Column: Searching for business

Studies show that friends are influenced by their friends when making purchase decisions. Whenever I buy electronic gear, or need to find a great restaurant to eat at or want to see a good movie, I go through a 3-step decision-making process: First, I ask my friends for their recommendations. Second, I read reviews by other people. Finally, I consider the product sales pitch.

According to Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft, "Research tells us that 90 percent of people seek advice from family and friends as part of the decision making process. This ‘friend effect' is apparent in most of our decisions and often outweighs other facts because people feel more confident, smarter and safer with the wisdom of their trusted circle."

Search engines Google and Bing recognize this behavior and have recently incorporated social influence into their search algorithms. Search engine optimization (SEO) practices of old will no longer be the key component for businesses looking to get a high ranking on these search websites. Social influence and social media optimization (SMO) will become the authority for being found on the internet.

What exactly is social media optimization? SMO focuses on two main points:

1. Creating compelling and engaging content that influences social searches

2. Making sharing easy across a wide range of social networks

Businesses should use social media to connect with their target audiences. Publish relevant and meaningful content that people want and are looking for, and engage in conversations that satisfy the consumer’s need to feel valued.

If businesses use social media as a conversation channel rather than a billboard advertisement, they will begin to make friends.

These friends will tell their friends about the business’ products or services by using Twitter’s “Retweet” button, Facebook’s “Like” button, Foursquare’s “Tips,” or in user reviews on websites such as and

Is your business using social media? If the answer is yes, great. Make sure that you have social network buttons on your website and that they are prominently displayed. The easier you make it for people to share, the more likely they are to do it.

Businesses and organizations cannot afford to overlook the rising trend of social influence. Social media is growing up fast and consumers are flocking to it to learn, share and connect with their friends and families for advice. You can either ignore it and hope it goes away (which it will not), or you can participate in the conversation and start a loyal following. The choice is yours. I guarantee you that one day (hopefully soon) we will no longer see the Yellow Pages at our door step. Then, how will people find you?

Noland Hoshino is the co-founder of [B]cause Media, a Vancouver-based marketing firm that specializes in social media, and the co-author of the Social Media Optimization (SMO) Guide Books series. He can be reached at (360) 607-4462 or

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