The small business marketing press and blogosphere are rich with tales of social media. AS the CEO of a fast growing digital marketing agency, I hear customers asking about social media on a daily basis. Because social media is such a “shiny object”, it’s often segmented from other online marketing and communication channels such as search engine optimization. The truth is that social media and SEO have a significant impact on each other.
The growth in attention to social media as a marketing, communication and community building opportunity deserves the attention of small business marketing, communications/PR, customer service, product development, human resources and sales functions. The synergies between Social & SEO are particularly important because of the effort-to-outcome ratio. Read the following Q and A to better understand the SEO and Social Media relationship.
Searcher expectations have changed. Customers no longer have the sole expectation of searching to find information for a specific outcome. As small business consumers spend more and more time connecting, sharing and interacting with the social web, they now often expect to interact with what they find in the search results.
Customers have always been able to save the useful things they find in search results by bookmarking or saving to the favorites in the browser. Bookmarks are now social, to be shared and leveraged via the collective wisdom of preferences from other likeminded searchers. The growth and popularity of socially enabling web applications (social bookmarks, news, networking, messaging, publishing & media sharing) drive consumer expectations for social interaction with search even more. For online to offline convergence of small business social networking, look no further than the success of services like Twitter or FourSquare.
Another aspect to searcher expectations is that consumers search social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace) to a small degree, as an alternatives to standard search for information, references and recommendations. In fact, comScore rates YouTube, Facebook and MySpace as two of the top 25 search engines after Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask and AOL.
Consumers are not as comfortable with formal marketing messages and there is something inherently more trustworthy about recommendations made by others willing to take the time to review products/services and share their opinions. Marketers realize this of course and as a result, there has been an increase in the number of “fake” reviews on ecommerce sites.
The Difference in Context of Search and Social Media – For small business marketers, it’s important to understand the difference in how/why people spend time searching compared to time spent with social media. Fundamentally, a searcher has a question, unmet need or pain point to be solved and initiates action through a query on a search engine. The result is being presented with matching search results & ads. Depending on the searcher’s stage in the research process or buying cycle, they’ll drill down to a solution or refine their query and continue searching.
Time spent with the social web involves many types of interactions with like-minded individuals in a community or network, one of which is looking for and sharing recommendations. As I mentioned earlier, customers are not as responsive to formal marketing messages. While it’s the goal for search engines and search advertisers to make their ads more useful and relevant to searchers, that is not always the case. The investment in time with a social community, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, along with the quality of interactions builds trust that’s difficult to duplicate in online advertising as we know it.