The following is a summary of what I presented at this year’s PubCon conference held in Las Vegas. The session deals with the following questions: “Does social media prevent the need for search?” or “Does social media play an important role in search?” The session, which drew a packed house, took a look at both sides of the issue, and discussed where the two intersect.
I was joined my my esteemed colleagues, Tony Adam, Bill Hartzer and Rebecca Murtagh. The session was moderated by Aaron Shear. Aaron introduced me as one “who has been around for awhile.” I guess he was trying to say in a nice way that I’m a dinosaur. I suppose that is factual as I’ve been in Internet marketing since 1997. Wow, that’s 13 plus years! Where has the time gone.
Anyway, back to the presentation. The two questions are almost related to all the talk this year about whether Facebook was going to be the next Google killer to which I responded that they would certainly not be. While Google has dabbled into just about everything one could think of, with exception of retail (they haven’t acquired Walmart yet) or even casinos for that matter (remember we’re in Vegas), they are still at their core a search engine. Facebook on the other hand, even though they have serch built in (which sucks I might add) is a social network – a place for community.
So when I said that Facebook was not going to take over or even come close to replacing Google, one guy cheered me (not sure if he was form Google or not). On the same note, Google is not going to take out Facebook. They are two separate entities.
Having said that, search is still very important and with all our clients, Google with their 70 some percent market share of search is always the number one referrer of traffic. I did share a screen shot from an anonymous client that I can’t show here proving this fact. However, Facebook and Twitter did show up in their top twenty referrers but with much lower traffic numbers than Google.
Social media also plays an important role in search. Just look at the SERPs for any brand that is heavily involved in social media and you will see a list of results like the example below for Vertical Measures, a company belonging to a good friend on mine.
If you look at the image below which shows the top 20 visited sites according to Alexa, you can clearly see how important social media has become. In fact one would be naive to neglect making sure they had an active presence at least on the top two social media sites – Facebook and Twitter.
People are also spending a lot of time on social media sites as shown by the image below.
In pie chart format…
Client Case Study
We have a client, who shall remain anonymous, that two years ago was completely reluctant to embrace social media. “We don’t have time,” “we don’t know what kind of content to create,” “we don’t want people to talk negatively about us,” were some of the excuses. Once those excuses were refuted, they agreed to setup a Facebook page. Last year I as I presented their case study in this very same session, they had 1,700 Facebook fans. A year later they now have 48,000 and that number continues to grow.
Not only have they seen amazing growth in their fan base, those fans are very active on the client’s Facebook fan page itself. In the month of October, they had the following statistics:
- 12,258 unique page views
- 30,410 Page Views
- 45 Fan Posts
- 1,093 Comments
- 856 Likes
Not too shabby for a medium sized etailor. And what these stats really show is that their fan base is active or in other words engaged with the brand. This is exactly what you want to happen in a social media environment. Some of they ways they use this channel is to promoted blog content, hold contests and offer discounts, introduce new products, perform customer service and ultimately engage their customer base. Without giving exact statistics, they have seen tremendous growth over the last couple of years and I’d say that social media had a big part in that growth.
Social Media Strategies
So what are some effective strategies that can be employed via social media to not only build brand loyalty but increase sales and customer acquisitions.
1. Integrate Offline and Online Advertising
A decade ago we told clients to make sure they included their web address on all forms of advertising (i.e. business cards, brochures, commercials, etc.). Now we are telling them to include links to their social media accounts (mainly Facebook and Twitter) on advertising as well as their web sites.
2. Multimedia Usage
Think about ways you can incorporate multimedia such as video, infographics, images and the like into social media sites.
A great example of this was Toyota’s “Swagger Wagon” videos posted on YouTube which went viral, prompting Toyota to create a YouTube Channel dedicated to the “Swagger Wagon” series.
3. Custom Tailor the Message
We do it for AdWords, that is create custom ads for each set of relative key phrases. Why not with social media? In other words, think about the community of each social media site you are looking to market on and customize your message for that base.
