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September 16, 2008

Social Networks More Popular Than Dating, Porn

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If that headline doesn’t say horrible things about the state of social interaction in the world today, I don’t know what does.

Seriously though, an interesting story from Reuters today that says social networks have passed porn in popularity among users. We’re all too busy twittering, sphinning and Facebooking that there’s no time to head out in search of um, some “adult entertainment”. Or maybe users are just confused and think twittering and sphinning are all sexually related activities? (Actually, pretend I didn’t just say that. I’d rather not go there.) Adding to that is Jupiter Research’s projection that social networking will overtake online dating revenue in 2009.

According to Bill Tancer, the number of users searching for porn has dropped from 20 percent of searches to 10 percent over the past decade. The searches that are leading the pack today are for social networking sites.

There could be lots of reasons for this. Perhaps social networking sites get more searches because they’re done at work where searching for porn isn’t encouraged. Or maybe searches for porn are just happening on social networking sites (Hi, MySpace!). Logical reasons aside, I’m going to use this as a testament to the fact that social networking is a huge resource for businesses looking to connect with or get to know their audience better. If your customers are spending an increasing amount of time looking for you, you should too.

Personally, I don’t really care how many people will admit to searching for porn online. We all know that if you asked the entire Internet if they’ve ever performed an adult search, you’ll see that no one does. Nor have they ever. They didn’t even know porn existed on the Internet! How odd. What is interesting to me are all the trends that Bill has been able to spot by looking at social media and how users are interacting with it. Trends that if you were a company paying attention to social media, you’d be able to spot for your audience, as well.

In the article, Bill notes that incredibly odd piece of trivia that elbows, belly buttons and ceiling fans are just as scary to people as rejection and social intimacy. He notes how searchers’ moods change with certain times of the year, saying that there are definite patterns for Internet searches that repeat specifically and predictably. If you’re a search marketer selling cream for scaly elbows, dusters for ceiling fans or swimsuits, that’s incredibly important information. Even more important than porn.

I mean, who knew that people were afraid of elbows? I didn’t, but if that’s true, than maybe you have to be careful the way you market to these freaks folks. Or maybe knowing this is awesome because now you can use fear tactics to send hordes of elbow-fearing people to the stores to pick up your product! Or maybe it’s time you start marketing that elbow Halloween costume to really get sales going this year. I’m just saying, once you’re, er, armed with this information, it puts you in a better position to address your customers specifically.

As much as search marketers are fascinated with social networks, the general Internet is just as fascinated. They’re creating profiles that reflect what they’re interested in, what they’re afraid of, what they want, what they don’t want, what books they’re reading, etc. They’re giving you an insight into who they are and what they value. And if you’re not looking at that, you’re a damn fool. Your consumers are generating a story for you to take in and learn from. Tune in.

In case you missed it, yesterday’s edition of the SEO Newsletter had a Feature article from yours truly about the 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media, talking about all the ways companies fudge up their social media efforts. You may want to give it a look.

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