As is the case with more and more people these days, I know Hugo through Twitter. It's a testimony to the service and says something about the core of its community, I think.
Over time Hugo repeatedly jumped out of the stream into my mind's spotlight with links, statements or commentary that just ... well, tickles me. Intrigues me. "Here's someone who knows a lot more about this 'stuff'", I thought. So I interviewed him.
At the time of writing Hugo is the VP of SEO and Social Media at Zeta Interactive.
For the flow of the conversation, in the interview social networks, social networking and social media are lumped together as 'social media'. We both know socnet <> socmed.
Social media is the go-to place for branding, exposure, advertising. Why?
It really depends on the business vertical and the particular cross-segement of the business (marketing vs. public relations vs. customer service vs. product development, etc) but I think that the main lure is the promise of direct, relevant, and one-to-one engagement with consumers.
Unfortunately, as you and I both know, way too many companies are falling short on the execution side and end up treating social media channels as if they were just another broadcast channel like television or email. Even entities outside of the mainstream "business marketing" landscape are falling into this trap. Earlier today, one of my newfound Twitter friends, @thinkBIG_blog, where chatting about how political candidates are amassing large Twitter followings but aren't actually following anyone back and are not engaging with users that @ reply them, etc.
They're treating Twitter as a one-way loudspeaker to push their message, but that's not what social media is about.
As the amount of commercially motivated content grows, and thus people's interaction with it changes, is social media as a commercial tool set for an adjustment?
That's a tough one. I think that you will definitely start to see a conflict between the tool-set users and the social networks, and it will be very similar to the progression we saw in the natural search space between the paid link sellers/buyers and Google.
Even as we speak, "Paid Retweet" networks and brokers are sprouting up, in an attempt to commercialize one of the most valuable commodities in the Twitter ecosystem; the highly sought-out "RT." It won't be long before Twitter (or other micro-blogging competitors who might potentially overtake Twitter) will either set out to regulate "paid retweets" (which incidentally, is what I always thought Google should have done with paid links) or set out to marginalize them through FUD campaigns and automated filters/penalties.
Open rates of targeted e-mail campaigns are staggering, especially if you factor in that its recipients deal with massive amounts of spam and that even getting the e-mail letter to the recipient is wrought with increasing difficulties.
Meanwhile the success rates of these campaigns are not to joke about either.
Compared to that, is social media just marketers' new shiny toy?
There's no doubt that "social media" has that impulsive appeal. But as Aaron Wall often mentions, most things that are labeled as social media are actually communications channels at their core. The sooner that marketers figure out that Twitter and Facebook - and bloggers and community forums for that matter - are channels through which you can deliver your marketing message and engage in conversation, the sooner that they'll be able to reap tangible ROI from this shiny new toy.
Also, I do want to take a moment to point out the not-so-subtle tie between social media and email. In a recent conversation with Forrester's David Daniels, he mentioned that the integration of social media functionality and strategy within traditional email marketing campaigns will be one of the leading differentiators in the email industry over the next few years. At my agency, we're already pairing up our email platform clients with our social media specialists, so that we can leverage social media functionality and content in order to improve the ROI of existing marketing campaigns.
A good example of this was a recent series of "Top 10 list" emails that incorporated social media engagement best practices, and where used by one of the world's largest real estate companies to help further engage with their broad base of local agents. Another tried and true application is the use of email as a tool for increasing social network engagement by incorporating "share to social" calls to action ("Follow us on Facebook", "Digg This", etc) within email creative templates.
We're even experimenting with granular "preference center" functionality, which allows a new email subscriber to select their social and even mobile preferences. This allows brands to send incredibly relevant emails to people who actually want to receive them. So for example, if the consumer selects Twitter as a preferred social channel as opposed to MySpace, then the emails they receive will only include calls to action and relevant information relating to Twitter and not MySpace.
"Real" and "genuine" seem to be key in successful social media campaigns. Are we going to see corporate "How to Be Really Genuine" courses? In other words, is this the start of the era of the humanization of The Corporate or will we soon need to be cynical again as we realize it was all just another persuasion technique?
Earlier today, I met with marketing executives for one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. In the course of our meeting, they referenced a recent social media effort by a competing Pharma company that was deemed by many as being contrived. They then stressed how they wanted to make sure that whatever course of action we took in the social media space would avoid this monicker and went on and on about striving to develop a genuine connection with their consumer base.
If pharmaceutical companies, which are notorious for struggling with the social media concept in general, are beginning to catch onto the idea of being genuine, there's real hope for us all!
Social media: a better match for advertising and sales or for SEO?
As with most things in life, it depends on the context, but if I have to pick, I'll go with SEO.
Because there is absolutely no doubt that direct engagement with influencers (bloggers, site administrators, etc) in the social media landscape is one of the best ways to make the type of connections and rapport needed to secure authoritative inbound links and anchor text. And last I checked, that's still a pretty big piece of the SEO puzzle.
That's actually always been the case, even before the catch phrase "social media" came into existance. Most of us have been out there making connections with fellow webmasters many years before that phrase was ever uttered!
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