Reflection on Nathan Safran of Search Engine Watch's post about the tech press overhyping social media.
Overall it's a great article - the premise is that if you only follow media coverage, social may seem more important than search. But in reality, today search is still king when it comes to marketing effectively. In comparison, social is just one, small (but growing) component of marketing.
My one disagreement is that the media is heavily influencing marketers about the importance of social media. Journalists and publications are always going to follow the latest, hottest trends in any industry. There is no doubt - social is hot right now. Anything created on the internet today has some social component to it. Search has become a utility - nobody thinks about it much, but everyone uses it. This includes both marketers and consumers. Media coverage didn't lead to it becoming the recent trend. Social became a trend, and the media picked up on it.
This is just one example, but consider the media coverage Tesla has been getting recently. Clearly, only a fraction of the total cars on the road are electric, and even a smaller fraction of those are built by Tesla. And yet, Tesla has been in the news because it's exciting and in the future electric cars may overtake gas powered cars. Any exciting news come out about Honda or Toyota recently? Because I know they sold a lot of cars in the past week.
There is no doubt that many hold the opinion that social networks aren't the best place to directly influence purchases or convert customers. Safran mentions that because social networks are a place for socializing, people aren't looking at a marketer's content or ads. Granted, he gives room for social to be a tool for "brand development and customer service".
Search is a go-to center for people to initiate a purchase or to get information. Need to find a restaurant? Google it. Need to find a place to stay on your vacation? Google it. Where to get the best deal on that new pair of shoes? Google it. This position is certainly a valuable place for marketer's to reach customers.
But the search vs. social question is simpler than that. Social is one component of marketing and search is another. Right now search is bigger, but in the near future social will be a lot bigger than it is today.
When someone spends hours a day engaged with a medium like TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. (by the way, all mediums used to market many products and services) their priority is never, "I want to be sold on all these ads". Social networks are replacing a large portion of the people's time, and anytime you have hours and hours of someone's time, you can grab some of their attention. Social doesn't have to be less successful than all these other mediums, and in fact, it lets marketers target their audience in different ways.
My post a while back reflecting on Stephen Baker's article on social media changing advertising is related to Safran's post. The data Safran uses certainly doesn't show that social is driving lots of e-commerce site visits, but we'll quickly improve how we measure the influence of social on overall marketing. You can read more on that topic here: https://blog.adstage.io/2013/01/09/social-media-online-ads/.
Bottom line: The large amount of press coverage of social media (or over coverage of it) isn't biasing marketers or their bosses to see it as the magic tool for reaching an audience. It's worth noting as Safran does, that the internet is bigger than TechCrunch and Mashable, this is "not the most scientific study ever done". Social media is just one of the important components to online marketing, and it's growing quickly.
Ironically here's a recent post about social media here, that gives you an idea of where social is headed - check out this article about Twitter's ad growth: Twitter ad revenue to approach $1 Billion by 2014: http://adage.com/article/digital/twitter-ad-revenue-approach-1-billion-2014/240565/
Thanks for reading!