Will social search sites such as Wikipedia, StumbleUpon, and Digg eventually become a viable alternative to Search Engines, to help drive traffic to your website? The fact of the matter is that nothing will ever replace or compete with the value behind search engine marketing. If you dedicate the time, the resources, and you have the know-how, obtaining quality Search Engine listings can be invaluable. Nothing is better for a website operator than a “free” ad that generates traffic on an ongoing basis. If you are lucky enough to get a top listing for your product or service you can potentially generate more revenue or leads than a competitor with a much larger advertising budget but who doesn’t have those same results. The online landscape is constantly changing and the growth of Web 2.0 as a viable marketing platform is changing the way we look at online marketing. Web 2.0 is described as a trend in World Wide Web technology and web design. The most important element of this is a second generation of web-based communities and hosted services such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies, which aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing among their users. We have reached an era where platinum selling music artists will direct fans to their MySpace page, rather than their own website. These sites help to create a social connection between the users, and are increasingly becoming an important method to get the word out about your company, product, or service.There are such a broad range of sites in this field that you may be at a loss over where to start. Well, the bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter. Each one of these social media sites has its own unique advantages and methods that a website owner can use to promote their business. Some of the attributes that these websites all have in common include the ability to reach a targeted audience, reach customers in a specific geographic region, to get your message out their quickly, and most importantly… to do all of this for FREE.One of the sites responsible for the growth in social media marketing is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is one of the top ten most popular sites on the Internet today, in terms of unique visitors. Wikipedia describes itself as “a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project.” What makes Wikipedia a social media website is the fact that it is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. Wikipedia says “people of all ages and cultural and social backgrounds can write Wikipedia articles.” With rare exceptions, articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet. The idea here is simple, to contribute to, or write an article on a topic related to your particular business.Before beginning to contribute to Wikipedia you must determine what your ultimate goal is; are you determined to increase traffic to your site, build brand awareness or increase the number of inbound links to your website. If the primary goal of your contribution is to increase traffic than the quantity and more important the quality of your contributions should be your focus. You need to make certain that once your submissions are read, the reader will find it interesting or informative enough to either follow the citation back to your site through a number of different methods, or to possibly incite a discussion of the article in the discussion tab of the Wikipedia article. Once you engage the reader you have converted them into a potential customer. Another important feature to use in Wikipedia is the creation of your profile. When you make a contribution to an article you have the option to “sign your name”. This allows interested users to follow your signature to a profile of you, where it is possible to than direct the visitor to your website. If the goal of your social media campaign is to merely increase the number of inbound links than the most important consideration when contributing to Wikipedia is on relevancy. You need to be certain your contributions are relevant in order to ensure their staying power, so that other users do not edit your submissions.One of the most important and useful feature on Wikipedia for those of us looking to use it as a marketing method is the “External Links” section. This section appears at the bottom of every article. It is, as you might expect, a list of external links related to the content in the article. It goes without saying that you will have very little success if you simply add a link to your commercial website on every page that you can find. They will be deleted almost as soon as they are posted. However, if you have, or can make, pages on your website that are dedicated to providing very useful information to a specific subject, you will be successful. Many business owners are experts in their particular fields and there is no reason not to take advantage of the “Expert” title when writing your articles. These pages should be related to the products or services that you offer. They should not be blatant advertisements for your site or contain sales related material. They can, and should, however, offer a very easy navigation system that would allow the user to access the rest of your website and thereby convert them into a potential customer.At the bottom of every article on Wikipedia is a reference list. The purpose of this list is to give proper credit to the source of information contained in the article. If you have added information to an article that is either quoted directly from your website, or extrapolated from information on your website, than you can reference the URL of your site in the reference section of Wikipedia. The most important aspect to consider when contributing to Wikipedia is to focus on the right topic. You do not want to pick a topic that is too broad, or you will be competing against a large group of contributors, and more importantly your article will probably be edited frequently from your original text and you might lose your references. You also will not want to pick a topic that is too specific, you may have a great addition to an article on “antique mahogany rocking chairs from the mid to late ottoman empire” but nobody will read this, because nobody will be searching for it, and it will most likely be edited out of the article. The solution is to pick a topic somewhere in the middle. An article addition about “Chair Armrests” would probably draw allot more interest than the previous idea without the fear of being pushed out. You have to keep in mind that just because we are adding a contribution to an article does not mean that it will be read or even kept in the article.A great tool to ultimately get a potential customer from the external links section of Wikipedia to your website is the use of e-zine articles. If you write an article on a subject related to your business, and you link it to Wikipedia directly through your website there is a possibility that it will be deleted by other users. Many users on Wikipedia are very much against the commercialization of information, and will view your link as an attempt to profit, not as an added resource of information. This is unfortunate, because often times an article written by a business owner can act as both. The solution to this problem is to submit your articles to free e-zine article websites such as EzineArticles.com or earticlesonline.com. When you submit your article to these sites you are given the opportunity to list some external resources, this is a good place to link you’re website. These sites will generally accept any article that is written following their guidelines, which basically tries to limit inappropriate material, copyrighted material and advertisements that are crudely modified to look like informative articles. When your article is posted on one of these websites it will give the author another layer of credibility. It is a good idea to link your articles from one of these websites in order to help maintain its existence on Wikipedia.By nature, social media websites are constantly changing and these are just a handful of the methods that you can use to promote your website on Wikipedia. There is new information and new methods of marketing available almost on a daily basis. The key to being able to stay on top of these changes is to get involved with these websites as soon as possible, even if that means just becoming a member yourself. Once you are a member you have the ability to learn how they function and to see what other businesses are doing to advertise themselves with these websites. Social media websites offer unique opportunities, when you become a member of a community it often lends you a certain amount of trust and credibility that will help to separate you from the competitor who is selling their product out of a box in the corner of a monster search engine.