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Facebook: Beating Google at its Own Game

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No wonder Google wants to get into social networking in a big way. Facebook is beating Google at its own search game.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that Facebook has passed Google to become the top source for traffic to major portals like Yahoo and MSN, and is among the leaders for other types of sites.

Web measurement firm Compete Inc. found that during December, 15 percent of traffic to major Web portals like Yahoo, MSN & AOL came from Facebook and MySpace. Of that traffic total, 13 percent came from Facebook.  Google came in third with 7 percent, just behind E-Bay.

Facebook’s stratospheric growth is incredible. The social networking site recently said it now has 400 million active members (including about 225 million added in the past 12 months). Compete said its size now rivals that of the major Web portals, and its demographics mirror those of the Internet in general.

Google isn’t giving up without a fight. Last week, it purchased Aardvark, a social-media search engine for questions and answers, and unveiled Google Buzz, which allows Gmail users to post updates, videos, photos and links in the “Facebook” style.

“Although methods such as paid search, Web display ads and TV commercials still reach a larger audience, the “influence” tapped in social media “is a heck of a lot stronger than it is with traditional advertising,” said David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy for the digital marketing firm 360i.  He added that, “…social media’s just finding its feet and the business models are just starting to emerge. And they’re evolving quickly.”

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What’s ahead for 2010: Video Marketing

Are you using video to market your products or services? If not, you should seriously consider adding this tool to your marketing arsenal in 2010.

Twitter’s phenomenal growth may have been the big story of 2009, but the bigger story involves the continued surge in online video usage.

Online video viewing jumped 26 percent in the U.S. during October, compared to the same period a year ago, according to data from Nielsen.

The giants of the industry, YouTube and Hulu, continued to dominate in terms of individual views. But Facebook took the number two spot in terms of reach, with more than 31 million unique users compared with Hulu’s 13 million. However, Hulu streamed about 3 times as many videos during the month, at over 632 million.

As big as Hulu’s numbers seem, they are dwarfed in comparison to YouTube, which racked up a staggering 6.6 billion views by 106 million unique users. That’s three times the reach of Facebook.

So, how do you incorporate video into your business? One way is to add video to the e-newsletters you send out to your customers.  This can be tricky, since not all e-mail marketing solutions providers allow video.

Constant Contact, for instance, doesn’t allow you to embed videos in your e-mail, although they do allow you to include a graphic shot of the video with a hotlink to your actual video. (In the interests of full disclosure, in 2011, I became a Constant Contact partner, and generate revenue through an affiliate link.)

On the other hand, Benchmark Email does allow you to incorporate video in your e-mails, and will send them to a mirror page that allows the video to play even if the recipient’s e-mail service blocks the feature.

I recently received an email from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, touting their first-ever video newsletter.

The e-mail included a screen shot of the video, which linked to a landing page on their website, where the newsletter video lived. As a result, the e-mail not only attracted attention to the video, it helped increase overall traffic to their website. Pretty good strategy!

Another way to incorporate video into your marketing efforts is to post videos on social networking sites, such as Facebook. A new report from eMarketer.com suggests marketers worldwide will spend $605 million on Facebook versus $385 million on MySpace.

Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report, Social Network Ad Spending: 2010 Outlook, says “When companies budget for social media marketing in 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of their expenses will go toward creating and maintaining a fan page, managing promotions or public relations outreach within a social network, and measuring the impact of a social network presence on brand health and sales.”

What are your plans for video next year?  If anyone has any unusual ideas, I’d love to hear about it and share it with my readers.

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“Big Brother” May Be Friending You on Facebook

Be careful who you friend on Facebook.  It could be a federal agent looking for tax delinquents, copyright infringers or political protestors.

A recent New York Times editorial about the government monitoring Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites brought to mind the George Orwell book, “1984.”   Looks like Big Brother is watching more than ever!

There are more and more instances coming to light about law enforcement officers going undercover on sites like Facebook as part of their investigations.

It’s certainly raising privacy concerns about social networking. Earlier this month, a public interest group filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to learn more about the monitoring, and to try to start a national discussion about modifying privacy laws for the online era.

I absolutely think it’s an area that needs attention. Social networking isn’t just for 20-somethings anymore.  Businesses, large and small, are using these sites.  Everyone needs to remember that they can be held accountable for what they say online.

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Local Search Directories Go Social

Online business directories are cashing in on the popularity of social media tools to reach potential customers.

Superpages.com recently launched the @sp411 channel on Twitter. This feature allows users to receive business addresses and phone numbers via Tweets.  You can also obtain weather reports, movie listings, directions and WiFi hotspot locations.

All you have to do is start following @sp411, and then wait for Superpages to start following you. I tried it out yesterday and it took less than two minutes to follow, get followed, submit a request for, and receive, my local weather forecast.

You don’t have to worry about everyone on Twitter seeing the results of your request either. Movies and directions are only available through direct message requests. And People search results will be sent back via direct messages for privacy reasons.

Yellowpages.com is also preparing a new local social-search tool to reach the under-30 crowd. A user’s social connections and recommendations will apparently play a big role in determining the search results.

These moves make perfect sense since more and more local businesses have discovered that social media is a cheap marketing tool. MarketingVox recently reported on an October 2009 study by BIA/Kelsey that found 32% of small and mid-size businesses plan to include social media in their marketing strategies during the next year by using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

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Social Media Revolution

You may have seen this video already on YouTube, but I thought it contained some amazing statistics about social media that I wanted to share here too.  Read carefully!  I’m convinced that social media is here to stay, and businesses need to pay attention to leverage it for their success.