Takeaways and Q&A from 3/4/10 “Social is the Next Search” Webinar

We hosted a webinar last Thursday focused on the idea that websites can now apply the latest open social technologies – like Facebook Connect, Sign in with Twitter, those provided by Yahoo, LinkedIn and more – to their own sites to drive as much traffic as they get from SEO or SEM. David A. Yovanno, Gigya’s CEO was joined by respected industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group and Social marketing guru Seth Greenberg of Intuit’s consumer Group.

Jeremiah started things off with the concept of companies “rebalancing” their social strategies.  Most companies have learned to meet their customers on social networks, creating Facebook fan pages and Twitter pages, or integrating basic sharing,  but only a few have made their own sites social in a way that truly takes advantage of the opportunity. Making the corporate site experience seamlessly connect to users’ social networks is the way things are moving.  According to Jeremiah “In the future, consumers will be challenged to differentiate between corporate sites and social networks” because “destinations won’t matter, social context will”.

Dave showed examples of how many prominent publishers and retailers are buying traffic only to send it away to a social network. He described how the next generation of social technologies – Facebook Connect et al – differs from their predecessors, and demonstrated how companies like A&E, ESPN and others are applying those technologies to their own sites to enable site visitors to help drive friends to those sites.  Each of the examples mapped to Gigya’s five best practices for applying “next generation” sharing to your site:

  1. Keep users on your site
  2. Build sharing into activity flow
  3. Use single system for registration and sharing
  4. Offer simultaneous sharing options
  5. Track sharing results

Seth discussed how he and TurboTax have applied social technologies in innovative ways to enable what he calls “Friendcasting” – enabling customers to broadcast their comments to their 150 friends  (that’s the average number of friends/followers that Facebook and Twitter users have these days).  It’s a real accomplishment that Intuit has effectively integrated social technologies into the products themselves, let alone their corporate sites, and a testament to the talent of the TurboTax team that they were able to make it happen in a conservative company.

We had a highly engaged audience who asked great questions. Some of the highlights include:

Q: Seth: What were some of the organization or technical challenges you faced trying to get social into your own site?

A: In an org this big, many people still don’t get how impactful social can be – it’s not the old packaged good mentality now.  Technically – it’s more that there are many agencies and folks involved, so “Keep it simple stupid” is best. Many folks want to be flashy instead of as clear and simple as it should be.

Q: Dave: Considering the rapid growth of Facebook how do you see things playing out with the big portals?

A: Facebook is a real innovator, and in general there is a real movement towards openness. I consider the large user base of Yahoo and Microsoft a real asset – and as they incorporate social technologies they will bring competition that is good for consumers at the end of the day.

Q: Can you talk more about the conversion funnel and how you apply Facebook Connect?

A: Jeremiah: It increases conversion on your own site because users can register in a couple of clicks.  Even if you don’t capture a full conversion upfront, it doesn’t matter because you are getting permission to have a relationship. Marketers need to rethink permission marketing in light of these technologies

Q:  What data does a website have access to?

A: Dave: it varies by platform, but Facebook now provides email address if the user approves sharing it. Both demographic and psychographic data is often available. We expect more to be offered as Google, Microsoft join with their own social services for 3rd party websites.

If you missed the webinar you can watch the recorded version with detail on the power of social feeds for websites, how applying social applies to B2B vs B2C, how Intuit combines social and email initiatives, incorporating tweets on a website and much more, here.

By Kevin White