The New Website Discovery Model is People-Powered

While search engines are still important for websites, social discovery promises to be an upcoming way to get found online. It’s telling, for instance, that Google, the largest search engine by far, has hedged its search dominance with its new “social search” capabilities that allow users to find content posted on Google’s social network Google+.

In this post, we’ll describe why social discovery works, what viral loops are, and how these concepts can help drive visitors to your site.

People are your brand’s best advocates

Nielsen’s study found that people trust the opinions expressed by others — especially those in their own social circle.

Reviews play a tremendous role in our decisions to buy products. Reviews build trust and more reviews mean higher conversion rates, according toresearch from social commerce solutions provider Reevoo. The study found that a product with 50 reviews will have an 18 per cent higher conversion rate on average than one with 25 reviews.

Also, 70 percent of online consumers trust consumer opinions posted online, according to a massive survey of more than 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries from Nielsen.

But recommendations from those within your social network can be at least as important as reviews. Nielsen’s survey also found that Ninety percent of consumers said they trust recommendations from people they know. After all, these are people you already know and trust — why not take their advice?

The viral loop helps drive people to your site

Adam Penenberg explains how certain websites build truly massive followings in his book, Viral Loop, where he writes that a virus spreads through contact, and content can spread through contacts. When someone shares something online, it has the potential to reach that person’s contacts, their contacts, and so on, snowballing into something that garners wide-scale attention.

Viral loops, Penenberg says, are created when the customer experience incorporates virality into the very functionality of a product or website. In other words, those who interact with the product need to be able to tell others about it, which, in turn, drives more people to it, who will also tell others about it.

It largely comes down to human nature. “We seek to pass on interesting or funny memes or products to our personal social networks, whether they are included in our email address books, part of our collection of friends on Facebook, visitors to our blog, followers on Twitter, or participants on discussion threads,” he writes.

People want to share: let them!

The impact of this sort of sharing has only grown since Penenberg wrote Viral Loop in 2008. Now more than half of Facebook’s 800 million users visit the site daily, connecting with friends and share information, according to Andy Katzman, Facebook’s head of platform partnerships, in the presentation “How Social Discovery is Advancing Ecommerce”.

“Websites are actually much more fun and useful when your friends are there,” says Katzman. “People share and read and generally engage more with any type of content when it’s surfaced through friends and people they know and trust.”

Turn funnels into loops

The process of consumers moving through a series of steps towards a desired action (such as a sale) is often described by marketers as a “conversion funnel”. While the conversion funnel is often thought of as a solitary process between a consumer and a seller, it can be turned into a viral loop through the addition of user feedback and reviews at each step.

As the consumer moves through the steps of a online transaction, they will seek input from review sites and their own social networks. Creating a viral loop involves displaying reviews and recommendations when people are deciding on what to buy and making a purchase, and allowing them to provide their own reviews and recommendations.

Facebook, for instance, provides a social plugin that lets your website show visitors which of their friends “like” your site or have connected with your site. News site CNN, for instance, uses this functionality to show what stories your Facebook friends have been sharing. For e-commerce sites, there’s a Magento Connect extension called Facebook Connect Social Shopping that lets you ask for your friends’ opinions before deciding to buy.

Discovery will get more social

Website discovery is shifting. As it becomes easier to ask your friends for recommendations rather than seeing what comes up on Google, social means of finding sites and businesses will become more popular.

“The Web is being rebuilt around people,” Katzman says. “As people increasingly bring their real identities onto the Internet, they will connect with the people and things that define who they are.”

For marketers, this means creating sites and content that customers will happily spread through their social network of friends, family, colleagues, and peers.

Need help setting your site up for social discovery? Kobayashi Online can help your site get its maximum impact through search engine traffic andsocial traffic.

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