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Your Business, Google and Social Media ROI

There’s a lot of confusion around the issue of social media and getting a return on one’s time and social investment, to the point that some people think social media for business is ineffective.If you’ve been thinking that lately, think about how happy you’d be if social media helped you get into your target market’s path through Google.According to a recent announcement by Google, social media may now be able to help you in ways you hadn’t ever dared to dream. The ROI, or return on investment, from your social media efforts can be measurable and meaningful in a new way.If you’re already using social media, you’re likely aware of how it can help you get traffic to your site. For example, popular entries often get more exposure, and the links they often generate. Now, social media may be able to help you get more exposure through the networks of the people you interact with the most.In October 2009, Google started an experiment called Google Social Search, which you could opt in to, in order to see information from what Google is calling your social circle, in your search results. On the day of the iPad launch, they quietly rolled out Google Social Search Results to anyone who is logged into a Google account when they search.What could that mean to you?Well, if you’ve been cultivating a social presence in Twitter, for example, and become connected to 1000 people, if they have Google accounts they and their connections, will be added to your social circle, from which Google will pull extra search listings to be integrated into the current set when a user is logged in.Of course, when you start to think that even though Google has a dominant market share, even if a full 25% of them have a Google account and are logged in, you might think that doesn’t give you much of a boost.That’s not necessarily true. You have to look at three factors: first, are you the only person in your niche that the person searching is connected to?If you’ve been building your social network for quality from potential clients and customers rather than only quantity, where you just follow peers, auto-follow friends and existing friends so they’ll follow you back, the answer is, probably.Second, personal suggestions are stronger than what any search engine says. Being found in search helps dramatically. But when it comes down to the tie-breaker, folks buy from folks they know.Third, it’s not just the people you’re connected to, it’s the people THEY are connected to as well. If you look at the video below, it says towards the end that the people your friends are connected to are included in your extended social circle.Well, that means you’re included in the friends of your friends as well. So not only will you get them in your search results, you’ll be in theirs.That could end up being a lot of people.Add in the recent changes to Google Reader, the move to Google Caffeine, the debut of Google Buzz in Gmail. Gmail alone has a reported 220 million accounts in use.Of course, this can be blown out of proportion – social media is important, as is search, to traffic generation. But they are each one tool in a well rounded strategy. It’s folly to lean on any singular method to get traffic to a site to the exclusion of all others, because if your strategy fails or its effectiveness changes over time, you’re putting your entire business at risk.So keep in mind as you strategize that you still have regular search engine optimization to contend with – your primary Google traffic focus ought to be the people who are not logged into Google, as they are the majority.Remember also though that even they have live updates from social sites like Twitter, are now streamed into results. So, like it or not, ignoring social media or denying its influence is to do so at the peril of your own business. And hyper-targeted traffic to a smaller audience is still more money in your pocket at the end of the day. Keep it all in perspective is my only warning.If you’re not already seeing a return on your investment in social media through better links, higher traffic, and viral spread of your messages, now is the time to fix whatever is wrong with your social media traffic strategy.A sound social media strategy is already critical for you to gain or keep your edge over your competition. From local coffeeshops broadcasting specials to Mayors on Foursquare to becoming a favorite place in Google Maps, social commerce is the way of the day. Now it’s factoring into search strategy more than ever before. Search is now social.Are you ready?