There are unmistakable areas of marketing that social media support, such as customer service, brand awareness, and customer relationship management. But social media does more than keep you in contact with target audiences; it has additional, unexpected benefits across marketing channels. Forging relationships with users on social media has lasting impacts on how consumers find and relate to brands online.
Search engine optimization and marketing
At first glance, there isn't an obvious connection between social media and SEO. Social media stimulates off-site conversation and interaction, whereas search engine optimization aims to pull traffic to a website. That being said, social media does impact SEO efforts, especially in the area of link building.
Self promotion does not work well on social media, so marketers are faced with generating interesting content to share with their social audiences. This content is shared, distributed, and discussed on forums -- resulting in links. The more people referencing content, the more traction it will gain, and this buzz will drive consumers to search engines, where they be directed to branded web properties.
Social media also affords marketers the chance to create new, less competitive keywords to call their own. A great example of this is the wacky "Will it Blend?" video series for Blendtec blenders. These videos are widely circulated across social media, so product awareness is high. However, the odds of someone searching for a "blendtec blender" are slimmer than a user searching for "will it blend blender." In situations like this, marketers can and should plan out a search marketing strategy to capitalize on socially spurred keywords. Terms like "iPhone blender" will be less competitive, carry more brand value, and create a lasting impression with users. Three bonuses that marketers can use bring social users to their websites.
Beyond drawing social media traffic to a managed website, marketers need to afford users the chance to push website content out through their social spheres of influence. Doing so will have a direct impact on SEO and social media efforts.
While the adoption of "Share this" buttons is pervasive, there are other options that marketers can employ to boost search engine visibility. Providing users and bloggers with code to share and post content on your behalf will greatly enhance the reach of your content and increase in-bound links to your website. If you're running a promotion or contest, give users the tools to share their scores or customized content. If you host a popular blog, incorporate means for fellow bloggers to link to your post. Giving this option will build brand credibility because consumers are marketing on your behalf, and it builds a community of brand supporters.
SEO tips to keep in mind
Make sure the links you share via social media do not include tracking code that would prevent PageRank from being passed, otherwise no SEO value will be gained. If you're securing links, you should get credit for them. Also, when creating headlines for content -- blogs, articles, or otherwise -- make sure they are optimized with targeted keywords. If possible, try to optimize page titles independent of one another to get the most SEO value.
Paid search campaigns are also augmented by social media. As the Media Post statistics show, users engaged with brands via social media are likely to start their search queries using lower funnel terms. This can decrease a sales cycle because users can be directed to relevant landing pages that expedite their conversion. Similar to SEO keyword competition, lower funnel, branded PPC keywords are far less competitive and have higher conversion rates.
Social media on the move
Consumers are still reluctant about mobile marketing because they fear being bombarded by advertisers while they're out and about. But the overwhelming success of branded applications show that marketers have a mobile role to play, as long as they provide value.
If custom apps aren't a viable option, social media is another avenue for marketers to interact with their consumers on the go. EMarketer predicts that by 2010, 34 percent of mobile internet users will use social media on their phone. This is a sizeable opportunity for marketers. If they find their social niche and interact with consumers in a meaningful way, the Holy Grail of reaching mobile consumers can be discovered.
The top reason consumers engage with brands online is to gain access to exclusive promotions and specials. Taking this into consideration, marketers should incorporate mobile into their social strategy. If offers are timed correctly, they can impact social followers on their mobile devises. No matter what the strategy, the key has always been to provide value to customers on the go, without overtly interrupting them.
Using coupons of point of service/purchase applications, marketers can encourage customers to engage with them through social media and mobile marketing.
Thinking long term
Social media is a commitment. Time and resources are needed to keep a close watch on user sentiment, trending topics, and to be an active participant. This investment will most certainly pay off. Social media will keep your brand in front of influencers and provide search engines with new content to index. This will help your marketing cause in a number of ways because search engines will crawl your web properties more frequently. They will find press releases, product announcements, and blog posts more quickly, which means it will be in front of consumers in a timely manner. This also has a valuable long-term impact on SEO by increasing quality and quantity of website references.
The personal nature of social media will also do more than provide valuable consumer insights. It will enable marketers to identifying unique keywords through interactions that can be applied to search campaigns. Monitoring and tracking how consumers relate to you socially will provide further insight into their search intent and what phrases they use in search queries. By continually refining and evaluating search intent, marketers can ensure they're bidding on the right keywords that resonate with their user base and drive conversions.
Tying it all together
The ultimate thing to remember is that marketing is a holistic process. In traditional marketing, a commercial impacts brand awareness and in-store traffic. In digital marketing, social media marketing impacts brand awareness and SEO. Nothing operates in a silo, and the most successful marketers will continue to leverage the benefits of integrated plans including social media marketing and SEO.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.