The increasing integration of social media content in search engine results has "expanded what's relevant" and created a new area for brands to use optimisation to boost their online profile, according to one expert.

James Cormier of Search Engine Watch said there are essentially two sides to harnessing networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for online marketing services.

The first is understanding users' search habits by, for example, harvesting Twitter trends or analysing Google Social Search, which includes blog posts, images and status updates from friends and contacts.

This allows brands to go beyond keywords and obtain meaningful results based on people's interactions on the web, he said.

On the other side of the coin are social objects such as Facebook entries, blogs, comments, images and YouTube videos.

These are the elements that "drive conversations" among users and are essentially the "new long hanging fruit of search optimisation".

Marketers should therefore be applying the same tactics they employ to raise the profile of a traditional webpage – such as including keywords in tags and titles – to make the most effective use of their social objects.

Nicola Clark of Marketing magazine recently said social networks like Facebook and Twitter hand a "massive advantage" to smaller firms, as they can create a sense of "genuine community" with these sites that large multinationals cannot replicate.

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