What's the future of digital marketing, you ask? Wait, you didn't ask? Of course you did-just go with it. The future of digital marketing is relationships. If there's one trend in today's SEO landscape that is making me take notice, it's the shift back to core public relationship skills and pure brand building through one-to-one engagement. Social media marketers today sit directly in the middle of the convergence of SEO, PR and Branding. I hope they take notice, level-up and take over the digital marketing space.
Why Social Media Managers?
In my experience, the social media team is usually (and should be) in the trenches with customers daily. They are often the first line of customer service. By interacting daily with a brand's audience, these marketers are privy to incredibly useful information regarding the pain points of their clients. They know what makes a happy customer, and maybe more important, they've developed the skills to identify and immediately defuse customer issues. That is powerful.
Social marketers should take that real-world feedback and begin creating content that resonates with their audience (assuming they're not already). I'd also recommend that they document the issues they encounter and the resolutions they provide as a source of learning for the entire service-based department of a company. There's no better FAQ content than what can be drawn from the questions customer service teams face everyday. The same goes for customer service through social channels.
Social marketers tend to be social people (amazing insight, right?). They're on the extrovert end of the scale of human behavior, they thrive on human interaction and they tend be good at interaction. It's inherent, but it's also something they can nurture into a powerful marketing advantage. Pairing their "social skills" with targeted outreach presents them the opportunity to earn the brand mentions and links (SEO) that I covet in today's brand-centric search marketing space.
Why Not SEOs?
First the disclaimer: I'm an SEO by trade I love the profession, and I'm not saying we can't succeed in relationship building. In fact, there are many SEOs who are quite skilled. Traditional SEOs need to embrace that one-to-one engagement the social team excels at currently. Writing is an area I struggle with personally, and I imagine many SEOs (not all) would also prefer to outsource content development than curate it ourselves.
As a whole, I believe the savvy SEOs have embraced the idea of link earning versus link building. I do think we need to keep moving in that direction, and maybe lean too heavily on the social or PR professionals to conduct that engaged outreach for brand exposure.
The SEOs outreach needs to evolve from the old link outreach emails to pitching media, bloggers and industry sites in a hyper-targeted way. Pitching is a skill we must embrace and social marketers are perfecting the practice by the nature of their daily tasks.
What's Missing in the Social Marketer's Toolbox?
The pure social marketer needs to develop three skill sets in order to dominate the digital space in the next few years.
- 1. Analytics
- 2. Paid Media
- 3. Technical SEO
Social marketers (applying broad-stroke generalizations here) need to jump feet first into analytics if they aren't already. Take classes, read Occam's Razor religiously and explore getting Google Analtyics Certified. Every CMO is going to ask, "How are we quantifying our social media marketing?" You absolutely can measure social marketing, but you need to be able to show it at a moments notice.
The idea of using paid media might be counterintuitive to theme of this article, and it is to a point. Using paid channels like AdWords, Twitter-promoted tweets and Facebook Ads is a great way to promote content marketing pieces. Take the one-to-one customer service learning mentioned earlier, and pair that knowledge with the social data targeting offered by Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn advertising, and you have a powerful platform for sharing organic content. Social signals like ReTweets and Facebook shares are being included in the organic ranking algorithms by Bing and Google; therefore, all digital marketers should test spreading their content across channels for maximum exposure to their targeted audiences.
Technical SEO is a topic I love to discuss, especially with non-SEOs because I like teaching the nuances in plain English. Social marketers easily understand the targeting aspect of search marketing, and honestly, in 2013, we're way past Keywords in the SEO realm. It's the technical piece I hope they embrace moving forward. I'm not saying every community manager needs to be a server administrator or be proficient in HTML5. I'm saying that they should learn the "why" behind structuring a site with sound technical SEO tactics. Find your organization's SEO and schedule a monthly meeting. Ask them to explain why page load speed is important. Have them explain why site architecture is critical to SEO. What the heck is structured data, and why is Google+ author attribution so important? Keep those questions rolling and maybe throw in a few 15-minute SEO site audits so they can show you different Web sites and how they'd approach the SEO process for sites other than your company's.
Everyday I find myself learning more and more from Public Relations and Social Media professionals, and the emphasis Google is placing on brand signals is a trend I'm watching quite closely. It's because of this trend that I hope social marketers realize the potential they have to influence digital marketing in the coming years.