Cards on table up front! I am a humble PR guy who has moved progressively into the digital arena, largely because there is no alternative! The classic IPR definition of exactly what Public Relations is seems also to hold true for SEO especially and Social Media in particular:
“Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
Many maintain that Google is not a search engine but rather should be viewed as a “reputation management engine”. It’s certainly “reputation” – through trust, longevity, number of quality backlinks etc – that counts in terms of Google SERPs positions, so the tenets of PR should apply just as equally to SEO and that should embrace Social Media too.
Persuading B2B clients that a PR campaign was worthwhile was always difficult. They tended to judge the success of any PR on the same terms as an above the line ad campaign or a direct mail effort. They didn’t care about “reputation” as long as they shifted more boxes or moved more tin as a direct result of the editorial and PR activity.
The same criticism seems to apply to social media channels, especially for B2C and B2B clients and it seems to come from similar sources. PR was panned by the ad agencies. Social media is slated by the PPC outfits.
They quote eMarketer predictions that social ad spend will increase by about 400% by 2013, but also point out that 88% of all small business owners say social media is not helpful to their business.
They claim that new product releases on Twitter or Facebook deliver no convertible traffic and suggest that the primary use of social sites should be for building backlinks for SEO purposes, adding exposure and improving “branding” – which also doesn’t sell boxes according to these guys.
Social media, the criticism goes, is used for entertainment and communication, not buying stuff. You cannot target potential consumers when they are out of their “buying mode” and merely in “social mode”. That of course assumes we are automata who have fixed behaviours at fixed times of day.
Even guys who work in ad agencies are susceptible to good advertising and the decision which product to buy is based on emotional as well as empirical factors, otherwise brands would not exist!
So if you’re buying you are buying and if you’re not in that buying mode, you’re never going to buy. Therefore, the PPC merchants say, since Social Media cannot lead to a direct sale it must be useless for business. What about the process of creating a customer or creating a pool of prospects who may be future customers? Surely Social media can have a proven role there?
So, from my lofty perspective of age and previous experience, I can say it’s the same old same old. Public Relations were and is “dissed” just as much as Social Media is rubbished by parties with a vested interest in doing so.
Most small businesses or B2B clients do not see the value of social media because they haven’t yet done it on a sustained or serious basis yet. When they do, just like PR, the benefit (even in straight ROI terms) will become obvious although not immediate!
The author, Allan Bisset works as an SEO copywriter producing content for companies that specialize in matrix management training.