Why do people generally insist that every question in life has to have a definitive answer?
Why must everything be so black and white? I ask that question because the annual argument about search versus social has raised its head yet again: the thorny old question of whether search engine marketing is better than social media marketing is back on the agenda. Some diehards will champion search until their dying days and proclaim its superiority, others will rally to the call of social and argue that it wins hands down. So, whose right? Is there such a thing as a definitive answer to this issue? Well, probably not if the truth be told: both mediums have something to offer, and both have their own particular drawbacks. There isn’t a black and white answer to this question and there never will be. However, maybe people should stop worrying about it, and let a little colour come into their lives.
What if they were actually complementary strategies?
If a business could use a mixture of the two, wouldn’t it be the ultimate technicolour winner?
Search engine marketing
The idea behind it is simple enough and built on sound foundations: as a business you want to be found by people who are looking for the type of goods or services you supply, but they are as yet unaware of your presence. Search engine optimisation improves your website so that it gets listed higher in the search engine rankings and therefore is more likely to be noted by these new customers. Search engine advertising puts your advertisements on the page for any search term you’ve bid on.
What are the advantages of search and where is it superior to social?
Popularity and reputation.
More people look for business on search. It’s their first port of call when researching a product or a brand.
People who search know what they are searching for. They’ll do their research and know what keywords to search for.
Search is beneficial for businesses, it they’ve got the disposable income, because they can buy their way into the search results through paid ads.
Social media marketing
The purpose of social media marketing is to amplify your online business presence. In other words, to bring you more to the public’s attention by engaging with them directly and conversationally so that you derive better brand-engagement, and more word-of-mouth endorsements. Optimising your social media presence makes it more likely that your brand will be a welcomed member of relevant online community to which you can both contribute and influence conversations. Targeted advertising on the likes of Facebook will let you build brand awareness economically, and sometimes get a response.
What are the advantages of social and where is it superior to search?
Engagement and recommendation.
Peer recommendations happen simply with a click of the mouse. Like a brand and a product and it’s instantly recognised.
Real Time marketing.
Social media marketing lets businesses respond to criticism in real time and engage with their audience.
With social media marketing businesses can buy their way to their target audience’s hearts with paid brand pages.
Search and social – a complementary therapy.
Though the argument will no doubt rage on, surely most people should be able to see that what we’re dealing with here is two sides of the same coin. Both approaches are aiming at the same target, and effectively doing each other’s business for them. They’re both there to help businesses gain greater credibility and public acknowledgment. Besides they’re both increasingly straying into each others territory as it is. Search engines are placing greater and greater emphasis on what people do and say in the social world. They are all now factoring in ‘likes’ and tweets and +1 endorsements into their search algorithms. Social engagement now plays an important role in SEO and this will only increase with time.
The bottom line is search engine marketing will bring in the leads: social media marketing helps to elevate your business brand and makes it friendlier and more approachable. There’s absolutely no reason why the two techniques should compete for primacy. They’re both striving for the same goal, and that is making your business bigger and stronger. Doesn’t it make sense therefore, to use both techniques together? You’ll double your chances of marketing success and, because you’re now that bit more ‘brand-friendly’ you’ll probably finish up being looked upon much more favourably by Google and the other search engines.