Social Media Marketing is getting a lot of attention in the media on and offline, causing many business marketers to wonder how to adjust budgets and resources to participate. Others that have allocated funds to Social Media and SEO programs without proper implementation, timelines or measurement may question their return on investment.
While businesses decide to push or pull budgets, companies that are focused on winning market share and driving revenue are soundly and consistently investing in a mix of digital tactics involving search, email, online PR and of course, social media. Adding to the marketing mix often means outsourcing and good consultants are not cheap.
For many companies, the decision to widen the range of marketing services and get help externally means budget reallocation. For some, it means the blasphemy of cutting tried and true marketing programs in order to chase after shiny social media. The good news is that there are ways to have your Social SEO cake and eat it too. For marketers that want to take full advantage of search engine optimization and social media, here are two of the most important cost saving tips to make both bean counters and marketers happy.
Plan ahead. Setting goals is fundamental to marketing but with a social SEO strategy, it’s important to understand the difference in outcomes as well as the tactics used to reach goals. SEO performance indicators are typically links, rankings, referrer and search traffic, inquiries, sales and other conversions. Depending on goals, social media KPIs will include brand mentions on other social sites, links, comments, measures of engagement, media placements, measures of sentiment about brand terms, syndication and growth of networks.
Setting goals for SEO distinct from Social Media is an important first step to creating a Social SEO strategy. SEO on it’s own can drive sales. SEO can also help grow social networks via discovery through search. Optimizing content for search within social networks improves discovery in places where Google and other search engines can’t reach.
In comScore’s August 2009 Search Engine Rankings report, 3 of the top search engines were social media sites: YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. Companies that focus their optimization efforts solely on Google.com will miss the continued trend towards social search or search within social networks.
Social media facilitates word of mouth and requires ongoing participation to realize the most benefit. Whatever word of mouth can do for a business in the offline world, social media can do online; only faster and to a much larger community. Understand the difference between SEO and Social Media outcomes and you’ll save a significant amount of money on the normal discovery and learning phase of a Social SEO engagement.
Do your homework. With Search Engine Optimization, keyword research and analysis gives marketers valuable insight into the language customers use when searching for their products/services. Understanding communities and customer behaviors in social media is a very different exercise. It’s possible to do some keyword research that is social media specific by analyzing the most common keyword tags used to label and organize social content. It’s also important to understand what social networks and media sharing sites your customers spend their time on. What are their behaviors and how do they participate? Do they share, create or just watch?
Companies that make the effort to understand search based keywords that are most popular is a great first step for saving on SEO costs spent on keyword research. Marketers can do that homework through keyword research tools and competitive keyword research.
Additionally, understanding customer behaviors and content preferences on social networks and media sharing sites is equally important. What keywords are most often used in their conversations? What words do they use when tagging, commenting, linking and sharing media? Social media monitoring tools can help as well as first hand experience with customers through social media participation. Insight from direct observation as well as software that can track and organize the large volume of social content will save tremendous amounts of time when working with an outside consultant as they ramp up the Audience phase of a social media program.
Make no mistake, there’s work involved to save money on high quality Social Media and SEO programs. Think of it as putting sweat equity into your online marketing. Not only will companies save on consulting costs, but the increased knowledge from better understanding search keywords and social keywords will manifest in better relationships with customers and ability to implement on consultant recommendations.
Performing search and social media keyword research isn’t going to replace what consultants will do by any means. But it will shorten the time it takes to ramp up on tasks that can take a large number of consulting hours. The better corporate marketers know their Social Media and SEO goals, the more focused outside consultants can be in helping to reach them.
Other cost saving tips for Social Media Optimization programs include ongoing training, analytics and certain types of outsourcing. We’d love to hear your ideas on these suggestions and your own. How has your company been able to deal with slimmer marketing budgets but still engage in search and social media programs productively?