4. Local Social Networks Beyond Yelp
If you are a local business, Yelp is huge as far as claiming your listing and managing reviews but don’t neglect other local search engines such as Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, CitySearch, SuperPages, Local.com and the like.
5. Contests and Discounts
People love winning stuff and/or saving money. Keep your customer base engaged with your brand by offering them special promotions and discount codes as well as opportunities to win stuff via contests and giveaways. This can go a long way in keeping them coming back again and again.
6. Customer Service
Social media sites are a great platform to offer excellent customer service. They allow you the business to listen to what your customers are saying, both and bad, and the opportunity for you to engage them. never forget that today’s consumers have a lot more power than they did in the past prior to blogs and review sites. Try your best to keep them happy or they might look like this…
7. Online Reputation Management
By setting up multiple social media profiles and then making sure they are indexed by the search engines, you can better control your online reputation in the organic search listing for your brand or brands. Because many of today’s social media sites are very authoritive sites, having profiles on these can help push down any negative listings that could harm your business. We recently pushed a Rip-Off report listing from the first page to the third using this technique.
I can summarize my presentation with the following takeaways:
- Use Search To Stand Out
- Use Social Media To Build Brand Loyalty
Thank you for taking the time to recap your session. I loved your posing of the question and the answer: is Facebook going to kills Google? No. They are two different entities. Well said!
I also liked your simple marketing integration tips to put URL, Twitter handle & FB URL on business cards.
I’m happy I captured your speaking. Here’s the pict on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelposition/5172523022/
Great post, really informative.
Was very interested in your last point about managing a reputation.
What sites did you post information to, that got the Rip-off listing down the rankings & how long did it take you?
Do you recommend companies should set up Fan Pages or individual pages?
Great post David, I am starting to get more interest in where people spend the time online. It came up in a recent panel discussion on my Podcast, I ended up blogging about it. This is a great related resource.
This is a great post. I just had one quick comment. The picture pointing out the time spent online with Social Media vs. Search is possibly a little misleading. People are on Social sites to socialize and interact with people. People are on Search Engines for a quick fix to find the information that they are looking for. Most people probably don’t think I’m going to search for a half hour about nothing or just keep searching the same key phrases for fun. The goal of the two are 100% different. If the person needs to spend 20 minutes searching, they are probably going to change search engines. With the exception of SEOs, I doubt many people spend hours on the search engine searching and watching for fun.
What was kind of surprising on that list was how low auction and classified sites are.
This is an awesome post. Thank you for it.
I see more and more large brands adding Twitter and Facebook icons to their marketing strategies whether it be print ads or TV commercials. I think this ends up being another touch because the next time your on a social network you might remembering seeing that and look up the brand and start following them. It is something I am pushing my clients to do.
Hi David, interesting post. I guess companies looking at this sort of data should probably infer that they should create profiles for their company on certain social media sites. However, in a market where (for the forseeable future) your core demographic isn’t really accessing social media would you say it is a wasted effort trying to create brands and profiles in this environment?
@Jonny B – Even if your core demographic is not on various social media spaces, creating profiles can still be a good online reputation management strategy, whether simply being proactive or already dealing with a negative reputation crisis.
In terms of the ‘integration of search and social’ do you see Google et al becoming less powerful as people move towards facebook ‘Likes’ and peer recommendation over Search Engine Algorithms for their searches?
Hi David, with social media strategy – I am looking to make my new Facebook page a lot more interactive than my website (which is mainly just a portal to using our service), should I keep all this interactivity and more dynamic content solely on Facebook or bring it (or elements of it) to my website as well? Thanks for any help that anyone can offer
@SSB Facebook is definitely a better platform to interact with clients, potential clients and the like. That being said, keep in mind that making sure your site has fresh content (i.e. blog) is helpful as far as organic search strategy.
@Harry I can see where Google might utilize that information but will it make them less powerful as a giant in search – I think not.