Every now and then Search Engine Guide’s Associate Editor Stoney deGeyter finds himself on the phone with a potential client trying to talk them into putting their conversation on hold and giving me a call. Why? Because they’re in a position where they need to focus on both social media and search engine optimization to build a successful site, but they only have the budget to do one at a time…and at this time, they need to put search engine optimization on hold and focus on social media.
As much as Stoney enjoys working with companies to make sure their sites are search engine friendly and their content is fully optimized, the truth is his services are not always going to deliver the best bang for their buck. There are times when it simply makes more sense to focus on social media. In fact, making the right choice of where to start your marketing efforts can be essential to generating the additional revenue needed to invest in BOTH Social Media and SEO. (sound familiar? You must have been here Friday…)
If you’re in the position of trying to figure out where to start, here are three key ways to decide social media is your best starting point. (On Friday, we looked at when it’s best to begin with Search Engine Optimization.)
Clue #1 When You are Launching a Brand New Web Site
If your business is new to the web or you’re just getting ready to launch a new site, social media may be the best place for you to start. Brand new sites often take time to achieve rankings because they lack the age, the content and the links that are important parts of search engine algorithms. These three things take time to gather, but social media is a highly effective way to speed up the process.
At its core, social media is about building and expanding the conversation around a particular product, service or company. A natural byproduct of this exposure is links, often highly relevant ones. These links lay an important foundation for later search engine optimization efforts. At the same time, the ability to analyze the value of social media related traffic and the topics that drive the highest levels of conversation and conversion factor heavily into the long term content strategy required for good search engine optimization.
Clue #2 When Your Product or Service is an Impulse Buy
Maybe you are one of those companies that has been blessed with an amazing product that’s both affordable and extraordinarily unique. You sell the kind of product people see and say “I want that!.” Generally, these products are cheap enough to qualify as an impulse buy (think kid trends like SillyBandz or adult temptations like Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes in a Jar) but sometimes they’re just plain jealousy-inducing cool (think any product by Apple.)
These are the products that we buy because we want them, not because we need them. These are the perfect types of products for the social media world. Especially if they’re new. Millions upon millions of Internet users take to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of other sites to share their daily lives. This includes talking about the things they love and the things they want.
If this is the type of product you sell, chances are high you’ll be better served by a word of mouth driven social media campaign than by making it easier for people to find your product. This is a great clue you should prioritize social media.
Clue #3 When You Sell Something People Don’t Even Know They Want
Sometimes your biggest battle is simply getting people to notice you. If you’re breaking new ground by targeting a new niche or introducing a new product or service that’s never been offered before, social media is where you need to start.
Let’s say you are introducing a completely new piece of core cardio exercise equipment like nothing else on the market. You’re going to be faced with the type of challenges that make social media an essential first step in your online marketing campaign. You’ll need to build awareness of the product (to drive search activity later), educate about the product (to drive purchase activity later) and gain exposure for the product (to drive word of mouth.)
Consumers can’t search for the product they don’t know exists. Social media allows you to get your product in front of you target audience by relying on existing conversation channels populated by your product’s target audience.
It’s a Chicken or the Egg Argument, but it Depends on Your Goal
If I had my way, every company would have the ability to fully invest in both social media and search engine optimization. (They’d have budget for PPC, conversion analysis and analytics to boot!) That’s not the reality of business though, so we’ve got to find the best way to work with what we have.
Much like the chicken or the egg argument, it depends on your ultimately goal. If your primary goal is to eat and eat now, the egg is your best bet. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s tasty and it’s good for you. If your primary goal is to make sure several people can eat for awhile, then the chicken is the better bet. It will regularly produce small amounts of food to keep you going while you seek out other sources of nourishment.
Search and social can work in the same way. Both are important, but both have to be viewed in the context of their potential. As yourself what the primary goals of your online marketing campaign are for the next six months and then reconsider the points made here. More often than not, either search or social will rise to the top as an important priority. Invest your funds there and establish a solid base for moving forward.