What do Google, Microsoft and Apple have in common?  A lot, actually; and following their respective developer conferences earlier this summer, several new commonalities have been revealed.  We now know that new tablet devices are being developed by Google and Microsoft and that Google and Apple are both looking to capitalize on their mapping software.  We’ve also learned that iOS 6, Windows 8 and Android 4.1 are going to incorporate more Internet and social media functionality than any previous operating systems.  This enhanced focus on social connectivity will undoubtedly be an important component of these new systems, but its impact on Internet marketing may be even greater.

A More Social Future
Despite Facebook’s apparent inability to succeed on Wall Street thus far, the network is still as popular as ever.  With upwards of 900 million users, nearly 1/7 of the world’s population is using Facebook.  That’s an impressive reach for a social network that began less than a decade ago as a college project.  Microsoft and Apple have both seen potential in Facebook and their confidence in the brand is reinforced by its incorporation into their new OS offerings.  The move to integrate social media directly into the operating system itself will only bolster its popularity, which will significantly impact the Internet marketing industry.

Effects on Internet Marketing
SEOs and SMOs are likely to see a substantial rise in their client base.  Online marketing initiatives will become increasingly valuable as the Internet itself continues to become more accessible.  Today, the role of social media in marketing initiatives is larger than it has ever been and it has proven effective for many companies worldwide.  Search engine optimization and social media are expected to become even more closely related going forward, as well.

The release of iOS 6 and Windows 8 are also likely to impact current social media campaigns and increase their overall effectiveness.  The future of social media looks to be very bright and with the help of tech industry mainstays such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, it may become the very cornerstone of online marketing.

What are your thoughts on the future of social media marketing?  Drop me a line at brymshaw@webimax.com or on Twitter @brwebimax.

On May 31, Microsoft premiered a “Release Preview” of Windows 8 on their website which features a downloadable version of the upcoming operating system with limited functionality.  Additionally, the release includes several applications that will be integrated into the new Windows environment; which is based on the “Metro” language seen on the Windows Phone OS.  Among the applications included with the preview is a new program called “People”, which is an obvious indicator of Microsoft’s recognition of the impact of social media on Windows users.

Operating Socially
The new Windows People app is designed to seamlessly integrate social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+ directly into the operating system itself.  People’s interface will display notifications from various social networks and allow users to interact and engage on those platforms via the program.  By making social functionality available on a user’s desktop, the accessibility of networking sites is greatly increased and is likely to appeal to a broader audience.

A New Era for Online Marketers?
The impending final release of Windows 8 creates almost endless possibilities for Internet marketing companies and social media marketers and advertisers.  The ability to deliver rich content such as photos and videos directly to a user’s desktop as well as enabling sharing capabilities is very beneficial to SMOs.  Essentially, the People application will not only enhance the reach of such campaigns, but their value, too.  Microsoft’s recognition of the social media trend is not only a milestone for the social networking industry, but it may be the beginning of a new era for online marketers, as well.

The push is coming, or has it already begun? The push from Microsoft and Yahoo (but considering Yahoo’s recent issues, let’s concentrate on Microsoft and it’s Bing search engine) to stand up to Google and offer formidable competition has been in the works for some time. Now, Microsoft is not backing from the challenge, instead fully pressing on continuing to invest in their online services division, that which guides its search platform Bing, and trying to differentiate themselves from other search engines, namely Google.

This means that the decision-makers at Microsoft are confident they can eventually tip the scales and draw web searchers to their platform. This is serious confidence considering the online services division reported operating losses of $2.6 billion for its last fiscal year, according to a recent New York Times article by Nick Wingfield. Part of their plan in mounting a surge was announced just at the beginning of the month in that they are going to integrate social media data into their search results. This information is not just any social data, however, it is social data from yes, a range of sites, but namely from Facebook. Sound familiar?

Google introduced its “Google Search, Plus Your World” functionality as Google Search began integrating social data into its search results (primarily from Google+) causing a stir for several reasons among them being a significant change to the user experience and the issues associated with potentially privileging its own social platform over others in search results (considering it is the dominant engine used). In this process, Google and Facebook are pitted against each other as Google is ramping up its Google+ to compete with Facebook to amass social/personal data. So, now it appears Microsoft and Facebook are teaming up to add an additional functionality to Bing that mirrors Google’s latest search functionality.

According to experts cited in the NYT article, Microsoft has integrated in the social data quite well. They have been very concerned with integrating the data without cluttering the search results pages, making multiple changes through various tests. The apparent result: a crisp-looking search engine results page (SERP) that has a neatly organized sidebar of social media results where users can post questions to the friends who have posted relevant information without leaving the results page.

