We are now over a week into our social media monitoring pilot. Based on feedback from our SEO resellers and direct customers, we had identified the need for the addition of social media to our product offering a while back. Rather than just rushing something out, we wanted to take our time and study the market and see just what people mean by social media. There seem to be several camps.
Social Media for SEO
On the one side, I see a whole host of people who talk about social media in an SEO context. They see social media as an extension of SEO. And to be sure, socially-oriented website are a great place to get valuable backlinks. They are strong because, presumably, Google recognizes how popular they are and weights those links heavily. Additionally, their trust factor must be high since they are highly policed by very active communities of end-users.
Social Media Purists
Then there are the social media purists who almost believe that using these websites for SEO advantage is sacrilegious. These folks have bought into the social media revolution hook, line and sinker. They have probably been tweeting since the very beginning - before it was cool or well known. They believe that social media will help the Internet recover from the overly commercial orientation that certainly dominates many websites.
The last group I see are in the reputation management camp. They are interested in social media insomuch as it represents the voice of the consumer. To them, social media websites are a valuable communication mechanism where the market speaks back to companies. If harnessed in an appropriate way, a true dialog can develop - at least according to these folks. I find this camp to be more Public Relations oriented. They also wander into the realm of customer reviews and user-generated content about companies. Clearly another place where the SEO junkies love to fish for unique content links from powerful sites... We've come full circle.
Whatever camp you belong to, there is no denying that social media is a powerful new force on the Internet. As a business owner or marketer, you know that these trends are often overstated by the proselytizers, but usually contain kernels of truth. And that's exactly how I feel about social media. While the early adopters proclaimed 3 years ago that 'Facebook will kill Google' were clearly wrong, there is a strong truth to the power that Facebook wields. The idea that we would all favor tweets to regular email is still laughable, but so is the idea that a company can completely ignore what is said about them at Twitter.com.
At HubShout we believe that everybody should at a minimum be monitoring their social media activity. Every company has a presence on the Internet, no matter how small. And given how potentially damaging a negative dialog can be it seems odd that companies would not cough up the small fees needed to at least monitor the major socially-oriented websites. Using social media monitoring the company can at least decide which fights they want to engage in. Even if the answer is to "leave it be," it's always better to know.