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Can SMM beat SEO one day?

 7:41 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

After spending some serious time on administering Facebook pages (with 80% job on understanding and planning and 20% on implementation), I can say Facebook is a HUGE ocean of opportunities and successes. Having said that one question comes to mind: I wonder can Facebook, Twitter, <all other social networking platforms> beat Google in terms of referrals? Might not be today but maybe tomorrow if we see one more Facebook like platform with that much no. of users?



 8:43 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm thinking you mean SMM (Social Media Marketing) - and for some businesses, that day is already here. They do nothing about SEO but they do a lot with social media.

However, even for those businesses, SMM is still better at retaining an existing market and not so good at acquiring new traffic.


 10:35 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes ted, its SMM and not SEM. Pls rectify the title/desc if possible.

I understand your point.


 11:03 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the update! Ok now.


 5:53 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

one day facebook can beat google for referral


 7:34 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Just one observation...

Facebook Pages is really just a blogging platform if you look at it. And Facebook Groups is really just a discussion forum platform.

The only difference is that Facebook doesn't allow its users to monetize the traffic they attract to their Pages and Groups. But if Facebook were to change that, setting up a revenue share?

Facebook already has its own AdWords system in place in form of Facebook ads. They can certainly create their own AdSense system too. And if they implement their own AdSense system on Facebook Pages and Groups, it rushes in a flood of "Facebook publishers". As it is now, Facebook users already know how to create their Pages and Groups, compared the smaller number of people who know how to create blogs and forums.

So instead of thinking about Facebook beating Google in traffic referrals, think about Facebook creating their own mini-Internet, and reducing the need for anyone to leave Facebook.


 10:53 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

As mentioned already, SMM may already be more effective than SEO, for some sites. That could be dangerous for those sites if they put all their effort into SMM and neglect SEO.

With SEO, by now, we all understand it's about the content; Good content that people want to link to.

SMM is about grabbing what traffic you can, while it's still available.

SEO is not restricted by product or target age group.
SMM is more about current topics of interest to a younger demographic.

Search Engines, or at least the ability to search the web for information, will be around for as long as the web will.

Social Networks are subject to massive change and upheaval - they're an unstable source of traffic.

Does anyone remember Bebo or MySpace?

I'd say, stick with SEO and put an approriate amount of time into SMM. Grab it while it's there.


 10:54 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)


Can you mention any examples of such businesses/industries? would love to hear of any particular cases (not because i dont believe you ;) just because ive been curious about this since forever - industries where traffic/business comes mostly from non-search aka non-volatile channels)

I think social media...as in forums, twitter, facebook-sort of stuff taking away from search is the future (not saying search will die ;)).

One justh as to look at the industry all of us are in - internet marketing/web stuff....How many times do you do a google search to find the content you want to find? I dont do that too often...

of course, the generic www might take decades (or it might never happen) to catch up with a niche as web-savy as this one, but i think there's a shift going on.

wait a second...is my theory wrong?lol...back in 1997 (or so), how did you people find information about SEO? (when fewer forums,blogs,etc. on the topic were around)? using search engines (much more than now)? or not?


 2:00 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Its also about quality. The quality of my clickthrus on facebook is very high, twitter not so, but the google traffic (organic) is very high - but again, it does matter a great deal - we have been investing pretty heavily in FB twitter, a new blog that updates all the SM services, and the measurement of that impacts or SEO because GOOGLE pays attention to ACTIVITY, it's not just speed, or keywords, but level of engagement that is working on rankings nowadays. People on facebook often leave facebook to search about stuff they've seen ON facebook - so google is a TOOL that everyone uses, no matter what network your inside of or on. As an extra aside - my facebook ads really were not working - I stopped those as a test. What works is friending and engaging with other sites and parties within the network. Just my observations.


 2:07 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'll come back to this thread later, but I read this morning with my coffee this article. The press, like everyone here, is struggling to get their hands around this. This is about Linked In, but it makes some larger, basic how-to points as well.

From the NYT:
For any company in the social networking business, it is not easy living in the shadow of Facebook and Twitter. With 500 million users connecting with friends, trading photos, videos and articles, or whiling the time away on social games, Facebook has pretty much locked up the field. For its part, Twitter has carved a solid niche for those interested in broadcasting their thoughts 140 characters at a time.

But with its unabashed utilitarian bent, LinkedIn has built a presence in social media.
One point: To make this work, you have to say something NEW or at least different. If you're selling pizza, you cannot just keep saying, "great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza great pizza."

That might seem obvious to you, but you'd be surprised how that is a shock to many. SMM is work. And, quite frankly, it's creating problems for a lot of the less sincere, less honest, less caring, and especially less talented folks playing around on the web. SMM is a positive thing.


 2:15 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

For me, I think this depends on what Google and Facebook are in the future.

Presuming they don't branch out and compete directly in each other's markets (which I think actually will happen and will make this much harder to predict), FB remaining a social network and Google a search engine, I don't think there's any realistic chance for this.

