Social Media and Search Engine Strategy

Baidu Name and logoCIO’s looking to lead on social media strategy need to stay abreast of changes in the social media and search engine landscape internationally. OK that might seem like an obvious conclusion but I think it is important to remind CIO’s who are about to prepare next year’s budget and work plan that the use of social networks and search engines is evolving. It is also important to remind CIO’s in the US to think globally in order to account for important country and regional differences in social networks and search engines.

Social Media Strategy

The importance of having a global perspective reflected in your social media strategy is based on the growing interest of colleges to attract more international students and support international student’s needs once they are enrolled. Similarly, goals for a more diverse faculty may also require internationalizing the social media strategy.

For alumni and advancement offices, it means improving the ability to develop and maintain relationships which are increasingly mobile and geographically dispersed. And, having a social media strategy that reflects a global awareness is also based on the importance of expanding the institutional influence internationally in the areas of research and global citizenship.

The rationale noted above for adopting a broader view when developing a social media strategy aligns with most institutional priorities and existing near term social media priorities. Farther out strategies related to the changing nature of course delivery and the growing role of social networks for academic and administrative support must also be accounted for with offensive and defensive strategies.

Social Networks

Top 5 Social Media Sites in Canada

Anyone having responsibility for the use of social media and social networks on campus should hang a sign at their desk to remind them the social world is more than Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Do You Ushi, hi5 or Bebo?). Just look at the rise of social networks like StumbleUpon which passed Facebook as the top social networking site in Canada earlier this year achieving 50% share while Facebook dropped to around 33%.

China Top 5 Social Media SitesThen just recently Facebook finally broke through in China passing StumbleUpon as the most popular social media site in a dramatic reversal. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before Facebook wins the battle with VKontakte to take over the top social networking spot in Russia.

We also heard this week that Tagged which ranks #7 among top social networking sites worldwide just acquired hi5 (#9). The combined company is expected to be a strong challenge to Facebook in many countries where social networking focuses more heavily on games than sharing. Already, established sites like MySpace have dropped out of the top 10 rankings in the UK as a result of refocused competitors.

Another important consideration is reputation and brand management in the various social networking sites. Depending on the official and unofficial social networking footprint you have, this can be a significant undertaking requiring additional tools for social media analysis as well as staff resources to run the tools and follow-up on issues.

Finally, the growing use of private social networking sites by colleges represents an additional layer of complexity for CIO’s in creating a social media strategy. Site governance can be very tricky due to the potential duplication of capabilities with other systems and the unintended uses that may not be desirable.

Strategies and governance of sponsored (re: official) private social networking sites is not all that CIO’s need to be aware of. Platforms like Ning offer anyone and everyone the opportunity to create a private label social network in the cloud. This is in part why securing your .XXX domains was so vital.

But it is platforms like the Student Life Network that represent the greatest potential for issues because they are directly targeting student organizations in their marketing with an offer of a college branded social network outside of college sponsorship or support. Given the capabilities of the Student Life Network platform and the pricing, I would expect many students to seize on this opportunity within or outside of the established student organizations.

Search Engines

Every organization should have a strategy for search engines. That strategy must reflect specific strategies for enterprise search and global search. The search engines strategy can be a unified strategy included in the social media strategy or it can exist as separate strategies in the marketing, recruitment, advancement, IT, and academic departments.

Because of the growing complexities in search engines, strategies for search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) might warrant a centralized team of multi-discipline specialists who can create and execute a unified strategy. You may find the best approach for you is to form a virtual team that follows a shared strategy and governance model.

As far as changes go, Google remains the dominant search engine globally but continues to make market gains on country specific search engines like Baidu in China.  Google also continues to make adjustments in its core search engine algorithm which require constant attention. Google is also converting more of the search engine results page (SERP) for paid search advertising leaving less real estate for organic search marketing results.

Because of the dominance of Google globally for search every search strategy must reflect Google’s model. But there remains country specific differences that may need to be accounted for in your international strategy. According to Philb.com (link) there are currently 4020 country specific and regional search engines. Accordingly, CIO’s might find resources like Global Stats to be very useful for tracking these trends so as to remain focused on the top players and avoid diluting their resources.

Final Thoughts

Since colleges along with their partners and affiliates benefit heavily in global search from the weight given to the .edu domain, not as much attention is given to other strategies for search engine optimization (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM) practices. Accordingly, it seems worthwhile to consider adopting a more comprehensive strategy for incrementally improving SEO in the event Google and other begin reducing the weight given to the .edu domain.

Another wildcard of sorts worth considering is that Google Chrome just passed Firefox as the #2 browser worldwide. The increasing share of Chrome in the browser market will certainly influence the importance of other Google products and therefore strategies for social networking and search engines. For institutions running or considering Google Apps for students or employees, you have an added dimension to consider.

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One Response to Social Media and Search Engine Strategy

  1. A good consultant is one who not only does the social media optimization but one who teaches the client how to fish.

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