Social Media Vs. SEO – What’s More Important For Small Businesses

I was recently talking to one of my small business clients on their internet marketing strategy. The client owns a home renovation company near London and they wanted to build a massive Facebook page that they could use to reach out to all people in the city. According to my client, “I should have such a huge following that anyone in London who needs to renovate their house will think of me”.

The buzz around social media has been around for nearly half a decade now. In some cases, businesses that had a huge following on Facebook did in fact manage to translate that popularity in real world success. But is it as important as an effective search engine strategy (SEO or SEM)? Are 1 million Facebook followers more vital than a number one position on Google for your most targeted search term?

These are questions that do not have a one short answer. If you own a company that sells funny t-shirts, then investing in social media does make sense. After all, funny quotes do have a viral element in them and buying t-shirts are not an immediate essential need. They are an impulsive purchase many times. Consequently, it is more likely for a person to come across a hilarious tshirt on Facebook and end up making the purchase as compared to really searching on Google for the tshirt.

However, think of a company that offers boring repair services to customers. Regardless of you coming across a Facebook post about a repair company, you are likely to transact with them only when your own house needs a repair. In such an instance, are you more likely to look around in Google, or would you scroll through your Facebook timeline for a serendipitous possibility of coming across a repair service provider in your city?

So as you see, the way you invest in internet marketing depends on what your product is. At the outset, one needs to understand the buying behavior of your customer. Is your product purchased on an impulse, or does it come out of an immediate requirement? Are you in a business category that your customer typically feel they can do without? Or, does every potential customer would desperately need your product at some point in time? These are questions that need to be answered before you loosen your purse strings. Let’s try to expand on the answers to these questions below.

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Is your product purchased on impulse – For example, consider ShutUpAndTakeMyMoney – it’s a website that sells quirky products that you don’t really have a need for. Like the Star Wars wedding ring set. This is not a product anybody in their right mind would google for. If this website were to invest in an internet marketing strategy, it has to be on social media.

Does your product come out of an immediate requirement? Is it extremely local? Consider a company like Manchester-Roofs who provide roof repair services to a specific locality. Here, there are two main factors to look at : the business is extremely local, and it serves an urgent requirement of the customer. No matter how many Facebook fans such a company has, a customer only has to call them when their roofs need repair. During such times, customers typically search the internet or use a site like YellowPages. And it is extremely vital for such service businesses to be on top of Google results rather than aiming at a million Facebook fans.

Do your customers can do without your product? Often times, business owners are deluded that their products are absolutely essential. Truth be told, they are not. That is exactly why there are sales teams. Take BitStrips for example. It is a silly app that makes comics starring the app users. It is not something any of us really need. So what that means is that we are very unlikely to go searching for a service that offers such a functionality. But today, BitStrips is an extremely popular website simply because they took the social media route to get discovered by potential users.

Finally, is the product category your business offers something that your customer desperately need some point in time? Consider any airport pickup service. You may have never needed it in the past 10 years. But when you do land at a foreign airport, you would definitely go scouting for a pickup service. If your business offers something similar, then it is best recommended that you pick a search engine marketing strategy over social media.

What product does your business offer? What internet marketing route are you taking up? Tell us in the comments below.

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Comments: 2

  • James H. says:

    Very good thoughts, Harry! It’s always wise to consider a search engine strategy over a social one any day regardless of what you sell.

    I say that because you never know if one particular platform may start to wane in popularity over time. Take Facebook, for example. When they started, they were popular.

    Now, after favoring investors over its own users, they may lose 80 percent of its users by 2017! You can read more about it here: http://www.brand.com/blog/facebook-lose-audience/

    Even if you make a living off impulse sales, an SEO strategy should be strongly exercised. With your Star Wars ring set example, that same vendor could develop a campaign strategy around keywords focused around “Star Wars” and be discovered that way.

    However, social is still a strong promotional tool in spreading awareness about a brand, so I wouldn’t entirely write it off as a dead strategy. I just wouldn’t depend on it as a sole way to drive traffic to your business.

  • Harry Trott says:

    Valid point James. Search is not infalliable either with its frequent algo changes. Also, if you are selling a product that people don’t realize they need, then it makes sense going social rather than search. In my view, both of them are here to stay for at least the next decade.

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