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Within the past few months, social search has been getting integrated into the top search engines. More and more news and information is being disseminated via the social media networks, particularly Twitter and Facebook. Several major news stories have broken via Twitter even before appearing on the established news sites.

When something big happens, people are tweeting it or sharing it via status updates on Facebook like never before. The search engines are adapting to this fact as quickly as they can, recognizing the fast-paced relevance of the information flowing through the social networks.

You can take advantage of this trend as well, if you take the proper steps to optimize your brand for social search, allowing you to get ahead of your competition and bring in customers quicker than ever. Here are some tips to help you with this.

Integrate Social Media with Your Content

You need to start thinking of those "Share" and "Like" buttons as a crucial tool. If your users are sharing your content through the social networks, you are going to get indexed that much quicker; the links you gain from people's pages on Facebook or Twitter can be like gold! Make it as easy as possible for your users to do this and reap the benefits.

Promote Via Social Media Activities

Above and beyond the obvious steps of adding "Share" and "Tweet" buttons to your content, you should be sharing links to that content on your own social media profiles. Never miss an opportunity to provide links or references to your content when commenting in forums or on message boards and blog posts. These outlets have their own integration with the social networks -- sometimes they're called "other readers."

Work on Relationships with Contacts

Be real with your social media profiles. You are building brand when you do this; and the more you genuinely engage with customers/fans through those social media platforms, the better your relationships will be. Those relationships can snowball as people you've engaged refer still more contacts to you. The more people enjoy their engagements with you, the more likely they will pay attention to the things you share.

Those top-quality relationships will translate into far greater reach for your information; this in turn will make your social search optimization far simpler, because others will be working to share your information for you. People love to feel like they've got "insider information" and will be eager to share it with others -- this sense of community can be a crucial element in building your brand.

Guard Your Online Reputation

Social search can hurt you as much as it helps you if you aren't careful; any damage to your online reputation can be multiplied if you have large reach in the social media realm. Potential customers can hear about your screwups as quickly as they do about the good stuff -- probably more so. Information moves at lightning speed in social media, so keep it in mind and be careful with every tweet, status update, or share you do.

Develop Interaction Strategies

Take advantage of every opportunity to encourage your customers to share your content. Offer rewards like giveaways of products and/or services to encourage them to engage with you and share or like or tweet. Since you can track information about "likes" and "follows", they can be used as "entries" in contests to run on your site. Use your imagination and there's almost no end to the possibilities; your contests can multiply your followers and fans, and that winner will be talking about you for a long time to come.

Remember that there is no form of advertising more powerful than word-of-mouth!


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