It will require a major shift in the way people think of and use social networks that I just can't see happening.


 2:38 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, Weeks, totally right. Plus, you can't just 'do it' as an outsider - you have to get 'in the head' and BE your organization, not just talk about it - that's boring. Lots of companies do that and its a totally turn off. You have to participate in the material business, as the IRS would say. For me, I have to talk about WHAT I"M KNITTING, not just about cool new yarns I'm selling. About my struggles and efforts as part of the community. It's a very diff space - and sometimes its just a relieve, dare I say it, to use ADWORDS. :)


 2:51 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

So instead of thinking about Facebook beating Google in traffic referrals, think about Facebook creating their own mini-Internet, and reducing the need for anyone to leave Facebook.

That happens with Google and other search engines, and to an extent with any large website. It won't prevent users jumping ship as soon as the next big thing comes along. I'm seeing increasing referrals from Tumblr, and that's entirely closed off to anyone who doesn't join: yet another way to build a mini-internet.

Back to the OP, I don't think we'll see a huge surge in social networking vs. search engines. It's just that social is massively, massively consolidated right now. People used to go to various forums to connect with friends and like-minded people or to while away their time, but everything social is now FB and/or Twitter.


 3:47 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes true - and their is still a lot of value in very targeted, smaller communities - remember Yahoo Groups? One of my most valuable social groups for knitters. More work, yes, but increasingly the smaller niche communities are totally amazing.


 5:10 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

To answer the OP's question, I think you need to be doing all of the above. It's all a part of your marketing mix. For social media to work, you need to have a product, service or brand that lends itself to that channel. Not all businesses can or even should be there. SEO or PPC works for just about any business with differing results, but it does work and is relevant.

Here are my personal thoughts, social media is a passing fad. This year the flavor is Facebook and twitter, next year it will probably be something else. As someone else posted, do you remember MySpace and Bebo?

As a company, you should be spending most of your money on known marketing tactics that work i.e. branding, direct marketing, SEO/PPC, email, mobile, etc... once you have tapped that out, then explore new areas like social media.


 5:34 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

@tedster: Can you mention any examples of such businesses/industries?

There isn't really any entire industry that works mostly through SMM, but there are individual organizations. One that comes to mind immediately for me is the not-for-profit CharityWater.


 8:12 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I stated this topic with a typo and thought the discussion is dead! And now its featuring in the WebmasterWorld home page. Thank You so much.

@tedster: To add to your list I have Starbucks, another nice example I guess :)

Let's also think about theme based pages with millions of fans.. say a popular event page of Halloween, or just consider the football world cup [facebook.com...] If I search for updates with the "Good morning" or "Happy birthday" I see so many Facebookers are wishing each other. Me as a user will be (very frankly) least interested to go to a search engine to find a way to wish my friends when I have Facebook which is reminding me of Ron's birthday tomorrow. The one and only Michael Jackson also has his presence felt at Facebook with millions of fans (a classic example of celebrity page). So much of engagement activities going on around innumerable topics. So much of stickiness and connectivity.

Let me make an attempt here by comparing a 2 online marketing activities: i) newly launched website(W) and ii) a Facebook page(F) of a not-so-popular product say A.

Step 1 (W): Acquire a good domain name which is easy to remember, less than 6 characters, etc. Find a good web host, find a good webdesigner, a solid content writer, a SEO guru, blah blah.
Step 1 (F): Create a page in less than 30 seconds, upload a product image, write a couple of lines about the product and you are on.
Step 2 (W): Finalize the design, content, a cool punchline, a good logo, keywords, meta description, etc.
Step 2 (F): Start posting updates, suggest to your friends and try to engage them (almost like a mini-forum).
Step 3 (W): Wait for the search engines to crawl, SEO, Web Analytics, A-B Testing, Web Engineering, etc.
Step 3 (F): Review engagement rate (likes, comments), post, post, post, build a landing page, invite more friends, try to build a buzz in the neighboring social circles, import contacts from address books and send invites, start Facebook advertisement, etc.

and so on...

Above, I tried to make a dry run which might not be the best one. And clearly a FB page is way ahead in terms of cost and efforts, ads being the only paid item. While the website will take X years (maybe) to build a base of N thousand loyal users, the Facebook page might achieve the same target in X months (power of virality, engagement rate being the key to success).

[In regards to the content, one must make a plan of how to increase the engagement rate since too much of talking about a certain item might be too boring.]

Now if we come back to the marketing plan and use the marketing activities of Facebook page along with the website, IMHO Google will surely take the website into it's notice since the site has a set of loyal users coming back and visiting the site being referred from Facebook (and not Google). That's the power of community, power of social influence. Community building efforts did took place in the past as well Bebo, MySpace being some of the pioneers. But the way Mark runs Facebook is way too better than the rest.

