Last Call for Social Media Evangelists
Social media is growing up real quick, and it looks like it’s time for it to put down the beer-bong, move out of the frat house and move into the cubicle. Basically, the party is over, and a lot of marketers will find that conversions are the only cure to their social media hangover.
Last week, eMarketer reported that in 2011, twice as many marketers will be concerned about the actual return on their social media spend. Basically, business are putting their foot down and forcing marketers to care less about how many fans/followers they garner, and more about how those fans/followers impacted their bottom line:
Site traffic, which was the top metric for social marketing success in 2010, will still be on top this year. But the No. 2 spot will change hands, as twice as many companies plan to pay attention to conversions. [...] Revenues will see a similar surge in interest. [Emphasis my own.]
So it looks like the days of evangelizing the conversation simply for the sake of conversation are done (or at least numbered). As the saying goes, “money talks.” So while it might be nice to have x-hundreds or x-thousands of consumers talking about or engaging with a brand, the final word is going to go to the bottom line — i.e. how many of those “mentions” converted into sales.
So how is this going to affect how social media is sold, measured, and evaluated? Well, it’s hard to say for sure, but social will probably end up tied a lot closer to SEO.
Search, Social, and the Bottom Line
While Americans spend more than 6 times as much time with social than they do with search, search still has one clear advantage: intention.
Basically, search is better at leveraging purchasing intent because it is a keyword driven medium — i.e. results are served based on keyword queries that are typed into a search bar. What this means is that when a user searches for something, they are actively interested and already in a mindset where they might want to buy.
This makes search users much more qualified than social users.
Granted, social networks like Facebook do use keywords to serve up ads, but those keyword occurrences tell marketers nothing about user intent — such as the mood they are in at any given moment. Just because a keyword appears in my interests and throughout my social graph, that doesn’t mean that I’m interested in buying.
Indeed, social ads are so disruptive because people log onto social networks to socialize, not to buy. This is probably why Facebook’s 2010 ad revenues are estimated at a mere $1.86 billion, while Google posted $6.77 billion in revenue in Q1 2010 alone.
Social & SEO
So we can probably expect to see marketers evaluate their social campaigns in light of how search has set the pace in intentional targeting. But how exactly is that going to manifest at the tactical level?
Well, it’s unlikely that eyes will be on focused ads. Basically, paid search and social ads are (for reasons outlined above) too different to compare. Indeed, despite Facebook generating nearly 25 percent of all pageViews in the US, those ads get half the clicks of network banners, and an eighth of what Adwords ads get.
So that leave us with SEO: namely, how can marketers use social media to reach the same kind of intentional users they would with organic search?
As eMarketer reported just a couple months ago, many marketers already see social media as “an excellent driver of content visibility, [that helps] to keep content fresh and abundant, and also [increases] the number of inbound links a site receives.”
So if marketers are to focus more on the bottom line of social media, they may very well look at how social traffic and trends can boost their organic rankings. After all, why keep that “engagement” and “conversations” within the walls of a social network when you can push them back to your site where they can help raise your profile with users who already have the intent to buy?
Just the Beginning
While this might be the end of social media evangelism, it is by no means the end of social media. Indeed, social media’s youth might be over, but that means its career is just beginning.
In the short term, social is becoming a much more important factor in search rankings — a place where users are actively interested in products/services. In the longer term, social networks (like Facebook) will probably devise their own version of intentional targeting.
So as marketers look more and more at the bottom line of their social media efforts, these channels will become more mature and more refined. After all, such a change in focus in how its evaluated only means that its starting a new, more responsible era in its life where its able to deliver on the promise of its full potential.
About CT Moore
A former Staff Editor here at Revenews.com, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over 7 years experience leveraging search and social media to help brands meet their business goals online. By day, he provides SEO and social content strategy to both SMBs and enterprise level companies in the tech, entertainment and travel industries, including Acquisio, Microsoft Canada, and Luxury Retreats. CT is also an accomplished blogger, podcaster, and conference speaker who educates groups and companies about how they can effectively leverage different online channels.