I recently got into a debate with someone about the benefits of social media. This person (who I won’t name because I think they were being an idiot) maintained that the biggest benefit to social media was getting links for SEO, and I have to admit my heart just sank. There is no denying that social media is great for building links, but it’s a side effect of a marketing technique that is far broader reaching and can have a much bigger impact for businesses that do it well.
Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the attitude of an individual, but something that is quite widespread in SEO, and it’s not only social media that is met with this attitude of irrelevance, quite often traditional marketing methods are met with similar derision. One of the reasons for this is, I think, is the ability to track ROI so accurately for SEO, we are held accountable in a way that our offline marketing counterparts aren’t, but social media means that we are going to have to learn to accept that the SEO way isn’t the only way, and for that we have to look backwards.
Until the internet, widespread pull marketing didn’t really exist (the yellow pages is perhaps as close as it came), TV, DM, Print, they’re all push marketing methods, working to gain brand awareness, and maintain a steady stream of marketing & advertising so that when someone was ready to buy, your business was at the front of their mind. When you stop and think about it, social media is far more aligned with this than it is with SEO, but SEO’s are the ones in the position, and with the expertise to take advantage of it.
So what can we take from the decades of learning that traditional marketing offers us
When traditional marketers track the results of a TV campaign, they don’t look at which ad slot generated the most sales, they can’t, what they look at instead is what uplift the campaign as a whole had on total sales. They may be able to get some additional data from a unique phone number or URL on the ad, but that will only give them a limited view of the overall impact of the campaign. In social media we can track a lot more data than this, looking at weather sales had a social media touchpoint, seeing which mentions had the biggest impact on visitors and more, but fundamentally a consumer may never click through on social media, but the persistent presence of a brand can increase click throughs through other channels, look at overall traffic uplift as well as direct referrals for more meaningful results.
Great Concepts Deliver Great Results
I doubt any advertising agency has ever walked into a pitch with the following “we’re going to talk to people through TV advertising, then we’re going to ask viewers how they feel about you”, yet we quite often hear “engage users through social media and monitor sentiment”. It’s the same idea, and equally useless. When you think about the TV campaigns you remember, they’re usually interesting, funny or shocking concepts, they’re always unique and can have a huge impact on sales for the businesses lucky enough to develop those campaigns.
If you’re going to develop a social media campaign, remember that you need a reason for people to engage, and you need to innovate, there are as many ideas possible for social media as there are for TV ads, we just need to get better at finding them (or work closely with an advertising agency, having done this a lot recently I can honestly say that creative advertising agencies are brimming with ideas they would love you to execute)
Plan for the long term
Most Marketing teams will have a plan, not for this month or next, but for the next 12 if not 18 months. They will plan campaigns and marketing outreach around key times in their business cycle, maximising their opportunities and accordingly their ROI. Social media should be equally well planned out, what are the opportunities in your market place, will that exciting idea you’ve had work better 6 months down the line. Online marketers are used to being able to do everything quickly, and see results equally quickly, but biding your time can have far greater results for your campaigns.