Posted October 15, 2011 8:12 am by with 14 comments

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dead rat Last week I had the honor of attending and speaking at Search Exchange in Charlotte NC (along with the likes of Andy Beal).

My talk was about building brands social media. As I was preparing for my talk I felt kind of weird about the topic. The truth is, to build a brand in social media effectively you have to do a lot and spend a lot, and I mean a lot, of time doing it. True brand building in social media is an ongoing effort that entails content development, brand managers, monitoring, and strategy just to name a few. Which is why some are starting to realize that for many small businesses social media is a waste of time and other valuable resources.

Sure, I know what you are thinking. This guy is crazy. I mean even I will admit that my company gets on average 1 or 2 new projects a month from leads we gather from social media. But the only way that has been possible is through years of hard work developing a following and community that is already part of social media. The truth is if your customer base is not already using social media then devoting years to building a brand in it can be pointless.

But it’s not only in building brands where social media has started to show its true colors. Prominent SEO’s are also calling shenanigans on social media as a supposed SEO tactic.

Sometimes it feels like most of the folks that are still talking heavily about social media marketing are just using it as another area of expertise in their list of services. Whether or not it is a viable strategy for their clients is another story.

So, is social media marketing dying? Or is it just losing its shine with smaller companies as they realize what it takes to play? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below!

[photo credit]

  • Joe, you raise a question that’s been bouncing around in my head for about a year. I think for larger companies, social media marketing is alive in some way/shape/form.

    But for small business, social media marketing never really came to life for many. The lack of resources (human, technology) never let social media marketing get off the ground.

    When I speak with business owners and senior-level executives, they might start off with a question related to social media – but the reason they are asking the question is because they want to increase the quantity and quality of leads, increase conversion rates, average order size and order frequency.

    Once those underlying reasons have been identified, social media tends to come in a distant 2nd to improving processes for lead generation, nurturing and conversion activities. It becomes a conversation on ‘how to fix what we do’ rather than ‘how can we add something else to the mix.’

  • I don’t know if social media is dying, but it I agree that most small companies don’t have enough time to devote to it and do it well. Then if they hire out the job, they want results immediately. That’s like going to a networking event where everyone else is enjoying the small talk and appetizers and trying to close a sale. It doesn’t work that way. Relationships come first. Sales come after that.

  • This is a great companion to your “How I Became a Postmodern SEO” piece ( – very thought-provoking.

    There certainly is more to this social thing than just doing what everyone else is doing. There is a lot of work involved in finding out where your audience is, seeing how they interact with each other and figuring out how they will interact with you. While there are best practices, there is no magic formula which will guarantee success. I agree that for some businesses, there may be no need to be on social all the time.

    That’s not to say, though, that they should totally ignore social. Monitoring is very important, because you never know when people may start talking about you and may want to interact with you. Claiming your space and your name is important, too, because it’s good to be prepared for when the time to interact comes.

    Lastly, I always preach “Strategy, Strategy, Strategy” to the folks I talk to. SEO isn’t the only thing, neither is social participation. Everything stems from your product/service and goes from there with the bottom line always in mind.

  • Hi Joe, sorry mate, don’t agree that it is dead or dying for small business. Any small business with any special offer etc. would be adding to the bottom line even if they only had a few followers. People talk and should they see a local special they would definitely tell their friends or family to get down-town for the special.

  • Johnny Lee

    I agree with Elmer. It’s difficult to “figure” Social Media out and determine what the real effect it has on (1) getting new clients (2) keeping old clients. The considerably lower cost of maintaining a Social Site compared to traditional methods of mail campaigns or newsletters makes it viable from a cost standpoint. The real problem lies in how to drive traffic to your site, convert that traffic to clients and then establish the on-going personal relationship that will let you retain that client.

    Thomas Carlyle once said “”Weak eyes are fondest of glittering objects.” Social Media consultancy is now a newly created career path, helping businesses retain the “glitter” and their clients.

  • I deal in unsexy health-related niches that are temporary, as opposed to chronic, problems. So it is not possible to gather a social media following.
    I can’t decide if your picture of the rat is cute or sad.

  • We recently signed on a few new ongoing SEO projects. After a few months of doing the usual SEO stuff and increasing their search traffic, the clients are clamoring for us to start building them up on the social networks! We were going to do that anyways as part of strengthening their site quality etc., but they want real social media activity.

    What’s even more interesting about this is that we’ve had a really hard time signing on pure social media clients. But once it’s in the context of SEO, it seems to become more attractive.

  • Social media is all about building rapport.
    We simply cannot move in and just sell immediately.

    You will look like a fool on the playground.

  • @miriam I really believe that SEO and Social work hand in hand. Companies that don’t use their keywords in their social media and/or they don’t leverage social to build SEO strength are missing out.

    I also so a lot of businesses buying into the social media buzz but not realizing that it does take a lot of time and effort. They end up not putting enough effort into it and don’t understand why it didn’t work. Then they end up blaming social media saying that it is just a fad and isn’t worth anything. Bottom line, it’s like anything else in business.. you need a strategy and the resources to enact the plan.

  • I invite you to read this article (in Spanish)

  • I believe that Social Media are nothing more than more tools in your marketing and communications tool chest. I think the big issue is that small businesses (and to some extent large orgs) thought that this could be that magic bullet that would slay all of their marketing demons. Marketing, communications, brand building, etc all takes time. So, as usual, you need to assess your business needs and determine what will work, what you have resources for and what your goals are. Thanks for bringing the honest conversation!

  • I see what you’re saying and maybe from an SEO standpoint social media doesn’t have the impact folks think it does. But from a branding and customer relationship standpoint, social media has a tremendous impact. Here’s my advice on 7 tactics to keep your social media marketing alive:

  • Social Media are tools for spreading content; the results that you get depend entirely upon how you use them. Social Networking, just like traditional Networking, takes a lot of time. I own a Social Media Marketing Company, so you know my stance is in favor of Social Media having a long shelf-life, and I am often surprised at how many people treat Social Media/Networking as a “Magic Bullet” that will solve all of their marketing woes. Honestly, each business is unique and requires a unique marketing strategy. For most businesses Social Media should be a PART of that strategy. How much time and money invested should be a careful consideration. For entrepreneurs with more time than money a do-it-yourself social media program can help get the ball rolling. For those with more money than time, hiring outside help is a better option, and traditional marketing (such as direct mail or radio commercials) may be in your comprehensive marketing plan. I have helped my clients to have great success using social media, but that is because we are clear in setting what goals will be achieved, set clear and reasonable expectations, and have viable timelines in place; we are not promising overnight super-stardom, but we do promise an executable plan to bring you closer to your business goals.

  • What if I ask you another question: Do you think SEO is dying these days? On the contrary, I think neither is dying; they’re just morphing into a new form and whatever the term would be for this convergence, I can only see it as a good thing. I’ve been experimenting with mixing the best of social media and SEO practices and I’m amazed by the results so far. In the end, what good are numbers if these are not converting into customers..?