How Social Media Networks Are Changing How We Use the Internet

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
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Like many internet technologies, when social media networks first arrived on the scene (a mere six years ago for FaceBook and less than that for Twitter) users didn’t see much value in them aside from connecting with grade-school friends, glibly “liking” their favorite brands, and following Hollywood celebrities.   But, in line with the evolution of previous internet technologies like sweetheart Google, innovators are starting to introduce new applications of these latest technologies which will again redefine the way we use the internet.

The most public of these changes broke to the general public in May when Microsoft began airing commercials about its social search service which integrates your search results with results that integrate the likes of your FaceBook friends.

In April, Google introduce it’s own version of social search with the release of its +1 button.   If you were logged into Google with your user account, you may have noticed the button to the right of your Google search result headings.   By clicking on the +1 button, you indicate that this is a site you recommend.   +1 buttons can also be added to non-Google pages, like your blog page.

GooglePlus_logoThis “personalization allows Google to tailor content and ads to you across the Web, based on your Google profile, +1 activity and [Google defined] social connections,” according to Google.

The impact of this personalization appear when you perform a search while you are logged in with your profile. Google then uses the selections your social media connections make to bias your logged-in search r esults, adding photos and annotations of how you are connected with those recommending the links that are returned.

The Bing and Google social media integration efforts are not new.   Both companies have been developing these technologies for at least six months and in December both confirmed long-held SEO expert suspicions that links shared through Twitter and FaceBook have a direct impact on rankings.   Wha t is new is that the general public is getting its first look at how all our social media connections will start influencing our access to information.

Proponents of this new integration see it as a value-added service to users searching the internet for information.   They argue that your friends and personal networks have far better information than Google could ever have and we all trust recommendations from our friends.  Others are less enthusiastic pointing out that filtering content based on what our friends like puts artificial limits on our access to information which is counter to the original intent of the internet to provide open access to all information.

No matter what side you’re on, one thing is certain and it’s best summarized by Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz.

“…the reach of your social network and the sharing you do to those networks will have a substantive, possibly massive, effect on your search traffic.”

Question MarkWe’ll explore in future posts exactly what this impact could mean for your SMB.   In the meantime, we’d like to hear your thoughts.   Is the internet growing or shrinking?   Is filtering a value-add for users or an unwelcome restriction?   How will this impact the way you use FaceBook, Twitter or other social media networks?

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