Socializing Search: How Search Marketers Can Evolve into Consumer Conversationalists


“Markets are conversations. Trade routes pave the story lines.” The Cluetrain Manifesto

The Rise of “Consumer Conversation”

In 2006, the phenomenon of “consumer conversation” became an inescapable reality and focus for marketers. Ad Age ranked the term number nine on its list of “10 words or phrases that are so 2006.” Esteemed marketer and author Joseph Jaffe has announced that his upcoming book will be titled Join the Conversation. The ubiquity of this phrase signifies that marketers are beginning to accept the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly empowered and influential. Acceptance of this fact does not, however, equate to an ability to react to it. Many marketers are left befuddled when strategizing in this new environment.

It is not enough to acknowledge change. We are living in sink-or-swim times where learning to swim requires a deep understanding of what has changed, as well as a tactical plan for succeeding in the new environment.

Many marketers are devising strategies (for better of worse) that leverage the social nature of the Internet. Much to my surprise, it appears that many paid search engine marketers are not as quick to embrace “the conversation” as fellow marketers operating in other interactive channels. The abundance of irrelevant and untimely paid search results makes it apparent that many search marketers rely heavily on automated tools to control much of their search processes. While many of the automated tools on the market provide the search marketer with tremendous value, it is apparent (when analyzing a paid search results page) that these tools leave some marketers in a complacent state.

The result is that marketers are missing many opportunities and leaving money on the table. This complacent nature can be dangerous. Search is a conversation, and conversations require two parties; a keyword (the query) and either paid or natural results (the answer). If a marketer does not learn to actively listen to consumer questions in real-time, she will inevitably be left out of many conversations.

“We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?” from the 95 these of The Cluetrain Manifesto

Feeding Your Search Strategy

Search Strategist Emily Las constantly refers to the speed of search. “We are not servicing our clients properly if we are not working at the speed of search,” she says. Having worked closely with Ms. Las, I have acquired a precise understanding of the implications of her statement. First, her statement refers to the rapid way in which search engines gather information. Second, her statement refers to the rapidly changing nature of online buzz and the necessity for search marketers to not simply listen to the buzz but to be nimble enough to quickly respond to it. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which company X, a retailer selling portable music devices, has just launched a search campaign.


  1. I wanted to bring attention to what is happening with Web 2.0 applications that have the end user customizing their social profile pages as start pages and adding the custom content that is of interest to them and affinity groups of like minded spheres of friends. Companies like are developing widgets for users to customize Myspace social network profiles and blogs as well as encouraging the users to bring the widget to their desktop. This is becoming a very important part of the Web 2.0 growth and becoming known as the “Widget Economy”. Just like the search methods mentioned in your last article, widgets will be the brand connection vehicle in which marketers will be able to pipe-in content and messaging to users and their spheres of influence while at the same time creating adoption patterns through the networks of social sites. As applications are developed to pull profile data across open and walled garden social networks, we will see the emergence of mega-networks that may cross from MySpace to FaceBook to HI5 and into Digg and De.lic.ous profiles within one widget application. Keeping up with paid search is just the tip of the iceberg as widgets with built in ad servicing and e-commerce capabilities start to roll out in the next several months. Now is the time to start building a Widget Strategy as Web 2.0 Widgets are creating the consumer connection we are so desperately looking for.


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