Social media marketing received most of the attention this week as Google announced changes to Google+ and conversion attribution, while Facebook stole headlines with a shocking acquisition.

Social media marketing and the ability for businesses to gauge its contributions to sales were among the most frequently discussed topics in internet marketing this week. Industry analysis along with new announcements from Google relating to Google+ and Analytics will likely change the ways consumers and web marketers approach social. 

In terms of industry trends, Social Media Examiner recently released its Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2012, which detailed a number of trends and practices that have become the norm for businesses using the channel.

According to Social Media Examiner, 83 percent of companies using social media marketing said it was important to their company.

As companies work to develop their presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks, they find that it has myriad benefits for their organization. Aside from the increased appeal to prospects and greater website traffic, it can be an easy way to improve the visibility of a business.

Successful social media campaigns complement other web efforts, such as content marketing, by providing links to website content. As fans or followers move further through a company’s conversion funnel, they are more likely to make a purchase. Another revelation from Social Media Examiner’s report was that 40 percent of businesses found their efforts in social have led to increased sales for their company. 

Brafton reported that, aside from sales, companies have seen wide-reaching effects from social media marketing. Website traffic grew for 69 percent of respondents, while 65 percent found they have learned more about their target audience with social media marketing.

As businesses find new benefits from their social campaigns, many are diversifying their efforts to target a wide range of prospects. Brafton relayed Social Media Examiner found that more than 90 percent of companies active on social are using Facebook.

Twitter and LinkedIn finished second and third in the poll, respectively. While Google+ was not as successful, the platform was the choice of many when asked which social network they hoped to learn more about in 2012.

Social Media Examiner’s report came out shortly before Google announced a series of adjustments to Google+ aimed at making the platform more visual and intuitive for those looking to interact on it.

Brafton reported on Wednesday that the main adjustments were a customizable navigation ribbon on the left, which will allow users to move between different pages more easily. All of the site’s features, such as Hangouts, Circles and Pages, are accessible on the toolbar, and users can arrange the icons for each tool as they like.

Moving away from utility, the changes made images posted to the web larger and more attractive. Interacting with contacts on Google+ is also easier with larger conversation cards.

As Google looks to improve its social platform with improvements, Facebook made some of the biggest news of the week by looking outside of its company. On Monday, Facebook acquired photo-sharing service Instagram for $1 billion. The move, which surprised most, was announced on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s blog on Monday.

Zuckerberg said that Instagram will still operate as an independent mobile application for users to share photos across social networks. At this point, Brafton reported that the integration between Facebook and Instagram is unclear. While Instagram employees will become members of the Facebook team, Zuckerberg doesn’t anticipate altering the company or its products much, he said. It’s likely that most of the changes will be aimed at making Facebook’s photo-sharing capability better.

As social networks continue to become more user-friendly, it’s likely that more businesses will look to implement them into their new media marketing plans. Google made another announcement this week that could help companies develop a more clear picture of their web campaigns.

Brafton reported on Tuesday that Google Analytics can now measure multichannel sales attribution, which will help companies using social, search and other channels gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns. For example, should a prospect convert with a website, each channel he or she interacted with leading up to the eventual purchase or other conversion will be credited.

On its Analytics blog, Google cited data from Econsultancy, which said 72 percent of marketers prefer multichannel attribution since it allows them to budget more effectively. Rolling this capability out to analytics users will make it easier to set marketing budgets in line with the results each channel is producing. Moreover, businesses can make adjustments as necessary to avoid spending on ineffective campaigns or undervaluing those generating leads and conversions.

One such channel seeing increased success is organic search marketing. The market has been heavily slanted in Google’s favor in recent years and that continued in March with 66.4 percent of search queries taking place on, according to market research firm comScore.

The most interesting element of the study was the continued struggles of Yahoo. The company fell to 13.7 percent of all queries in March. Overall, the search engine fielded 5 percent fewer queries than it did in March of 2011, while Google and Bing improved by at least 10 percent in this regard.

For marketers using organic search marketing, content-driven SEO campaigns should still focus on Google. Another consideration, though, must be the mobile audience. On Thursday, Brafton reported that 66 percent of smartphone users turn to their handsets when they are shopping to conduct research.

Leo J. Shapiro & Associates conducted a study that found many of these shoppers are using their handsets to access content discussing a product’s utility and value. Using content marketing to rank well on mobile SERPs can help appeal to these shoppers.

This is especially useful as smartphone and tablet users have become increasingly likely to access news content on their website, according to Pew. Brafton reported that mobile device users often begin reading more news content when they purchase these devices. While the SEO strategies designed to reach mobile audiences varies slightly from that aimed at desktop users, generating high-quality content related to the industry is still a strong strategy.

Moreover, original editorial content can help businesses improve trust in their organization among a target audience. Nielsen reported this week that news and other forms of editorial content ranked third in a poll regarding marketing methods. Brafton reported that the least trustworthy channels, according to consumers, were direct marketing campaigns aimed solely at making sales.

With Google’s adjustments and the Facebook-Instagram news, it will be interesting to watch each storyline play out over the next seven days. Check back here next week to see how it – and the rest of the week – played out.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.