(Originally appeared on First Advantage Bank blog)

As a business owner, you’ve probably read all of the headlines and articles telling you to participate in social media. But for many entrepreneurs who are focused on building their company or optimizing their products, social media seems like just another frilly add-on. In the early 2006-era, it was; Twitter had just hatched and Facebook was only starting to pick up steam. In 2006 both platforms were still in their infancy, and their impact on business was yet to be discovered.

Fast forward ten years and both Facebook and Twitter have moved from a personal connection platform to a solid marketing analytics platform, providing insights about customers and their behavior. And they’re both facing competition for audiences with Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and others. More significantly, in the past few years, Google has begun to recognize the significance of the communications that happen on social media, and is incorporating social media data into its search algorithms. So asking yourself ‘why’ should my business incorporate social media into our communications strategy in 2016 will net you a much different answer than it did ten years ago.

To understand this concept, we have to understand the Google factor. Google is the most popular search engine in the world. It didn’t get that way by being sloppy. Google is constantly refining its algorithms to make sure that when you type in a search, the results you get back are as close to what you mean as possible. But not all of us use the same words to mean the same things. For example, when I first moved to North Carolina, I had a very specific idea of what a toboggan was—it’s a long sled that you can fit several people on. However, in North Carolina, a toboggan is a hat. Surprise! If you don’t believe me, ask a North Carolina native.

So, how does Google know that when I search ‘toboggan,’ I’m looking for a sled and not a hat?  Or maybe I am looking for a hat—how does Google know?

That’s where content sharing and social media comes in. When Google started focusing on understanding meaning, social sharing of content became a very important factor. If I’m a hat designer, working for a hat manufacturer, I probably post things on social media about hats. And in this scenario, I also probably comment on other hat posts that I see. Therefore, by incorporating social media activities into its algorithm, Google may make an assumption based on my other activities that when I type in ‘toboggan,’ I mean ‘hat’.

By participating in social media, you and your activities are now part of a bigger conversation. If my hat company wants to gain more visibility on the web, then we need to be on social media engaging in hat-related conversation with hat experts. Or we want to be the hat experts ourselves.

Social media no longer exists in a vacuum. The answer to ‘why should my business participate in social media?’ is that it’s now all intertwined. Activities such as posting and sharing content on Facebook and Twitter can help drive Google’s decision making, and can help Google be sure that it’s serving the right answer to the user’s search. And from Google’s perspective, the way that it maintains a dominant market position is by continuing to deliver the best answer for the user’s query.

This is a complex concept to explain in 650 words. If you’re curious to learn more, we will be delivering a presentation about this intersection between Search and Social at the Pathway Women’s Business Center Tech Academy on March 29th. Please join us as we explain how all of this came about, and what your business can start doing tomorrow to make sure you’re in the mix.


Kelly Koeppel is the President of K2forma, a strategy-driven creative agency founded in 2007. Ms. Koeppel, an award-winning designer, has created digital marketing campaigns, brand identities, signage, publications and events for numerous world-class corporations and organizations, including Metro Nashville Arts Commision, Tennessee Craft, Caterpillar, Inc., Polo Ralph Lauren, Talbots, Rent-A-Center, Belk, The Chicago Board of Trade, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Lowe’s, and many more.