Search vs. Social Media: Finding the Right Balance

I receive lots of questions regarding both search and social media and I am often asked by clients and friends, which strategy is the best for my business?  Obviously, there should be a balance of search vs. social media marketing for anyone wishing to conduct a comprehensive web marketing campaign, but what this article is going to talk about is the general expectations of focusing on Search vs. Social media.

Active vs. Passive

Many SEO/SEM professionals can be heard repeating the mantra active vs. passive when it comes to search vs. social media marketing.  For those looking for fairly instant results, generally speaking your best bet is to market with search based assets. Search which includes optimizing a website, PPC campaigns and other click-through campaigns usually drives traffic/visitors which are either ready to buy or actively researching a product or service.  Social marketing techniques including Tweeting, having a Facebook page and even buying ads on Facebook are generally passive marketing techniques focused on building a brand name, image or building a community of loyal customers. 

Think about it, for the vast majority of Facebook users, they are interested in chatting with their friends, uploading their own pics and viewing the pics and muses of others.  Sure, they see a few ads in the process, but generally speaking the mindset of the viewer is not in the state of buying.  In fact, there was a recent study done by Outbrain.com that confirms this.  A study in the first quarter of 2011 shows that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and smaller social media sites drove 11% of external referrals.  You can read more about this study at:  http://www.bizreport.com/2011/04/search-drives-more-engaged-traffic-than-social.html

The Best Way to Leverage Search & Social Media

Realizing that a big chunk of active customers comes from search, rather than social media, here are a few thoughts on strategy.

Focus on Search Strategies for More Engaged, Active Traffic

Search is still the most valuable resource when it comes to focusing on potential customers that are engaged and interested in your product or services.  Having an optimized website, PPC campaign or email marketing campaign for direct referrals is still some of the best ways to convert.  In fact, visitors which use search are ultimately more engaged and ready to buy than those that visit your site from social media assets.

Build a Brand & Community with Social Media

On the other hand, if building brand awareness or a community is currently most important to your endeavor, marketing on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are usually the way to go.  Remember, building a brand or community requires plenty of resources- just like search.  While you may not be paying for as much advertising, your time and labor costs will be considerably higher.  This is why many of the most successful companies utilizing social media are ones that have a passion for engaging and growing their community and thrive at communication.

Finding the best strategy for your business depends on your immediate and long term goals.  For many a balance is necessary and while search generally does deliver immediate sales, the power of social media can definitely deliver ROI in the longer term.