Real-time results focus attention on social media

To fully exploit the potential of search, marketers must take advantage of real-time data and smartphone technology that now dominate social media.

Consumer behaviour online is changing rapidly. Facebook overtook Google to become the most popular site in the US last month, according to Hitwise, demonstrating how attached consumers are to their online social lives. And access to social media is no longer confined to our desktops. The increasing number of smartphones means that owners have access to the web at all times.

Brands are keen to capitalise on the rise of real-time social search and Twitter search. Spending money in these areas is a must, argues Shaun Springer, vice-president of brand and digital marketing at MasterCard. “We are amazed at the rapid development in search and want to exploit the opportunities that social media gives us to connect with customers,” he says. “Investing in search and social media channels reinforces our brand’s message in the digital space.”

The popularity of smartphones is also making marketers think more innovatively about mobile search, with Auto Trader one of the latest brands to launch a search application for the iPhone. Working with applications specialist Endeca, the car listings company has introduced a mobile app based on number plate recognition. Car buyers can take a photo of a car in the street and automatically search for similar vehicles for sale in their area.

It provides, in effect, an instant price comparison site on a mobile, saving users the time of scouring second-hand dealerships or the local paper for a bargain.

Matthew Bottomley, director of product marketing in new media at Yell

Innovation in search technology is essential to our business and the app we developed for the iPhone in October already gets more than 9,000 downloads a month, while the number of searches on our mobile services now exceeds calls to our 118 247 call centre.

People expect to find Yell across the many different channels they use to search for information.

Video will become more important and we are working on a channel where advertisers can create videos for their businesses and upload them next to their web entry or as a standalone entry. Being able to tour a restaurant will help consumers explore different options and look before they book. It will be similar to how estate agents allow potential house buyers to view house.

This is a step on from traditional user-generated content where mistrust has built up about who is actually writing the reviews. It will allow people more opportunity to make up their own minds.

Yell.com launched in 1996 and we have had to continue to innovate. We have just unveiled the Yell.com Labs app for the iPhone, which is available on the iTunes store. It combines augmented reality with Yell.com local business UK data and means content is overlaid on the camera viewfinder. A consumer can call or visit a business website with a single tap of the phone.

When it comes to innovation in search for 2010, we are seeing a different mindset emerging. Consumers prefer to explore rather than simply search when trying to find a business or leisure contact.

This is being fuelled by social media, which will lead to more integration of news and real-time data into search results. The level of data people receive will get richer as brands learn more about an individual’s preferences.

Topline trends

  • Innovation in search marketing
  • More apps for smartphones to make mobile search more effective.
  • A growth in personalised search so individuals are better targeted.
  • Marketers will focus their attention on influencers within peer groups as social media and search become increasingly integrated.
  • An acceleration of real-time search will force marketers to be more efficient in monitoring brand reputation.
  • The development of technology to make the optimisation of video content more successful and reliable.

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