Social media is all about having conversations, while search marketing is about identifying and taking action on what customers already want or need. So, if you can mine that data from social media, why not use it to build search campaigns (paid and organic) and include copy on web pages that will foster conversations?
Conventional keyword tools are a good place to start finding conversations. One good place to look for keywords is in your own product pages. Google's keyword tool is good at picking phrases from any page, but it doesn't help with social media. A keyword phase is not a conversation--it's the words around a keyword that tell the most about what someone wants, not the keyword itself. Search engines can, however, extract terms that are good ways to find conversations between your potential customers. The key is to figure out where these conversations are happening and become part of them. Techrigy SM2 is an extremely powerful social media monitoring tool that can help you do just that.
Techrigy's free account will allow you to the first 1,000 results on a given day pertaining to your brand. Based on those results, you can see which social media platforms you should focus on: blogs, message boards, photo sharing sites like Flickr or social networks like Facebook or MySpace. You can also see how often your brand shows up on Twitter, but keep in mind that Tweets are much easier for users to generate than blog posts. The software will also mine demographic information, including the physical location of people who are talking about your brand and, based on semantic breakdown, educated guesses about their age and sex.
One way to use this information is to go after individuals who express positive opinions about your brand by reaching them on Twitter, in blog comments and in e-mails, when appropriate. You can also work on sending different e-mails to women and men, and determine when to send them. For instance, Techirgy might tell you that sending out an e-mail on Thursday night or Friday is optimal, especially around mid-month. You'll need to examine the data for more insight, but it's clear that good timing is part of the equation. And the best-case scenario: You can combine all this data to craft the perfect offer at the right time, sent to people who already like what you're selling--so much so that they take time to talk about it online.
Search engines can be a good starting point for identifying keywords around which conversations revolve, but social media needs another type of approach that focuses on conversations. Those conversations might not lead to customers right away, but they can foster brand loyalty and, eventually, sales.
Marshall Sponder is a senior web analyst for a large IT services company based in the Northeast and an artist who maintains Now-SEO, his own search engine marketing consultancy with B2B and B2C clients.