking and sales. One of the most important elements of social media is that it provides a measure of customer engagement with the product. By measuring interaction, reading comments (both positive and negative) and examining the context in which a product is mentioned, you can gain invaluable information about how a product is perceived and used and any shortcomings that it may have. It provides high-valued market research without having to go through the process of finding and questioning a test group in a formal environment. The data gleaned from examining social groups’ interaction, or by asking their opinions, can then be fed into product research and development in a constant feedback loop that provides a ready-made system for refining or developing new products.

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