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Yes, Social Media is Powerful. No, It’s Not as Powerful as Search.

SEO digest

It's late. I'm just back from a week of travel and crazy amounts of email (note to other CEOs, when emailing 120K people with a special offer, be wary of putting your email address as the reply-to). I had a terrific time at the Online Marketing Summit - great people, many of whom I'd never met before, an impressive turnout of more than 500 (even in a down economy; wow!) and some terrific networking parties (the conference even featured catered dinner for the attendees, which was really nice). One of the subjects that arose, as usual, was the emergence and power of social media, and I had some quick thoughts to share.

Social media has emerged as a "next big thing," but in fact, it's been around since the dawn of the Internet. Forums are social media. EBay is social media. Craigslist and Epinions and Friendster (remember those guys?) are social media, too. There's definitely a lot to like, but I worry that businesses and marketers are going crazy over social right now simply because it's hot. This is almost always a bad idea - go after a new channel because there's value, a path to revenue and a solid set of tactics that fit with your overall strategy, not just because it's in the press all the time.

Social media is great for:

  • Connecting with your users (assuming they're already on social media platforms and talking about you)
  • Building another channel for communication, branding & messaging
  • Appealing to early adopters
  • Wasting time on non-business essential communication :-)

But it can't do what search/SEO does:

  • Answer a direct need precisely when it's requested in a scalable fashion
  • Gain visibility from virtually all Internet users with an interest in your brand/product/sector/content at once

And if you're ignoring other important fundamentals of online marketing, like:

  • Building a website with a uniqe value proposition
  • Create amazingly useful content that people want to share
  • Conduct effective email marketing
  • Find ways to scalably acquire new users & retain existing ones
  • Leverage conversion funnels & conversion testing
  • PPC

You should probably concentrate on those, first. Don't get me wrong - I love social media. We have a Twitter account, a Facebook group, lots of clients whom we've helped with social strategies and a ton of experience getting value out of the process, but I worry about the obsession overpowering the logic. When that happens, we see bubbles - don't let a social media bubble cloud your business' real retuns from any marketing effort.

Looking forward to dissenting opinions (as always).

p.s. Big thanks go out to Aaron Kahlow and the rest of the OMS crew. I've been to a lot of conferences, and this was certainly one of the most professional, impressive and well-organized. Oh, and for those seeking some humor, Jeff Rohrs dug up this classic gem thanks to a fun chat we had at the show - $240 worth of pudding.

published @ February 9, 2009

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