When I googled “social media vs. seo” (in quotes) this morning, 12,400 results were returned. Restricting the same search to only the past year, over 800 results are returned. Obviously, many people are pitting the two against one another, and have been for some time.
There’s little sense, in my mind, in postulating whether social media is better than SEO or SEO is better than social media. Making these two marketing channels adversaries is akin to pitting shirts against pants/shorts. For those people who don’t wear dresses or jumpsuits, they’ll likely be wearing a shirt and a pair of pants. Asking them which is better will probably only result in having them give you a look that implies they think you’ve lost your mind.
Cross-Channel Marketing Rules
When promoting anything, whether it’s a business, a website, a product, or a brand, promotion works best when it covers a broad spectrum of marketing channels. Television ad campaigns work best when they are reinforced by radio campaigns, magazine campaigns, newspaper campaigns, email campaigns, etc. Cross-channel marketing succeeds because the layers of reinforcing messages work together to create a connection with the target audience.
Waves of Data Engulf Users
People today are absorbing external stimuli in huge waves of data, much like a whale ingests enormous swarms of krill. It is unlikely that a whale would be able to pick out the one particular krill that tasted peculiar amongst the millions he ingested. Likewise, the data we absorb each day is so large and diverse, that recognizing and remembering one marketing message amongst the continuous data flow is rather low. It’s much easier for a lone marketing message to be lost in the flow than it would be if it were repeatedly reinforced by entering the data stream in various ways, from various places, and at various times.
Be Where They Are
The goal should always be to interact with users where they are. If they are searching via a search engine, then an SEO campaign can help reach them during that process. Of course, a PPC campaign also works hand-in-hand with SEO to cover both the organic and paid listings that are returned in the search results for the queries relevant to your brand, service, or product.
Users are spending a considerable amount of time on social networks, so a social media campaign is needed to reach them there. Like the concept of using both SEO and PPC campaigns to cover organic and paid search listings, social media campaigns will include organic interactions such as tweets, Facebook Likes and wall posts, etc., in addition to paid interactions such as promoted tweets and Facebook ad campaigns.
Value In Each Piece Reinforces Overall Value
Each channel will reach users at a different point in the marketing funnel, so the value should be calculated and compared in relation to other marketing efforts aimed at that same audience. In most cases, a search user is likely to be in one part of the marketing funnel, and a Facebook user is in another (or may even be outside of the funnel altogether). Pitting the value of an SEO campaign aimed at the search user against the value of a social media campaign aimed at the Facebook user will only result in a confusing matchup. There is value in both, with each being one important part of an entire cross-channel promotion.
Give each marketing channel its own level of respect, evaluating the effectiveness of each using data that is relevant to that particular channel. Analyze how well the campaign is working within its channel, adjust, re-analyze, adjust again, until you are satisfied that it is accomplishing the goals you set for that particular channel.
Make sure each channel’s message is consistent with the messages from other channels, so that every channel reinforces the others. As the daily influx of data streams through each person, those reinforcing messages will build upon one another and help the entire package of marketing messages stand out in the user’s mind.
The key isn’t to compare seo vs. social media, but to use the right messages in the right formats to ensure the best chance of reaching users at the right time and in the right place. The more often you can accomplish that, with consistent messaging, the more successful each campaign will be, no matter which channel it was focused upon.
Let us know if you’ve found a particular combination of cross-channel marketing especially successful, or if you’ve had problems connecting various channels to create a tight overall campaign.