Hugene - 4:00 pm on Oct 13, 2010 (gmt 0)
Very interesting debate; thanks Tedster for starting it. I've recently started thinking about "new" media (social media) a lot. Here are some of my thoughts.
First, let me define what SEO is for me:
SEO is any action, be it on your webpage or other webpages, that aims at increasing the traffic to your page
My definition has an important generality: increase traffic to your site, this is said intentionally without specifying the traffic source. This source can be search engines and it could be social media platforms (FB, Twitter, blogs, etc...).
So, in my world view, Social Media Marketing (SMM) is actually still SEO, just a subset of it.
The way I see it, traditional-SEO is usually "under the hood" manipulations (HTML, linking structures, etc...). SMM is "over the hood" manipulations (Blog posts, FB posts, likes, friend connects, etc..). But together, this is still SEO.
SMM is you interacting with humans, with the goal of getting these humans to visit your site. Traditional-SEO is you interacting with the Algorithm, trying to get the SE to direct people to your site.
But they are both SEO, and the best analogy at hand is Forums: we forget about them, but they are still Social Media. We've been doing Forums for over 10 years. So SMM is nothing new.
I think all the above is pretty much common sense. But Tedster opened a whole new can of worms in his post: how does Google view SMM? How does SMM influence the algorithm? (how does SMM behave as traditional-SEO).
Here I think we need to be very very careful, for many reasons.
(1) we don't know what is in the algorithm, we need experiments.
(2) the algorithm is still a dumb counting machine, it can not really make sense of "human interactions" (I could be wrong, but I don't think I am here).
(3) and most importantly, if you fail to generate the easily countable "social interaction" (discussions, mentions, likes) you could be penalized (Google might think you "suck") whereas if you fail to implement an SEO technique, there is no penalty (but for the fact that your competitors that implement that technique will outrank you).
And point (3) I think is key, because today we are at point where everyone is asking "should I do SMM" and a lot of people are putting themselves in Twitter and FB just to share links.
All this long post just to say that, if you're putting yourself in Social Media just to share link, your shooting yourself in the foot big time.
You need to be on Social Media with the idea to drive human interest. So if your product is not suited, don't go there.
So the question should never be how does Google algo take in SMM? The question should be: will I interact well with customers? A possible algo boost is just a very very welcome bonus.