Top myths about social media for business #2: “Don’t need it—we have SEO”

29
Aug 2011

Welcome to our new series “Busted! Top 10 Myths About Social Media for Business,” where we debunk many of the myths out there surrounding social media as an effective business tool. Inspired by many objections I’ve heard (and overheard) from real business owners, I developed this series to help you separate the fact from the fiction in this still-uncharted territory. Stay tuned for more mythbusting every Monday and Wednesday ’til the list runs out!

seoIn our last post, we debunked Myth #3 about social media for business—”It only works for ‘sexy’ products”—by looking at some decidedly un-sexy products that nevertheless have become huge successes on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other social sites. Now let’s take a look at whether a successful SEO (search engine optimization) strategy precludes the need for a strong social media presence.

The interesting thing about this myth is that in many ways, social media is in the same spot today, in terms of acceptance as a valid marketing practice, that SEO was in just a few years ago. Back around 2005 or so, businesses of all sizes and in all industries were writing SEO off as a waste of time and resources because [fill in the myth]. But fast-forward a few years and no business with a website can imagine life without it.

Now we’re seeing a lot of eye-rolls among companies whose SEO runs like a well-oiled machine when it comes to social media. “Social media’s just another way to get found on the Web,” they protest, “but we’re already being found thanks to our shiny, pimped-out SEO strategy. So thanks, but no thanks.”

DebunkDEBUNKED! Not only have Google* and other major search engines publicly admitted that social media posts impact search results, but social media delivers additional advantages that SEO can’t even come close to offering.

Of course, the precise list of ingredients in the algorithmic “secret sauce” of Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines is and always will be top secret. However, in December 2010, Google guru Matt Cutts admitted publicly (on YouTube, natch) that the search giant does use Twitter and Facebook links as “ranking signals.” Which means that each time your content is linked to from a social site, your SEO gets a little boost, even if the Twitter and Facebook posts themselves don’t show up in the search results.

Indeed, social and search have become so closely intertwined that they’ve spawned a new term, “social search,” which now occupies its own page on Wikipedia:

Social search or a social search engine is a type of web search that takes into account the Social Graph of the person initiating the search query. When applied to web search this Social-Graph approach to relevance is in contrast to established algorithmic or machine-based approaches where relevance is determined by analyzing the text of each document or the link structure of the documents.

And then there’s the unique lineup of perks that only a strong social media presence can offer, which includes:

  • Credibility: As they say in BNI, visibility plus credibility equals profitability. Both SEO and social media can help with visibility, getting you “out there,” but only social media helps increase credibility, by offering a podium from which you can share your expertise and demonstrate your commitment to your customers.
  • Communication: Websites are mostly static—great sources of evergreen information, but if I want to know if my favorite barbecue joint is open on Labor Day or not, they’re usually not much help. What social media does is provide a real-time means of communication that’s also low-maintenance; a blog post on your holiday hours takes 5 minutes, while publishing the same information on your website, especially if you haven’t done it in a while, can take considerably longer (not including the time needed to remove it after the fact).
  • Connection: Social media is a two-way street where you can interact with your customers on a regular basis, get their feedback, thank them for their support, and offer them rewards—capabilities that SEO just can’t deliver.

So, have we convinced you that your site does not live by SEO alone? Why, or why not? Tell us about it in the comments; we’d love to hear from you!

* Oh, and speaking of Google, have you heard that they’re now in the social-network business themselves?

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