In a meeting with a prospect, we got into a discussion about how their senior management would not likely connect to the value of a social media presence.  They further commented that popular social media sites did not present a place they felt their audience was nor would likely be for the foreseeable future. 

SM4Biz_isNOT_advertising They did however suggest that they understood the impact of how a social media presence would positively impact their find-ability in the search engines – what they suggested is that I reposition my proposal in light of how the project would impact their ranking in the search engines.

I was OK with all that for two reasons; 1) using social media in the context of the foundations for subsequent SEO / SEM is a perfectly appropriate strategy and 2) it does not change the work I like to do, just the vocabulary I need to use when I get to talk to the C-Suite of the company. 

I harbor some fear however that the misperception will end up costing them more than they anticipate – if they do not understand that the impact of a social media campaign is MUCH more than just advertising, they’ll start freaking out when they actually have to ENGAGE with a client; heaven forbid they have an open, online interaction with a disgruntled one.  That’s when I see a baby being thrown out with bath water on the project.

I commented on stats from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that showed that of the 68.1M social network users already out there, that about 40% are over the age of 35. These will be working adults in all types of work, pretty much in the demographic of their market; and that was already about 25% of the general US population in that age group.  They were not to be swayed by the data – meh… I stopped trying.

It got me to stop and look at the question of “Does a social media presence for a company equal advertising?” 

My immediate answer is “No”, it is NOT the model of the typical interruption-ad found in old-school outbound marketing.  In the same breath, “Yes”, a social media presence will provide similar effect that an advertising campaign – you’ll get an incremental increase in sales. 

The difference is a not a matter of semantics, but intention.  To be fair, I am not an SEO expert; in my personal opinion, so much of SEO is Snake Oil and Pie-crust Promises.  An SEO vendors project is often difficult, if not down right impossible to relate to the bottom line and they slither around trying to not be nailed down to a commitment.

What I can do is talk about how establishing a effective social media presence, one that impacts organic ranking in a search engine. 

I can see that the fundamentals underpinning that impact the measurable analytics of a site.  Beginning with the number of prospects that are exposed to your message, some number self-select themselves to visit your site, a still smaller number request / view the information you have to offer and, supposing your product is what they are looking for, they then contact you and ask to become a customer or client. 

To the initiated, this looks suspiciously like the typical ‘sales funnel‘ we have all been taught in business.  The difference in a social media strategy is that the funnel processing is the result of a pull vs. a push.  The prospects that you DO get to connect with are prospects that really want what you are selling anyway.

So is social media for business just another kind of advertising?  Using social media to improve your ranking is a legitimate tactic; but how you do it is and how you respond to the interactions it generates is the rub. 

The caveat is that you need to be sincere about wanting to connect to your constituents and prospects in a transparent manner or the result will be something less than positive.  Will you come up in the search engines?  Yes, but it might be in a post from a disgruntled, unhappy user or employee user (which you WILL get by the way), but to ‘try’ social media or to launch a limited campaign is not a strategy – it’s a knee jerk reaction.

(This post was also published at TheSocialMediaBible.com – until I can figure out how to just get a feed, I will post at both places)