Business Implications
The move to integrate social data into Bing search results from Facebook and others and the similar steps from Google previously have clear implications for those conducting online marketing and SEO campaigns:

  • Businesses must get a social presence and optimize it. The longer businesses lack a presence on social media, the longer they will miss out on opportunities to engage with customers online, widen their audience through greater exposure, and push greater business and conversion.
  • Marketers need to leverage social media with the other marketing operations of the company. Linking promotions to their social presence, bridging traditional media to this social presence, and coordinating the different accounts themselves to strengthen each other, along with optimizing it with SEO- friendly practices will bring the return businesses are looking for.

The apparent alliance between Microsoft and Facebook is intriguing and will be something to track as the way it plays out, and the way that Bing performs going forward, will greatly impact the future search landscape.

Have you ever wondered about the characteristics that make a Twitter account credible? If you are an SEO marketing professional, it is quite likely that you have, and often. Luckily for all of us, Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University took it upon themselves to conduct a study on the trustworthiness of tweets, and released a ten page report on the results of their analyses.

An article on Mashable aptly sums up the main points of this report. It features a compiled list of ten specific characteristics, factors, and situations that make a tweet more credible to other people. A person is more likely to trust a tweet if:

1. He comes across the tweet because it has been re-tweeted by someone he trusts.
2. It is clear to him that the author of the tweet is an expert on the subject.
3. He personally follows that author’s account on Twitter.
4. The tweet includes a URL, and is interesting enough for him to click on it and check out the page that it leads to.
5. The person has heard about the author before, whether in the online world or the offline one.
6. He can see a verification seal on the author’s account. This badge is usually placed on the accounts of celebrities and particularly well-known companies.
7. The person can clearly see that the author of the account regularly tweets on that specific topic.
8. He can see that the majority of the author’s tweets contain similar and related content.
9. The author uses a personal photo as his user image.
10. He can see that the author is frequently mentioned and his posts re-tweeted by other members of the Twitter community.

These characteristics – proven by research – can serve as incredibly helpful tips for SEO professionals who are carrying out social media marketing campaigns. There are several things that marketers must avoid doing on Twitter, however. These are:

1. Using bad grammar and failing to use proper punctuation in tweets.
2. Not uploading a personalized photo as a user image, opting to leave up Twitter’s default icon instead.
3. Using a cartoon character or other avatar as a user image.
4. Following too many other accounts on Twitter.
5. Using a logo as a user image.

Thanks to the researchers at Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University, many businesses can now move forward with creating more successful social media marketing campaigns via Twitter.

Online maps are essential to our lives. We all rely on them to some degree as they have grown in relevance and applicability over the years. Gone are the days when checking online maps was reserved for seeking answers to curious geography questions, though. Now, digital maps are integrated into our mobile apps as well as our in-car navigation, and we use them to give us detailed directions on the roadways and to search the the location of local businesses. Some of these applications of the maps lend themselves to internet marketing and search engine optimization more than others, most notably, local business searching, however they all factor into the mapping market and impact the direction the sector will take.

From MapQuest to OpenStreetMap
In the last decade we saw MapQuest rise as a leader in online mapping, then this was passed onto Google Maps who has for several years dominated both the search and map markets. Google broke from the free mapping model recently, however, at least in some forms of their Map operations as they now charge websites and apps that use Google Maps API ($4 for every 1,000 visitors over 25,000).

These charges pushed some websites and apps away and has added fuel to the open source mapping movement. OpenStreetMap, a “free wiki world map” platform, is a leader in the sector and is now being used by Apple iOS instead of Google Maps. Foursquare is also cutting ties with Google and is instead using open source MapBox on its platform. This movement by Apple and Foursquare represent strategic distancing from Google Maps by big industry players that could become a trend if Google does not re-evaluate their API pricing.

Strategic Positioning by Microsoft, Nokia, and Apple
Additionally, other companies appear to be making a strong push at online mapping looking to give users a competitive alternative to the dominant Google Maps. Microsoft and Nokia recently began a strategic partnership that saw them roll out a new shared mapping platform for Bing Maps and Nokia Maps that presents a different user experience than Google. Further, Apple appears to be mounting their own run at mapping considering their own purchases of mapping companies C3 Technologies, Poly9, and Placebase in previous years and their apparent search for mapping engineers, as pointed out by Gizmodo.

It’s clear the online mapping sector is going through an evolution of sorts indicating it may not look the same in come the end of the year, 2 years from, and so on. With these developments, two bigger questions result. First, how is the emergence of open source mapping impacting the sector, and second, how would a mapping service by Apple further impact the sector and SEO? Check back in tomorrow and I’ll address those two questions.