Is UK Business Shy When It Comes To Social Media?

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As you gaze out at the land of search marketing in the UK, many a buzz phrase can be heard flittering around, but the biggest at the moment has to be “social media marketing.” Every company is aware of it, hears about it, and would very much like to be a part of it – but most are not quite sure what it actually means.

Social media jargon is already becoming commonplace. Soon every UK man, woman, and child should know of blogs, the modern trivialization of the word “friends,” and the ubiquitous MyFace.

To a lot of online business, Social Media Marketing (SMM) is seen as the Abraxas – the magical essence from antiquity – that shall provide boundless traffic, backlinks, and marketing success for their website, if only they can unlock its potential. The question is: how can they get in on the fun?

The benefits are clear. Most of the top UK commercial websites include some social network features. Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo all lie in the top 10 Hitwise-ranked websites for the UK. The top-ranking commercial site, ebay.co.uk, recently expanded its user profiles to include more social network features. Amazon was well ahead of the game, using personalization features long before they appeared on profile pages. The dominance of Moneysupermarket in Google finance results is largely drawn from its aggressive SEO campaign and vast content provided by a busy and active forum. Truly, social network features are a fact of life for UK commercial sites.

Having a social media presence can result in a level of credibility – through peer-to-peer reviews – that eludes all other forms of media. Sites that realize the best way to be successful is to have good, interesting content on your webpage will soon reap the rewards in the social media world.

Additional benefits of social media also include branding and reputation management. If you’re a big player online in the UK marketplace, even if you ignore social media, it is apparent it won’t ignore you – bloggers will still write about your company and mash-up remixes of your TV ads could appear on YouTube. If your company doesn’t have an official social media presence, then you could be missing out on utilizing the buzz from your offline campaigns to drive traffic to your site.

Despite the lack of social media uptake for commercial use, in general, UK web users seem to be embracing the phenomenon whole-heartedly. There is a large UK presence evident on the big social news sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon.

UK news websites do well on Digg and its clones, with many sites getting exposure. Social bookmark widgets appeared on the BBC News webpage in 2007 which has benefited from a good international reputation. Quality content from other newspaper web pages such as GuardianOnline, Independent and TimesOnline are often submitted.

While US companies are harnessing the power of social media, as are average UK web users, large home-grown brands like Orange (the first UK-based company in the Hitwise UK Top 20) have few social network features. This pattern is mirrored in many UK-based companies. The rewards are well-known, so why are UK companies still struggling with how to infiltrate their brands with social media trends?

The answer may lie in the perceived lack of quantifiable results. Just as with SEO in the 1990s, social media is something that people want to be involved in, but their lack of understanding fills them with fear. In reality, tracking brand awareness through social media patterns and analyzing customer habits and opinions is often far simpler – and the results more useful – than that offered in other areas of media such as print. It also provides an opportunity for customers to engage in dialogue with the brand, which could be argued creates a stronger sense of customer loyalty.

At the moment, it is an exciting time for UK search marketing, with new and innovative ways to get a website recognized throughout the Web. Now more than ever before, you are able to target users by their own interests and habits. In return, users receive less unwanted content and advertisements, which is beneficial to web users and businesses alike.

It is high time that UK businesses catch up with their US counterparts and offer quality content and interaction to the UK web citizens who have embraced social media before the corporations thought to take advantage of the situation. More are certain to follow.

About the Author

Mark Edmondson is a Linking Strategist at UK Search Engine Marketing agency Neutralize (*\*). The agency specializes in enterprise search engine optimization, advanced pay-per-click management, and link building strategy.

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