Social and Search Marketing: It’s Complicated

Happy holidays!

As you prepare for 2010, there’s one thing you can count on: your job in online marketing won’t get any easier compared to last year or the year before that.


The proliferation of consumer devices, technology advances such as real-time search, and the popularity of social networks all bring new complexity to marketing strategies.

That means you need to figure out how to connect with consumers who are playing FarmVille and Mafia Wars, friending and unfriending each other, shooting and posting video and photos, tweeting, and more.

At SES Chicago, a conference attended by more than 2,000 marketers this week, many panel discussions, including three organized by ClickZ/Online Marketing Summit, looked at the fast-changing marketing landscape. Some takeaways from sessions I attended:

Social Search, Social Sharing, and SEO

The digital equivalent of an arms race is taking place in so-called real-time search. In the most recent development, Google said this week it will include real-time Twitter and other instantaneous updates from the Web on search engine results pages.

“Social sharing replaces SEO in the real-time Web,” declares Tobias Peggs, general manager at OneRiot, a real-time search engine. How so? He says hot topics are “bursty,” meaning that interest moves quickly from one hot topic to the next one. Thus, marketers must respond to quickly changing events. To pull this off effectively, businesses will need to allocate resources to monitor and devise approaches that are relevant and social.

“Social search is the next frontier,” adds Eli Goodman, search evangelist at comScore. The ability to search Facebook Wall posts is a good first step. “Delivering customized based results on people’s social graph is the obvious goal,” he said. Under that scenario, someone searching for “NYC restaurant” or “movie” would first see reviews or comments made by trusted friends and associates.

Social Analytics: How Much Is a Friend Worth?

What is the value of a friend or follower to a brand? Brian Boland, manager, performance solutions at Facebook, says the answer to that question has not yet been established. From his perch, he envisions that some brands will be able to amortize the upfront costs to obtain friends, fans, and followers over many years.

If You Build It, Will People Come?

Sure, you can create a Facebook Page for your brand and create branded videos for YouTube, but will anyone see them? Sean Carton, chief creative officer of idfive and a ClickZ contributor, says social initiatives must be accompanied by a plan, plus money, to encourage people to participate.

Consider this factoid: 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, says Denise Chudy, display and YouTube sales leader. Her mantra? Marketers must make videos “findable.” Tactics include: leverage existing networks, such as Facebook or relevant blogs, to promote a video; leverage recognizable people, such as celebrities; and use advertising.

While many marketers do not make it a priority to post video assets on YouTube, they should reconsider that mindset. After all, YouTube is the second largest search engine and they are missing out on an opportunity to rank high in YouTube search results for generic terms such as “shoes,” says comScore’s Goodman.

A YouTube search for “shoes” turned up promoted videos for alongside well-known brands JCPenney and Rockport shoes. In contrast, a search for “shoes” on Google turns up 12 sponsored links, mostly from large retailers such as Zappos and Nordstrom or shoe brands such as Steve Madden and Jimmy Choo. WalkTall Shoes is not among them.

Apps Are the New Web

“Acknowledge that the Web is no longer tied to a laptop,” says Jeanniey Mullen, chief marketing officer at Zinio and VIVmag and a ClickZ contributor. She points out that the average consumer owns six Web-enabled devices and has access to two at any time.

So what does this mean for marketers? “Online marketers need to rethink everything they are doing currently and verify that it will work in an ‘on demand’ environment,” Jeanniey Mullen wrote in a follow-up e-mail to me. “Remember that amazing banner that your customer would typically see while looking for sport highlights at their desk? Now they will see it while looking for sports highlights on their smartphone on a train, talking to 3 people. Or, they may not see it at all — because they are too focused on getting the info they need and getting off their device.” She adds that online marketers must segment and design differently based on how media is digested.

Going Social? Avoid the PR Team

“Keep your PR people as far away from social media [as possible],” warns Greg Jarboe, president of SEO-PR. (He’s a PR guy who’s very social.) “Most PR people, in their training, have learned to pitch. The worst thing you can do in social media is pitch. [People] want to be talked to, listened to.”

Jarboe also recommends starting any social media marketing strategy with Twitter. “Not because we love it,” he says. Instead, he says a disproportionate number of people on Twitter also use YouTube, have Facebook pages, or have a blog. “Twitter is the thing that everyone [in social media] seems to have added to their repertoire,” he says.

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