As social media optimization continues its rise as a bona fide business objective, more and more professionals – marketers (traditional, digital and search), PR folks and even IT pros are claiming expertise and responsibility for it. Having attended a handful of seminars and conferences, it seems to me alleged social media experts are popping up from all walks of life and every imaginable discipline. Everyone wants to own it.

TrustSearch Marketing Expo events, one of which I proudly attended and learned a great deal from, are heavy with search marketers staking claim on the social media space. Nearly all recommend social media as a component of good search engine optimization. Some offer the claim they can optimize your social media efforts. While each individual or firm is different and there are exceptions to every rule, for corporations and brands with millions of dollars at stake, this is like trusting your speechwriting to the copier guy.

Okay, perhaps a harsh simile, but bear with me.

Search marketers are individuals focused on increasing your website’s visibility in search engine results pages. Those results are dictated by algorithms (mathematics and computer programming). Thus many (but not all) search marketers are a descendent of web programmers and developers.

Social media optimization is a set of methods for generating publicity through social media, online communities and community websites. The keyword phrase – my, the irony – is “generating publicity.” Would you trust your publicity generation to the ASP.net developer in your IT department, particularly considering you probably don’t know what an ASP.net developer does?

Certainly, and due to pedigree, I am biased, but social media optimization, strategy and programming, the leading component of which seems to be content generation, is best left to those whose job it is to generate content. Public relations professionals, journalists and other professional communicators offer the most qualified skill set. While I will be the first to admit these professional groups are, in large part, behind the curve on developing the appropriate expertise, would it not be wiser to equip the communicators with the resources and training needed to guide your social media efforts since communication is the key to success in that arena?

Edward R. Murrow, arguably one of the finest communicators of the last century, perhaps put it best:

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”

My point is not to say search marketers and social media practitioners shouldn’t mix. As my friends at Vandelay Design affirm in their thorough dissection of the differences between both, “I really think that the two work together rather than separately.” And, to clarify, search marketers, developers and programmers, IT professionals and marketers of the more traditional training are all instrumental components of an effective marketing strategy, on-line and off. PR folks aren’t the only answer, just the most qualified leaders in finding one.

Related Posts You’ll Find Interesting

  1. SEO vs. SMO (Required Reading, IMHO)
  2. Social Media vs. SEO & Search Marketing
  3. Search vs. Social Media (Podcast)
  4. The Importance of Social Media Marketing
  5. The Subjectivity Of A Search Engine Marketing Recommendation

[tags]search marketing, social media optimization, social media, trust, strategy[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://blog.zonedate.com Zone at ZoneDate.com

    Thanks for the great info – these are very useful tips, links, clarifications and definitions for new people like me who don’t (or didn’t) know the difference between search marketers and social media optimization.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Zone … You’re welcome. We aim to please. And thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.seopros.org Webmaster T

    I’ve been building “internet communities” for about 13 years. Social Media sites are just “Web 2.0 communities”. I think your dead wrong about most SEO’s. We know Social Media is hype and yes that’s all PR companies are good for!

    In the end PR guys couldn’t give away $10 bills on the net. Every major Social Media faux pax to date by a brand was under the supervision of some sort of spin doctor. Why? Because they don’t get the psyche of the audience or who they may attract, so… they make stupid assumptions about what is acceptable to an “internet community”.

    PR/Ad guys have never really “got the net” and likely never will! The technical stuff I know is what can make Social Media work for the SE’s by leveraging visisbilty/connectivity between the SM site and “community” and the client site “community”.

    Facebook, myspace and many of the tagging sites are flashes in the pan, fads. YouTube IMO, is easily monetized, has incredible “distribution” and drives real traffic! The others are where people with too much time on their hands go to waste time! I can put instructional/product promotions on a site and leverage that with hosting on YouTube which gets distributed to AOL, Google and more and if I’m real lucky it’s in Googles’ Universal Search Results. IMO, a true homerum that builds community on my clients’ site not some content generating mechanism bound to be extinct in 5 years when the next “new thing” comes along!

