The need for integration between social media and SEO is steadily increasing. We have all read the articles about the way that content is +1′ed by people you follow is shown in Google results (or how content Liked by a Facebook friend is elevated in Bing results).
You have also most likely seen articles about how social media can be used to develop relationships that drive links to quality content on your site. This is all SEO goodness.
Sadly, too often social media is siloed in the enterprise. What happens is someone in the executive team recognizes that there is potential value in social media and launches a project to implement it without being properly informed about the ways that social media can impact the business.
Then, one of two things happen:
- It becomes a checkbox. Someone was assigned to it, so now it is “handled”. Unfortunately, this is social media cast adrift. Teams of people working away without direction will almost always drift towards generating the highest possible level of activity they can with minimal effort. However, activity and business results are rarely closely connected.
- It gets treated like broadcast media. Traditional marketing people are comfortable with broadcast media, and they understand how spend in that type of media brings returns, so they assume that social media is the same way. The result here is potentally useful for brand building, but it is not clear that the most important business goals of the company are advanced.
Let’s illustrate this with two real world situations I have seen, though I need to keep the company names anonymous.
Company A is a Fortune 1000 company that knows it wants to play in social media. They are a B2B brand, and they know they want to have a social media strategy, but they don’t have the resources in-house to execute it.
The head of the PR group is tasked with taking the challenge on. She is brilliant at what she does, but her plate is way to full so she can’t spend many cycles on understanding how to set the strategy.
She hires an outside social media agency to come in and take care of the strategy. The charismatic social media executive comes in and outlines a great looking strategy. The PR director does not know the right questions to ask about how this strategy will feed the business, so the strategy is approved, and the agency goes off and does their thing.
The agency does a great job and focuses on building a large audience of friends/followers. Along the way, they recognize that content closely related to the B2B brands products is not too sexy. In order to build up the audience, the topics drift steadily into a consumer focused areas.
The audience grows nicely, and they are even able to build up a good audience. But, their customers are not in it. No influence is built with their customer base, and the social media activity that takes place is not really about topics that relate in any direct way to their products.
The Result: They got to check the checkbox, but the business was not aided by the social media efforts.
A Better Approach: Don’t focus on audience size here. Consider focusing this social media strategy on curating great content related to your market space. You don’t want to be commercial and talk a lot about your products, but you can talk about the types of problems that people face that relate to your products. Curate great content from others. Use this to build relationships with industry peers and media that covers your market. For this business, building those relationships through frequent communication with influencers can be a great extension to your PR strategy.
In addition, if you are like Company A, you may have products with long sales cycles. Constant exposure to other influencers, and active online interaction with them establishes you as a leader in the space.
Your potential customers are probably checking many places to learn about potential suppliers, so the chances they will learn about you when they are doing their research is greatly enhanced. This is great from a tradaitional marketing perspective.
From an SEO perspective, those online interactions will result in brand mentions and links from highly authoritative sites and authors. That’s as good as it gets!
Broadcast Media In A Multi-Brand Enterprise
Company B is a large enterprise with more than 10 brands with a B2C focus. The executive team has a traditional marketing background, so the social media team is put into the corporate marketing department. They put together a team which includes an outside agency and in-house resources as well.
The execution is great. The content they create is closely tied to the overall theme of the brand and large audiences are built. Their is heavy interaction, and there is a lot of value to the brand overall. The model is designed to operate like TV and print, but with the added bonus of interaction, which is truly a great thing.
The problem is that brand managers for several of the product lines want to participate. They have their own niche target audiences, each of which has their own unique needs.
However, the corporate marketing department feels like it is serving a larger goal. From time to time, they will put out updates/tweets specific to each brand, but those communications are lost on the larger stream of communications for the overall brand. No consistency is possible for each individual brand, and they can’t build their own audiences.
The Result: The needs of the larger brand were served, but not of the individual brands, who get little direct benefit.
A Better Approach: Having the corporate marketing department have a social media group is a great idea. That is not at all a problem, but, it also makes sense to let the larger brands in the company portfolio have their own social media efforts that piggyback on the coporate efforts. This may be their own Google+/Facebook/Twitter accounts. They should coordinate with the corporate social media team, and can still get leverage from them. This will allow them to build audience specific to the individual brands.
From an SEO perspective, this lets the individual brands build social media accounts focused in their specific audiences and needs. This can now drive links, mentions, shares, and tweets that focus specifically on that brand.
Last but not least, don’t forget the role of measuring results. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Devise strategies for measuring the results you get.
This is a complex topic all by itself, and beyond the scope of this article, but there are many different tools for measurement. For example, our agency has an account with bit.ly that provides some great data:
This data is a great way to see what content is working for you, and what is not. There are many other great tools as well. Google Analytics lists a large number of quality tools on this page. Google Analytics has also added reports that seek to capture the value of social media as well.
The key thing is to make sure that measurement is a key part of your overall strategy.
These are both scenarios where enterprise organizations silo their social media. In the checkbox scenario, little direction is given and the work focuses on activity. In the broadcast media scenario, the focus is too narrow and a lot of the potential benefit is ignored.
The most important thing you can do is to step back and get an understanding of what the potential benefits could be for your business. Then, armed with that knowledge, decide which areas you want to focus on. Only then can you decide where it should sit in the organization, who should own the process, and what the priorities are for your social media efforts.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.