Social media and blogging are about connecting with audiences on a more personal level. But first you must start speaking their language.
It's no surprise that many businesses are quickly adapting and embracing social media and blogging as lucrative methods of connecting with their audience and generating leads – the impact on universal search and synergies with SEO are well-known. However, based on HubSpot's "2011 State of Inbound Marketing Report," the majority of these are small businesses, whereas larger businesses continue to rely more heavily on traditional marketing efforts. According to HubSpot, small businesses plan to spend 19 percent of budgets on social media vs. only 6 percent in larger businesses. A similar gap is shown for blogging with 10 percent of budgets for small business vs. just 3 percent for large.
It should come as no surprise that small businesses are often the first movers here for a few reasons:
The types of mindset in the third point above are signs that an organization may not truly understand how online marketing is evolving and are in danger of severely limiting their ability to leverage these channels in the long run. Examining the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" point of view further, the research from HubSpot reveals that social media and blogs have significantly grown in importance as methods of lead generation leveraging SEO best practices:
So, if social media and blogging isn't a part of your marketing efforts and it isn't broken yet, it may begin to break in the near future.
Consider now the possibility that someone, somewhere out there on the social media channels may have had a negative experience with your company and decides to "vent" about it. This is a common fear that companies have, which prevents them from engaging in these channels. This is a simple argument to combat. If someone has a negative experience with your company, you should want to hear about it. Not only does it give you the opportunity to address and rectify the situation and turn an angry customer into a satisfied one, it allows your organization to do it publicly and will generate an increased level of trust between you and your audience. This type of exposure and word of mouth can prove to be invaluable. It also shows the close linkage between SEO, universal search, and reputation management.
How successful a business is within specific social media channels will of course vary between B2B and B2C. While all businesses can benefit from social media efforts, according to the data below, B2C organizations tend to see stronger benefits on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, while B2B organizations excel on more professional sites such as LinkedIn. Interestingly, the gap of customer acquisitions between B2B and B2C organizations via company blogs is far smaller and suggests that it is one channel that should be leveraged by all businesses. I've actually seen success across all of these.
Thinking beyond lead generation through specific channels, large and small businesses alike must begin to understand that social media and blogging are more about connecting with audiences on a more personal level first and foremost. This is why core SEO principals are so important in the social media sphere – talking the customers' language. SEO, social media efforts, and blogs are not standalone silos. Their benefits and how they can affect and contribute to all areas of marketing, both online and offline, must be taken into consideration and embraced by all the teams within an organization to reap their full potential.
What is your organization's experience with social media? Are you actively engaging and seeing a similar distribution of results as the data shows? Are your SEO and social media teams working closely together? I think if you make those connections, you'll soon find that social is a fruitful area to complement your SEO strategy.
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Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.
Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.
A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.
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