Lee Odden

Social Media Marketing – Get it Straight

It’s an interesting thing when concepts get defined according to the intentions and goals of a few influential voices. Take social media optimization and marketing (SMO/SMM) for example. What started as a set of tactics unique to their channels (blogs, images, audio, video) became a more closely defined set of tactics ala Rohit’s Rules for Social Media Optimization.

To me, social media is characterized by communities that allow users to do many or all of the following:

  • Create profiles/accounts
  • Grow a network of friends
  • Submit content or collaborate
  • Vote on content
  • Tag content
  • Comment on content

That’s the “social”. The “media” has to do with the platform as well as the content: blog, social network, wiki, news, bookmark, forum, discussion thread and text, image, audio, video for example.

In the search marketing space, it seems that social media marketing has been increasingly defined narrowly as what I’ve called “Digg Bait“. In other words, using social news sites such as Digg, Netscape, Reddit and services like StumbleUpon to generate traffic.

I suppose these channels are simply overshadowing the other types of media in the world of social media marketing because marketers have been successful using them. However, companies out there looking to understand what social media marketing is, would do well to consider the big picture and not focus on one channel.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. As a software developer I follow all these new social sites, like digg, delicious and so on. But as an Italian, too, I see that no one of this sites are really “non-english” ready (or better useful).
    There are big opportunities, I think, in addressing non-english communities, because real good non-english content has now no oppotunity to be “digged”.

    May be it’s time to put up a developers group and make and italian/french/deutch digg… 🙂

  2. Satollo, that’s a great idea. If there’s a market need, you have an opportunity to capitalize on it.

  3. Indeed. Has anyone noticed that Wikipedia has more traffic than: (1) any of the news or bookmarking sites, (2) YouTube and (3) MySpace. I cannot understand the obsession with minor sites like Digg and Netscape which have static or decreasing audiences.

  4. Avatar Social Media Marketing says

    Hello Lee:

    I enjoyed reading your article.

    In theory social media marketing sounds attractive and viable.

    But in reality, based on our experience, it leaves much to be desired regarding traffics coming from the sites.

    Most of the crowds at some of the sites don’t seem to be buyers but just regular people looking for places to hang out and sound off.

  5. Lee,

    Well said. I think more attention needs to be brought to this fact.

    Here’s where the problem lies….

    So far, the majority of those who have adopted social media marketing come from an SEM background(myself included). Because of this they are naturally attracted to that which will have the greatest effect on the ranking of a site. The social news sites that you mentioned are the ones that produce the most inbound links. Sites like YouTube and MySpace don’t really work for “linkbait” (or Digg Bait as you put it) so SEOs don’t use them.

    I mean no disrespect to the SEO community when I say this… But, the most useful discussions on SMO/SMM are taking place outside of our little niche. The reason is that SEOs are to hung up on linkbait, and not social media marketing.

  6. Hey Cameron, thanks for your input and I agree, it is the attractiveness of results and “link-centricity” that draws search marketers to those specific social media sites.

    I also agree that many search marketers are so deep into their discipline and niche that they do not realize how much social media marketing is going on using networks such as YouTube and MySpace.

    While I am as guilty as anyone for historically propagating a narrow focus on SMO/SMM, the reality is, social media link bait aka “Digg Bait” is a tactic, not a strategy.

    As search marketers’ use of social media matures, I think they’ll see that more clearly.

  7. Hi Lee,

    Your point about not focusing too narrowly on SMO or even search marketing is a great one. Even as the conversation (and criticism) of SMO has grown over the past few months, there has been a temptation by marketers to “microniche” themselves further and further. The danger of course is that we start to compete with ourselves. The real change that needs to happen is a new focus on integrated marketing that works across channels and specialities. Expertise is important, but my belief is that in order to provide the best council for a client, we have to think outside of a narrowly defined niche. It’s why I’ve continued to keep the term “Interactive Marketing” in the title of my blog … because I believe that ultimately it’s the marketing that engages consumers to interact with a message that has the most impact. Most TV spots (except a select few) can’t do that. Online advertising, word of mouth marketing, search marketing are all categories that can. If your marketing drives a person to tell another to visit Google to look for something, would you consider that search marketing or word of mouth marketing? My point is, it doesn’t matter if you truly have an integrated campaign.

    PS – I’m looking forward to meeting you in person at SES next week.

  8. Great points Rohit and I’m looking forward to meeting you as well.

    I think we’re on the same page as far as avoiding being “typecast” into a specific niche – evidenced by this blog being named “Online Marketing Blog” not “Search Engine or Search Marketing….”.

    Same could be said for Neil and Cameron’s blog title. It’s not specific to search at all.

  9. Great post.

    A few of the comments also refereed to YouTube. To follow up on your points, I would not classify YouTube as a social network. ( I realize you did not mention them, but a few the follow-up comments did)

    Social networking consists of users interacting and communicating. There is very little communication on YouTube. Users may interact slightly with each other, but not with usually not with the actual source of the media. Of course, it most cases that source are not even aware that their video is even online.

    When you few a video on YouTube.com how often do you interact with others? A larger portion of YouTube users view videos without communicating with users.

    YouTube is a great site, I use it often. It has provided a relatively easy way for users to post stolen videos to a large audience. However, it’s important to be clear what it is. It’s not a social network. Its success or failures do NOT depend on user contributions. YouTube’s ultimate success depends on its relationship with production companies.

    Sorry, for the tangent. But I think that point is important for future discussions.

  10. @John:

    While this maybe the case, YouTube et al still fall under Lee’s definition that social media is a website/mobile service that let’s one: “Create profiles/accounts, Grow a network of friends, Submit content or collaborate, Vote on content, Tag content, Comment on content.”


    “In the search marketing space, it seems that social media marketing has been increasingly defined narrowly as what I’ve called “Digg Bait”. ”

    Like Cameron has mention, the “Digg Bait” emphasis is definitely seen within the SEM communities. At my agency, we see social media marketing as fitting between more traditional online/offline “Word-of-Mouth” campaigns and SEM.

    I think this is an area strategic marketing agencies can exploit over the usually, more nimble and fast adapting SEM agencies.

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