The Four Returns Of Social Media Marketing

There are essentially four different types of return that you can expect from a successful social media marketing campaign: links, mindshare/branding, sales and consumer interaction.

Below, a look at each type of return and how you can tap into it, depending on your goals.


Using social media for link building is most popular within the SEO community, and for good reason. Using social news sites as a platform to spread your content (linkbait) can effectively produce hundreds or thousands of new inbound links to your site. Compare that with paying or begging for links, and you can quickly see why linkbaiting is going mainstream, at least within our community.

The objective here is to produce a piece of remarkable content that will spread virally and naturally collect links. The big social news sites already have millions of users, so the idea is to leverage these sites to get your story popular enough so that it’s exposed to their user base. A popular piece of content on these sites is seen by tens of thousands of hungry bloggers looking for stories to blog about.

Sites that are best for building link are Digg, Delicious, Netscape, and Reddit (see Forget ABCs – The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS and More Letters Of The Social Media Alphabet to learn more about these sites and others mentioned below).

Mindshare & Branding

Social media marketing goes beyond just traffic and links. It is also great for creating mindshare, branding initiatives, and brand awareness. It doesn’t matter if you have a new brand or one that is well established, using social media can help build or strengthen it.

Social media is also part of a brand experience when users interact in these channels. If the experience is positive, high-energy, interesting or funny, all of these elements will support a unique brand experience and support ongoing initiatives in this area. Positive or negative experiences here can really have an impact on a brand.

A few examples of positive experiences include funny videos, useful content, flash games, and contests based on user participation. Each of these methods help engage a deeper dialogue or interaction with the consumer and can help get closer to the customer.

Best sites for creating mindshare are YouTube and MySpace.


The bottom line for many marketing campaigns is to bring an increase in sales. Sometimes this is done directly and sometimes it is a very indirect process. It is very hard to create a social media marketing campaign that will result in direct sales. This is because you’re reaching consumers in a non-purchasing stage of the cycle. It contrasts from standard SEO where consumers are looking for what you’re selling and at the point of purchase already. Social media is less intrusive, and part of the reason people engage is because there’s more there than just a selling message. Any content piece with a strong selling message will not be received well or successful.

The best way to generate sales through social media is to show how good your product is in a creative way and compelling way. Blendtec, for example, has created a campaign called Will it Blend?, where they take various consumer items that you would think are impossible to blend and they blend them. This shows off their product is in a way that is compelling for the consumer to watch. Since the launch of the campaign in November, sales for the company have quadrupled.

Sites that are best for direct sales are MySpace, YouTube, or any highly targeted social site.

Customer Interaction

There are a lot of benefits to interacting with your customers through social media. Some of these include improving products or services, establishing trust, being viewed as the authority in your space and creating evangelists.

The most common form of customer interaction in social media is done through blogging. With a blog, your goal should be to establish an open dialogue with your customers. This means that should allow comments on the blog, and you should also be participating on other relevant blogs.

Blogging is not the only way to interact with your customers in social media. Consider reaching out to them in the communities where they hang out but be sure tread lightly as they can very easily have the opposite effect you are hoping for. Remember, social media is somewhere that consumers feel safe from marketers, so you need to have the right approach.

Another strategy is to build white label social media sites for your customers with topics focused around your brand or industry. Examples of these include: Guitar Center’s King of the Blues, Dell’s IdeaStorm and My Barack Obama.

These are all breakdowns for some of the ways social media marketing can be effective today. The environment is still evolving and growing. As we see more participation in different ways, the landscape will pose even more opportunity for marketing. I may not have covered everything here. Are there any other positive outcomes that have resulted from a social media marketing campaign that you can think of? Please comment below!

Cameron Olthuis is director of marketing and design for ACS and writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog, Pronet Advertising. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Social Media Marketing


About The Author: is the Director of Audience Development at Clicker, the complete programming guide for Internet television. He develops and leads the company's marketing initiatives, utilizing traffic acquisition strategies for maximizing traffic and search engine exposure. You can follow Cameron on Twitter @factive.

Connect with the author via: Email


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Natasha Robinson

    Interesting Cameron,

    However, SMM still a tough sell to those slow moving behomoths with the money to spend that we call the Fourtune Companies; whose middle manager that you are pitching to wants a quantifiable ROI because they will have to sell it to their higher-ups and their butt is on the line if this fails. Does “So what do I get for this?” sound familiar to you? lol. Granted the examples you give are good ones, these are usual sold to these types of companies under the names: Micro Sites, Viral Marketing campaigns and Blog Marketing (which did exist long before the term SMM – though I do consider it a form of marketing via Social Media).

  • Cameron Olthuis

    Natasha, You’re absolutely right. SMM is a very tough sale right now for the bigger companies. Pretty much how SEO was (and can still be) up until a few years ago. The ROI doesn’t seem to be the problem though… It’s either that these companies are too afraid of what can happen when consumers take control of their brand or they have no clue what SMM is.

  • Marek Wawrzyniak

    This is a great summary of the top benefits of social networking websites. In addition to brand management social media can also be used for reputation management. But that is a part of brand management I guess.

    I highlighted your post on my blog today. (I was going to include a link to it, but wasn’t sure if that would be kosher.)

    Good work.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide