Social Media is the collection of websites and tools that help us interact with others online.  The best known social media portals include Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Digg, and Stumble Upon.  Social media has already changed the way we interact with our friends and is quickly changing the way we do business too.

Until recently, I recommended a strong social media strategy for certain types of businesses and not for others.  For instance, I was just speaking to someone who was putting out a Jewish cookbook.  I told her that this was a perfect product for a strong Facebook strategy.  The target audience was by and large Jewish women.  Jewish women tend to be friends with and related to other Jewish women.  So if one Jewish woman bought the Cookbook and liked it, you would want to engage her in such a way that would encourage her to mention it to her friends, who were also part of the target audience.

On the other hand, there are also plenty of Jewish women who each year buy spark plugs.  But if you’re in the spark plug business, you wouldn’t assume that a woman buying spark plugs is going to be friends with other women in the market for spark plugs.  It’s just not how our circle of friends tend to come together.  So it used to be that I’d advise the guy with the retail spark plug website not to worry too much about a social media strategy.

Oh how the world has changed.  Social media is quickly becoming a key part of the internet strategy of all web ventures, even for our spark plug retailer.  Even if you expect all of your sales to come in from search engines like Google and Bing, you’ll want to develop a social media presence.  Why?

Well for one, both Google and Bing have now admitted that they factor social media links into their algorithms.  Even if no sales ever come from social media, your social presence can drive you up the Google and Bing rankings, resulting in more traffic and sales.

Second, expect to see more social media factors taken into account on the search engine pages.  The search engines are trying to become better at personalizing search results.  One of the ways that they’re experimenting with doing this is using your “friends” as an indication of what you might like.  So if your “friends” like a certain website, that site can be pushed up the results page and you can see which of your friends recommend it.

Third, any speculation that Bing is going to challenge Google for internet search dominance has turned into naught.  Google has no fear of Bing catching them.  Google is so much more innovative a company than Microsoft, it’s hard to imagine them losing this battle.  But there’s another challenger that Google does fear, a challenger that has not yet put out its own search engine but that already gets more searches per day than Google.  Facebook.

Facebook is showing signs of launching the next great search engine.  They’ve released a whole host of website tools that are perfectly positioned to give them the metrics they’ll need to rank websites based upon social factors.  There are steps a website can already take to position themselves well for the new engine if and when it comes out.  So an intelligent Facebook strategy not only can position you for success today, but can give you a leg up on tomorrow’s search strategy.