Social Media Optimization – Is it really worth it?

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There is so much talk, blogs and articles flying around about social media optimization and social media. According to some of my sources, social media optimizaiton has been around for about two years or so. I first read about social media optimization from Rohit Bhargava’s blog on the subject of SMO. The online marketing industry moves so fast it can become a full time job just to keep up with it all. Social media added a whole new dynamic to an already complicated and challenging online environment.

I believe that social media is way overblown and too much is being made out of a small splash in the marketing ocean. Let me be clear; there are huge benefits to using social media channels in the right way. If your business model requires new leads on a weekly, daily or monthly basis…don’t waste your time, money and energy diving into the social media clown car. Social media should be used as a way to open the doors of communication between your company and your consumers\markets.

In addition, social media should be used to generate brand awareness and encourage brand-company-consumer interaction. In a recent study by Group M Search [social media report], consumers exposed to pay per click and a solid brand strategy on social media sites, showed searches seeking the same product brands by 2.8 time more than if just exposed to pay per click alone. This means that social media did provide a lift to brand term searches and product searches. Further, the study suggests searching individuals exposed to brands on social media sites were, “far more likely to search for brand and product-related terms.”

The researchers may be pushing the sale a little to hard, however, it is not hard to imagine the old marketing adage…first to mind is first to the pocket book [or something to this effect].  Much like running banner ads…the ads do in fact provide a lift to brand terms and product related terms. All of this may seem like I am in the middle of a real big fat contradiction.

Nope. Another study compiled by Knowledge Networks suggests that 83% of 13 to 54 year old individuals use social media channels. Less than 5% rely on social media outlets as aids in buying decisions [in any of 9 product\service categories] and only 16% said they would be more likely to buy from advertisers on such sites. Knowledge Networks points out that individuals are using social networks to be social with friends and family not to be friendly with brands.

So what does this all mean? Is social media optimization really worth it? In a word, no. If you are seeking to promote your brand and encourage some type of interaction or offer another outlet for consumers to reach you…social media is totally worth it. Brands and companies need to regain trust of consumers, more than ever. Offering a new way to reach out to a service provider or brand can help build trust and brand but not sales.

Social media is not only about MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter. There is a lot more to it. Just keep it all in perspective and hold on to your check book. Use social media to reach out and communicate not to sell or prospect. Use social media to get your brand out there…not to offer the next big sale…use social media as a way to build your credibility not to increase your bottom line. Consumers have enough ads bombarding them on a daily basis and I can assure you, if you push your genuine imitation ostrich leather wallets where they socialize…they will shut you out. Imagine if you were out to dinner with friends and a man comes up to you and starts a sales pitch for insurance…would you give him the time of day…no, you would not.

Advertising online is now permission based. Visitors do not have to interact with your ads or your social sites. If you provide useful information that really helps or provide excellent conversation…the opportunity to win new users and visitors will increase. If Knowledge Networks is correct [and I believe they are] social media is a tool for communication, sharing ideas, providing sounding boards for clients and consumers. It is not a tool to use and abuse.

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