Business websites: SEO versus Social Media, Part 2
Tuesday, 20 November 2007 — by Wayne Smallman
Nearly every business could benefit from SEO in some way, but the same cannot be said for Social Media & Social Networking…
In the first installment, I began to ‘deconstruct’ the arguments for why one ‘blogger Tadeusz Szewczyk feels SEO is no longer relevant, and that Social Media is the place to be.
In this final installment, I’ll be completing the analysis with an examination of the real-world social ramifications of trying to implement Social Media & Social Networking for businesses.
Social Media & Social Networking: not work safe!
For the likes of Tad and myself, we do pretty well from Social Media & Social Networking, mainly because we’re ‘bloggers. However, transpose that to any office anywhere in the world and Social Media (specifically) and Social Networking (less so) are almost certainly dead on arrival.
Forget about any possible business benefits of Social Media & Social Networking and think about people in business, working for businesses and those like me who run a business.
Let’s look at some of my clients, who among them sell such things as medical devices for throat cancer victims, land and property development, rubber-to-metal anti-vibration devices and multi-purpose electronic switches.
How do I sell them on the idea of micro-managing a wide array of social profiles for possibly dozens of different services all over the web?
How do I explain to them the intricate, subtle nuances of befriending people who match their own likes and tastes?
How do I get them to take any of this seriously at all? Regardless of the possible benefits to their business.
These are the issues that will be raised and the questions that will be asked.
On-line business networks
Let’s uncouple Social Media from Social Networking, because they are quite different, and deserve a separate treatment.
I’m a member of Ecademy, an international social business network, where you’re likely to see a very broad mix of people from a wide age group.
So surely Social Networking works? Yes, to an extent, but once ensconced in such places as Ecademy, it’s easy to fall into the thinking that “everyone’s on-line!” when in actual fact, the number of businesses engaging in on-line activities is relatively small.
So venues like LinkedIn, Ecademy and Plaxo are an extension to and not a replacement of a good, broad and well-managed marketing plan.
That said, LinkedIn doesn’t even qualify as a Social Network, certainly not in the strictest sense. If you look around, it’s just a glorified CV / resume, which offers member-to-member messaging. It’s merely the electronic equivalent of the inevitable post-event calling of people from the number on their business cards.
If you compare LinkedIn to Ecademy for example, the difference is like night & day — with the latter, you get messaging, personal ‘blogging, forums, clubs, in-profile advertising and more.
There are other social business networks out there, but they’re often not hugely populated. And I think there’s two reasons for this: 1. a lot of business people won’t see the benefits of Social Networking, 2. those same business people won’t take such things seriously in the first place, given the very “touchy-feely” nature of Social Networking.
Future social business networks
Do things get any easier for Social Networks in the future, when it’s our generation’s turn? Yes, well .. sort of.
So the “sort of” is because we’re going to have other priorities like our predecessors, irrespective of how much time we spend working on our Social Media & Social Networking profiles right now, we still need to get work done.
Additionally, those of us who use Social Media & Social Networking aren’t in any way representative of the majority out there, not even within the marketing community.
And as mentioned in the previous installment, the fundamental upper limit will pretty much prune the type of participating businesses down to small, select few.
While the “yes” involves Social Networks becoming open and interoperable, enabling the sharing of our profiles with different services.
These same open Social Networks will then grab our address books, our to-do lists, our project tasks, our calendars et cetera and meld our activities into those of our contacts, friends, family and colleagues.
In effect, Social Networks will become invisible services that “just work”, right there in the background.
These things will come to pass, but despite much of the technology being in place, the ingredients aren’t yet in the right proportions for the recipe to make something digestible to businesses.
Something like 30 years on, since the first Personal Computers rolled off the production line — and in the face of the penetration of home & office PCs — there are still a huge number of businesses out there whose practices aren’t computerized.
The bottom line is that Social Media & Social Networking are totally meaningless to 99% of the businesses out there right now. For some businesses, that may change, but for most businesses, there will be no material benefit.
Still to this day I get small businesses approaching me who want nothing more than a simple 5 page website that will function as an electronic brochure — a worthy adjunct to their printed collateral.
The chances of them updating their website in the first 6 months are about as likely as them getting onto the first page of Digg. But with an understanding of their niche, there’s still a chance I could get them on the front page of Yahoo! or Google…
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