Remember the Marshall McLuhan phrase, “The medium is the message”? Well, in the era of social web and social media, that might undergo a slight modification. It might be more appropriate to say instead, “The audience is the message” – that is, if we’re to describe the findings published in a recent data study by 360i.

According to “The State of Search”, the whitepaper released this November by the company, most of the social media search listings that appear for brand-related queries are actually created by individuals not affiliated with the brand. This includes customers. Fans. Advocates. Maybe a few haters, too. They – and not the brand marketers – control or publish a staggering 77% of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook listings that appear for brand searches.

What this means is that when someone searches for “Insert Brand Name Here” on social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, then chances are that the results that come up were published not by the company or business that owns the brand, but by their audience – fans, customers, and critics alike.

We don’t think this “audience is the message” view is necessarily a bad thing. Or a good thing. But if you are managing a brand, you better manage your social media destinations, too. The natural search landscape is changing. The era of social web is about conversation, and these findings from the study only mean that it’s about time you also start talking and listening.

To enhance your search presence in engines and social media sites, you’ve got to be more proactive on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Facilitate two-way conversations. Listen to customers. Respond to queries. Re-tweet issues that are related to your industry or important to your brand. Let your audience know not just your opinion, but also your brand personality. These are only some of the steps that you can take to leverage the changing search landscape and maximize social media opportunities for your brand.

Need help? Lakeshore Branding’s Internet marketing and social media consultants can guide you along the way. We’ll have for you handy strategies that should improve the quantity and quality of content that will show up in social media searches for your brand.

Yes, the audience may now be the message; only, you have to make sure it’s a good one.