Social media is hot. Everyone wants to be on Digg’s home page. Link baiting, especially using things like numbered lists, imperative rules, or controversial hooks is the SEM strategy du jour. There’s just one — major — problem with spending so much time and effort on capturing the eyeballs of social media users.
Social media traffic does not monetize.
Social media is easy to hype because there is a lot of traffic on social media sites. But if you try to do anything with social media traffic to convert it to revenue, you will be hard-pressed — unless you are selling CPM-based advertising.
Google, in its 2007 Q4 results press conference, complained that it was having trouble monetizing social media websites. When I set up an AdWords campaign today, Google recommended I try the MySpace network. They are desperate to get anyone they can advertising on that network because the traffic has so little implied intent and so little value, and Google is already locked into an expensive partnership.
Man eats world’s largest turkey in single sitting
Who would read the above line and be inspired to buy?
Trying to appeal to larger web communities using shock and awe, at the expense of creating content that your community and subscribers find relevant, costs you trust and attention with each swing and a miss. When you finally hit a homerun and get exposure on social media sites, most of those people leave within 30 seconds. Few link to your site, few buy, and few subscribe.
Leading publishers even worry about too much social media traffic deflating their CPM ad rates. And StumbleUpon, a leading social media site, sells traffic for 5 cents a visitor. Is it really worth the effort to target social media?
Why social media usually fails
Within your own field you likely know what people care about, why they care about it, and key emotional touchpoints that you can appeal to. But if you can’t get exposure in your own market it is going to be even harder to appeal to larger and less related markets.
When social media actually works
The most effective way to target social media is to find something on a network that already relates to what you are doing and co-brand it, rather than trying to create a new hit from scratch.
Get featured or referenced on a site like Search Engine Land and thousands of people interested in SEO and SEM are going to see that reference. If you create useful content and get covered by leading editorial channels in your field, what are the odds that some of the people who passionately subscribe to content directly related to your topic will also read, subscribe to, link to, trust, and/or buy from your site? Many will.
The relevancy is so great that you do not need a large stream of traffic to create a lot of value. Why does search work? Great relevancy. Why does social media work? It usually doesn’t, at least when you factor in opportunity cost.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.