For most small businesses, social media remains uncharted—and potentially shark-infested—waters. Concerns ranging from worker productivity to legal liability have led small business owners to stick with what they know in the Internet marketing world—namely search engine optimization. This is ironic, considering that just a few years ago, SEO was still seen by many companies as only a few steps removed from those Nigerian email banking scams.
Social media marketing appears to be in a similar position today as SEO was in a few years ago. A recent survey of 500 small business executives across the U.S. by Citibank/GfK Roper found that the vast majority consider social media sites unhelpful and prefer to use search engines for finding information and their own company websites for generating sales.
What these executives may not realize is that the worlds of social media and search engine optimization are rapidly converging. The microblogging site Twitter is in talks with Google and Bing about allowing them to include Twitter’s 140-character posts in their search results. Already this year, Twitter has enhanced the ability of its users to get real-time search results. Google is also unveiling services such as Sidewiki that will allow anyone to comment on or add useful information next to any webpage. In short, search is going social.
The social media sphere is also where the customers are. August 2009 numbers from Nielsen show that 301.5 million people in the U.S. and several other major countries are using social media sites versus 229.2 million who are using email. Social media use is now happening in the most unexpected industries. A recent Fresno Bee article examined the growing use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs among U.S. dairy farmers. Yep, dairy farmers. Milk, meet microblogging.
What all of this means is that Internet marketing is becoming a two-sided enterprise. Search engine optimization and content writing services will not lose their importance. But relying solely on familiar marketing techniques to build your business is like laying a foundation with one arm tied behind your back. As social media continues its remarkable growth, building an online business is going to require two strong and agile arms: SEO and SMM.