    What do I get from the others? Reputation risk, a bunch of traffic that just eats BW and a few useless links that probably have 0 value the minute they are archived!

    Not shop, not follow ads or even pay attention. Ask anyone whose bought display advertising on Yahoo! how well “eyeballs” convert!

  • http://www.capecodseo.com/ Derek

    One key assumption being made (and recognized) here is that the majority of search marketers came from the programming or IT space. While IT professionals may have had the leg up a few years back, it’s not really the case today and many general marketing professionals have had success entering the SEM industry as well.

    My opinion is that SEO/SEM has become more of an integrated marketing strategy, encompassing IT, PR, marketing communication, design etc. That being said, businesses working with an SEM consulting company need to be formulate a “checklist” of needs to determine if their SEM consultant(s) have the capability to effectively handle SMO effectively. Sometimes they can and sometimes they cannot.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Webmaster T – Thanks for the response. Points made, points taken. You seem to have a lot of hostility toward PR and Ad folks. I’m sorry for that. You’re right to a certain degree that some haven’t “gotten” the web. But just as much as I’m right that some have and as trained content providers are better able than SEO/Search Marketers not trained as such.

    Derek’s point is also well taken. The black and white between programmers/developers and content providers is blurred to gray these days. I do recognize there are perfectly qualified search pros who are great at social media. The difference is that PR and Ad guys aren’t trying to be search marketers. Other than our standing (in general) behind the curve, I’m just saying it shouldn’t work the other way.

  • http://web2center.com Deeter

    Your article makes a great point — SMO requires a different approach than SEO.

    However, I see the two types of expertise combining.

    The most active (buying) visitors come from a search page. Passive browsers have “stumbled upon” our site (no pun intended)but they were NOT really looking to buy,subscribe, opt-in, etc.

    The new SMO tactic is to use social media to develop such a web presence that your most valuable content, or a link to it from a social media site, pops up on the 1st page of a SERP.

    Working together, an SEO and SMO campaign can ensure maximum visibility.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Deeter — Great point. And I think it’s important to note that social media supports good search marketing, but can serve brands, sites, etc., in other ways. Many of the brands I work with want to employ social media to simply ensure there is an active conversation about them occurring. Top of mind is an attainable business strategic goal for some brands. Search does drive sales better but some strategies aren’t all about website visits or transactions. Thanks for rounding out those thoughts for us.

  • http://www.vandelaydesign.com/blog/ Steven Snell

    Jason,
    Thanks for the mention! It is appreciated.

  • http://www.earthfrisk.com/blog/ Michael Lodispoto

    I am not a pro in either field. I do hire SEO as well as Social Media people. The best as far as I can tell so far have backgrounds in both. Although as I see it now there is a new crowd of Social Media people coming up now without the search engine optimization or IT background. These people are making great strides and you can see their work on Stumbleupon, one of the best sites in social media, daily! You can also see their work on Digg and a few other sites.
    I’m doing a little test over the next few weeks with a major project, pitting many social media people along with SEO people to see who gets the best results. It will be interesting to see the results right before Christmas. Can’t name names obviously but as of this date there are 0 links or references anywhere to the site I’m having worked on. Very easy to tell who and what works the best with the nice budget I am dealing with.
    I suspect though that the top people will have a background in both SEO and SMO. If you want to see this debate further check out Sphinn and watch both styles go at each other and debate.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Steven – You are welcome and entitled to the credit. I enjoy your blog regularly.

    Michael – Fascinating experiment and I will most definitely follow. Please feel free to share. Perhaps we can both blog about the project and share thoughts. I suspect your feelings will be validated — robust backgrounds will win out. I hope it proves thought provoking and revealing for us all!

  • http://bloggers-journey.com Kenneth

    Listen to this guy, he know what he’s talking about. Great job Jason

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Thanks Kenneth. I appreciate the endorsement.

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    Nice one. I have stumbled and twittered this for my friends. My friends will enjoy reading it also.