Last Call for Social Media Evangelists

Social media is growing up real quick, and it looks like it’s time for it to put down the beer-bong, move out of the frat house and move into the cubicle. Basically, the party is over, and a lot of marketers will find that conversions are the only cure to their social media hangover.

Last week, eMarketer reported that in 2011, twice as many marketers will be concerned about the actual return on their social media spend. Basically, business are putting their foot down and forcing marketers to care less about how many fans/followers they garner, and more about how those fans/followers impacted their bottom line:

Site traffic, which was the top metric for social marketing success in 2010, will still be on top this year. But the No. 2 spot will change hands, as twice as many companies plan to pay attention to conversions. […] Revenues will see a similar surge in interest. [Emphasis my own.]

So it looks like the days of evangelizing the conversation simply for the sake of conversation are done (or at least numbered). As the saying goes, “money talks.” So while it might be nice to have x-hundreds or x-thousands of consumers talking about or engaging with a brand, the final word is going to go to the bottom line — i.e. how many of those “mentions” converted into sales.

So how is this going to affect how social media is sold, measured, and evaluated? Well, it’s hard to say for sure, but social will probably end up tied a lot closer to SEO.

Search, Social, and the Bottom Line

While Americans spend more than 6 times as much time with social than they do with search, search still has one clear advantage: intention.

Basically, search is better at leveraging purchasing intent because it is a keyword driven medium — i.e. results are served based on keyword queries that are typed into a search bar. What this means is that when a user searches for something, they are actively interested and already in a mindset where they might want to buy.

This makes search users much more qualified than social users.

Granted, social networks like Facebook do use keywords to serve up ads, but those keyword occurrences tell marketers nothing about user intent — such as the mood they are in at any given moment. Just because a keyword appears in my interests and throughout my social graph, that doesn’t mean that I’m interested in buying.

Indeed, social ads are so disruptive because people log onto social networks to socialize, not to buy. This is probably why Facebook’s 2010 ad revenues are estimated at a mere $1.86 billion, while Google posted $6.77 billion in revenue in Q1 2010 alone.

Social & SEO

So we can probably expect to see marketers evaluate their social campaigns in light of how search has set the pace in intentional targeting. But how exactly is that going to manifest at the tactical level?

Well, it’s unlikely that eyes will be on focused ads. Basically, paid search and social ads are (for reasons outlined above) too different to compare. Indeed, despite Facebook generating nearly 25 percent of all pageViews in the US, those ads get half the clicks of network banners, and an eighth of what Adwords ads get.

So that leave us with SEO: namely, how can marketers use social media to reach the same kind of intentional users they would with organic search?

As eMarketer reported just a couple months ago, many marketers already see social media as “an excellent driver of content visibility, [that helps] to keep content fresh and abundant, and also [increases] the number of inbound links a site receives.”

So if marketers are to focus more on the bottom line of social media, they may very well look at how social traffic and trends can boost their organic rankings. After all, why keep that “engagement” and “conversations” within the walls of a social network when you can push them back to your site where they can help raise your profile with users who already have the intent to buy?

Just the Beginning

While this might be the end of social media evangelism, it is by no means the end of social media. Indeed, social media’s youth might be over, but that means its career is just beginning.

In the short term, social is becoming a much more important factor in search rankings — a place where users are actively interested in products/services. In the longer term, social networks (like Facebook) will probably devise their own version of intentional targeting.

So as marketers look more and more at the bottom line of their social media efforts, these channels will become more mature and more refined. After all, such a change in focus in how its evaluated only means that its starting a new, more responsible era in its life where its able to deliver on the promise of its full potential.

About CT Moore

A former Staff Editor here at Revenews.com, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over a decade experience leveraging search, social media, and content marketing to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to start-ups, SMBs, enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed Inc.. CT is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.

4 Responses to Last Call for Social Media Evangelists

  1. Jeff Pape says:

    I think what is exciting about Social Media is if it’s where your target market is. Don’t waste your time if your target market is not using those tools right now. For us, it does make sense to be active on certain websites and not really worry about the other sites where our customers are not.

    I really see Social Media as a way to push content out there in a format that your customers/prospects will use it and eventually somewhere down the road when they are looking to buy…will buy from you.

    Jeff Pape
    WrestlingGear.Com

    • CT Moore says:

      Something that always bothered me about evangelists is how they’ve always encouraged you to be somewhere just because it’s there or because you can — e.g. “everyone is Facebook, so so is your target market.”

      Never any respect for the mindset. When I walk into your store, I’m a customer. When I’m in the privacy of my home, not so much.

      So yeah, it’s can be very exciting *if* your target market is there. But if they’re not, it can be a huge distraction and waste of money.

  2. Good article. It’s about time companies started focusing on the actual conversion and sales rather than the “potential”. At some point it has to deliver.

  3. Nice reading this article! I agree that this is just the beginning for social media and marketers will see how much more they can expand this medium. I think right now Social media is a good place to build branding for your companies out there.