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Yahoo! Search Marketing Event

Last week I attended a Yahoo! Search Marketing event called Engaging Advocates Through Search and Social Media.

At it, they unveiled study findings (jointly published with comScore Networks) which confirm that influential consumers increasingly use a combination of social media, search, and communication tools like email and instant messaging to research and talk about brands. As a marketer, if you're not tapping these channels, you're missing a valuable audience.

Yahoo! Senior Account Executive James Meyer opened the event, and quickly handed off the mic to Larry Weber, who gave the keynote address. Like he does in his books, Larry dismissed the notion of the Web as a channel, and instead described is as a place of communities...places to aggregate around your own interests. We are finally experiencing the Emotive Web that Forrester Research wrote about so many years ago. And increasingly, branding = dialogue (the stronger the dialogue, the stronger your brand).

So how can marketers capitalize on this changing Web landscape? Weber laid out a few tips:

  1. Observe conversations. Ideally, join in them; but at a minimum, be aware of what's being said about your brand.
  2. Recruit community members. Find ways to harness the positive word of mouth that may already be happening.
  3. Evaluate online conduit strategies, or the most active channels for getting the word out: blogs, news sites, social networks, search engines ("reputation aggregators" in Weber's parlance).
  4. Engage the community in conversations.
  5. Measure the community members' involvement.
  6. Promote your community to the world.
  7. Improve the community's benefits.

Sounds easy? Maybe not, but the hosts of the event certainly made it sound critical. Weber predicts that 5 years from now, there will be no nightly news, no newspaper with circulation > 100 million, and a media budget shift of 60%-70% online. Consumers will increasingly find the information they seek on niche community sites like PatientsLikeMe. The Internet is amplifying word of mouth, and engendering trust between total strangers.

Marketers need to find ways to leverage search and social media, or they simply won't be able to get in front of the influential consumers talking about (or worse: not talking about) their brands. If you're not tapping these channels, you're missing a valuable audience. Fairly obvious to those who follow online media and marketing in general, but a good reminder.

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