Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Search Insider: Search, 224; Social Media, 0

Search, 224; Social Media, 0

It's time for a short trip five years in the making. This is the 224th Search Insider I've written for MediaPost, and most likely my last. As of next week, I'll be switching over to the Social Media Insider.

My first Search Insider was published Friday, July 2, 2004, which was mercifully right before the holiday weekend so presumably no one read it. It was about Web design, a topic I'm not sure I've ever known anything about, but I had to start somewhere. Over the years, along with analyzing updates from the major search engines, parsing research, and covering events, I've tried to dig up lesser known examples of how consumers search to illustrate the evolution of the field.

The process required taking a broad view of search, and much of that focus turned to social media. It's only fitting that I visited MediaPost.com's search engine to review all of the Search Insider columns I've written to dig up just how much social media came up in my search coverage. Here's a snapshot:

· MySpace: 24 mentions, the first of which was a fleeting reference in a November 2005 column about Google Base. That was followed by six mentions in 2006, nine in 2007, eight in 2008, and none in 2009.

  • Facebook: 27 mentions, the first one in January 2007 describing photo search and tagging on the social network. There were a total of 11 in 2007, 13 in 2008, and three so far in 2009.

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  • Twitter: 17 mentions, starting in October 2007 with a dedicated column about listening to tweets. Following that one piece in 2007, there were 10 in 2008 and six already this year.

  • Social media (exact phrase): 28 mentions, starting in October 2006, nearly a year and a half after the first MySpace mention.

  • Social media optimization: four mentions between November 2006 and April 2008.

    So yes, social media has come up quite a bit, but it's all relative. I mentioned Microsoft or MSN in 67 columns (30% of the first 223), Yahoo in 118 (53%), and Google in 188 (84%). If I was biased in my coverage, at least it was proportionate with market share.

    In wrapping this, I feel that hubristic need to share some words of wisdom with future Search Insider columnists, words that perhaps other writers will also appreciate. If you're in this group, you may wonder how to get a lot of responses to a column. The easiest way is to be a jerk and say things so devoid of substance that you can guarantee dozens of people will comment on what an idiot you are. Even more people will probably say they agree with you, which will undoubtedly feel validating.

    While I may not have avoided idiocy, I've yet to try to be a jerk here. Instead, I'll share the three columns that triggered the biggest reader reaction, based on anecdotal experience that includes the volume of email responses:

  • "Why Skittles Killed Its Web Site," about the March 2009 branding bombshell (or overhyped redesign, take your pick;

  • "Braving the New World of Lower Merion," a February 2005 story of visiting a Pennsylvania high school;

  • and "Google Vs. Grandmom," the September 2005 epic saga of my grandmother trying to master the Internet (she has since stopped trying, but she still has an answer for everything, whether or not you have a question).

    None of those are about search engine marketing or search engine optimization. Two of them are personal anecdotes, and the other was admittedly a bit of a stretch for Search Insider coverage. Meanwhile, some of the columns that I wrote that I thought were so smart they'd lead to Wall Street Journal stories, book deals, and a motion picture starring Hayden Christensen as me and Kal Penn as Sergey Brin -- well, hardly anyone ever responded to those. I'm still proud of those columns, but the silence can be humbling.

    I've made a few mistakes in the process and had a few off weeks, but I've lasted through 224 columns in this series by following one simple rule: respect readers' time and intelligence. I'm grateful for everyone who has perused each edition; I read quite a bit too and appreciate being a part of your reading list.

    If the subject interests you at all, I hope you'll look for my contributions to the Social Media Insider starting next Tuesday where I'll join the inimitable Cathy Taylor. What would have seemed like a long journey in 2004 now feels like a logical progression. And after covering Google in 188 columns, expect a regular examination of where search and social media intersect. I'll have plenty to cover there, which should keep me busy until Kal Penn returns to acting -- and returns my calls.

    David Berkowitz is director of emerging media and client strategy at 360i. You can reach him at dberkowitz@360i.com, on Twitter at @dberkowitz, and through his blog at MarketersStudio.com.

  • Search Insider for Tuesday, April 21, 2009:

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