Joe Meloni

The first half of 2012 has been a busy one for social media marketers and the platforms themselves. Between new features, massive user growth and even new networks fighting for a piece of the pie, both consumers and marketers have more options than ever in terms of finding the right social mix.

According to a study from the Association of National Advertisers, social media marketing is now the norm among American businesses. Ninety percent of companies said they are using social media as part of a broader web marketing strategy, with most organizations active on multiple platforms.

Brafton highlighted the ANA study, reporting that 96 percent of those using social maintain a Facebook presence, while 89 percent are active on Twitter. LinkedIn (49 percent) and Pinterest (33 percent) rounded out the top four, and 14 percent said they use other networks as part of their social content strategy.

As part of the study, many marketers also said they have moved into the next layer of social adoption and strategy, actively looking for more robust metrics for their campaigns. Generating traffic from these sites by sharing links to website content is a good indicator of success, but many are looking at time on site and conversions driven by social to truly gauge its value.

Given Facebook’s appeal to so many businesses, it’s clear that they expect frequent engagement and quantifiable results from their presence on the site. A report from comScore, relayed by Marketing Land, showed that prospects are certainly active enough for businesses to see strong performance. The average user spent more than 400 minutes on Facebook in June, according to the research firm. This represents a strong surge in terms of Facebook use, as comScore reported the first few months of 2012 resulted in minor dips.

Brafton reported that many marketers are at a crossroads with their Facebook campaigns. While the site is clearly the industry leader, the growth of Twitter, Pinterest and other networks has forced many to spend less time on the network.

June’s lift in consumer Facebook use may cover up some minor issues with the site, however, as the 2012 American Consumer Satisfaction Index found, the network resulted in the lowest satisfaction rating of any included in the survey. Facebook received 60 out of 100 points in the poll, finishing far behind its competitors. Google+ scored the highest of any network with 78 out of 100 points.

Brafton reported on Wednesday that Google+’s success is especially interesting given its struggle to take off since it was launched more than one year ago. Moreover, Twitter and LinkedIn scored ratings of 64 and 63, respectively. Despite boasting larger user bases than Google+, it’s clear that many users on both platforms are unhappy with their experience.

One network not included in the poll was ROCKZi, a new social news platform from underdog search company Blekko. In recent months, Blekko has been one of the more interesting emerging search engines, and the launch of ROCKZi represents another intriguing move.

On Tuesday, Brafton detailed some of features of ROCKZi. Like Blekko, the platform is entirely user curated, with news boards moving content up and down the page based on user interest. The boards are currently limited to popular news topics, but the company said it plans to rollout more as its matures. Additionally, it said users will soon be able to create customizable boards. While no marketing element was announced, ROCKZi represents a strong opportunity for businesses to share their content and drive traffic. Moreover, the movement of their content up and down boards can give marketers some insights on which content is generating the most buzz.

Given the reliance of content marketing on social media, marketers should be sure to use their presence on Facebook, Twitter and other networks to see which content they need focus on delivering.

Social and SEO have also become increasingly intertwined and all those happy Google+ users got even more utility from Google this week, with the launch of a Share button on Google SERPs. Product manager Sean Liu detailed the feature on his own Google+ account, saying users can now click the Share button to deliver content they enjoyed from a SERP directly to their Google+ page.

Making it easier for users to post content to Google+ will likely help the company drive activity on the site. Brafton reported on Thursday that those who click the Share button will also see a prompt allowing them to post comments along with the links they share.

Social’s use continues to grow, which makes it even more important for marketers to make it a valued element of their strategies. A report from American Express suggests that companies using social sparingly or neglecting their campaigns could see consumer frustration grow frequently. Highlighting the study, Brafton said that 46 percent of consumers access businesses‘ social media marketing campaigns to complain or otherwise express their frustration, which means marketers must be ready to respond to this feedback on the networks.

While the uses of social continue to diversify, search is following suit. Unlike the results of ACSI’s poll for social networks, search engines appear to be doing much better. ACSI found that most Americans are largely satisfied by the results they receive from search. Google scored the highest in the survey, with an 82 out of 100. However, Bing, and Yahoo rated strongly, as well, with an 82, 80 and 78, respectively.

Frequent changes to search algorithms targeted at improving user experience seem to be achieving their goal. Furthermore, SEO strategies should be centered on developing high-quality website content that will succeed no matter what Google, Bing and others have up their sleeves for the next round of updates. An IPA Bellwether poll of marketers found that many may be looking to do just this, with SEO making up an increasingly large portion of budgets. Brafton reported that organic search marketing accounts for 7.4 percent of investment, up more than two percentage points from their previous study.

Brafton has often urged marketers to include trending topics in their websites and news content marketing efforts are a strong way to give campaigns a timely boost. While it’s critical that content writers find the strand to tie the their industries and the events together, doing so successfully can be a major win for web traffic. With the summer Olympics set to begin in London in seven days, next week may be a good time for marketers to try their hands at weaving trending topics into their web content.