Google a couple of months back did try Google Buzz, Google Voice. Did it sensed some kind of urgency? It actually do feel the same and hence we saw 'updates' as a search option, social search implementation. I do not think Facebook will get wiped off early and if some ABCbook manages to launch something similar in terms of a social platform in the near future, we an be very sure it will add to the power of SMM.

Did I write too much? I maybe wrong and that's why I asked the question.

[edited by: getxb at 8:24 pm (utc) on Sep 30, 2010]


 8:20 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Businesses that run almost entirely off SMM: GroupOn?


 8:47 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

will check out their website..thx@tedster

oh and thx @ paulguy, too!


 8:51 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's a good article on how and WHY NPR is using social media marketing [mashable.com...] I think any fast changing business or periodical website is wise to be in social media.


 9:08 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Also adding [mashable.com...]

Facebook relays messages from publishers saying that these users ďare more engaged and stay longer when their real identity and real friends are driving the experience through social plugins.Ē As an example, NHL.com reported that pages per user was up by 92%, time on-site was up by 85%, video viewing increased by 86% more videos and overall visits went up by 36%.

Clearly, Facebook is only part of social media referral traffic, but itís becoming a larger part as the network grows and users become accustomed to interacting with third-party and external content from within the comfort of their social graph.


 9:55 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

While there are tons of numbers to suggest that Facebook is sticky, that it attracts lots of people, there are lots of numbers we do NOT have. People are focusing on the easy evidence, which is only of tangential relevance for business.

We all know from the last ten years that high "engagement" on videos sites, forums, etc, doesn't generally pay off for the hosts. YouTube a good example, althought 2010 may be first profitable year.

As a business platform, facebook leaves a lot to be desired right now in terms of usability, so the race will be between how fast users and business get tired of it, versus how they can introduce better, easier to use features.

creative craig

 10:06 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I played a little with Facebook in the early part of the year with a client and had some great results running ads and running their account.

We are taking the findings from those early campaigns and using that to put a plan together that kicks off in Jan 2011.

Some interesting/fun times ahead!


 10:15 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

So instead of thinking about Facebook beating Google in traffic referrals, think about Facebook creating their own mini-Internet, and reducing the need for anyone to leave Facebook.

Just great! Something worse than Google's dominance of search engines.

@tedster. That graph shows Facebook is behind the npt.org. mobile apps, and podcasts: its seems to show that their Facebook presence only appeals to a minority of users.


 3:38 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Has anyone noticed the twitter updates on Google search results. When will google learn social media is not important. Today it's twitter tomorrow it's something else... they'll just end up spending millions of dollar just to update some code. [sorry for being sarcastic]

I actually didn't implement social sharing till 2 days back - and I am yet to come to any conclusion about how it is doing - but I think its always wise to test and see - it may just work for your niche - or it may not - it's very easy to set up the sharing if you use wordpress or any other cms which has rss.


 4:07 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

It may be easy to set up technically - but the essence of social media is NOT in the technology itself. There are valuable ways to engage the people in your market and then there is going through the motions - and generally hoping for some automatic boost. The second approach will FAIL

Unfortunately the second is also what a lot of businesses do, especially when they first enter into SMM. To make good use of any social media channel, and that includes Facebook, takes an intelligent and savvy approach. Right now, a lot of businesses are just learning what doesn't work - at least if they're watching results, that's what they're learning. Then round two of their program can be better informed.


 8:39 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

tedster said
It may be easy to set up technically - but the essence of social media is NOT in the technology itself.
Amen. Read that carefully. This short article in the Sunday NYT says it almost as well as tedster: [nytimes.com...]

Next week I'll be starting social projects for two different clients. One is a complex program to market a financial product to businesses and individuals, the other is to sell high-price wines. I'll focus on Facebook for the first, Linked In for the latter. I'll add Twitter to both, of course.

It will be an ongoing project driven first and foremost by useful email newsletters. (Both clients have a large and established client base and want to expand off of that base). I have a year contract with both clients and they both expect it to go longer.

We put together a new website for both clients; we could not care less about Google/Bing, since that space is filled with by the banks and spam.


 11:53 pm on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

If you are selling a product - you need to interact with your fans & followers one on one but if you are using SMM as a content distribution channel - you can just use technology to make sure the updates are decent and engage in conversation if and when someone comments on the SM. But the goal should be to bring them over to your site for engagement.

I am doing this by creating a custom rss feed which takes a lot of things like number of comments, number of views, lack of spam strings into account before pushing it down the twitter stream - and from there to facebook and linkedin.


 9:20 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

...if you are using SMM as a content distribution channel - you can just use technology to make sure the updates are decent and engage in conversation...

Yup I have been doing this for a while and have been getting results decent enough. Its a fully automated system running on Feeds and people do like the fresh content getting delivered to them via SM.


 3:31 pm on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

getxb: In all honesty, in this competitive atmosphere, its not wise enough to solely rely on one or two particular methods to get your referal traffic from, you need to broaden the spectrum and target every possible opportunity for branding and traffic purposes.

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