Search or Social: Which Is Best For Your Startup?

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With the rise of social media marketing, everybody is eager to jump on the bandwagon.   This doesn’t come as a surprise, as there are about 900 million active users of Facebook, and that’s not counting the users on other social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, and Pinterest.  But although a lot of the conversation is on social networks, is it really the only answer to marketing your business?  We’ve seen how established brands tapped social media after working with traditional advertising for so long, but how effective is this for a startup?

Enter search engine marketing (SEM).  With the world’s largest search engine having already become a legit verb (“Google it”), search engine marketing is definitely something worth checking out after you’ve scrubbed the social media glitter out of your eyes.  Search engine marketing aims to put you on the number one slot on the first results page of the keyword queried by your target market.  In other words, SEM helps you gain visibility that would hopefully increase direct and relevant traffic to your site.

Let’s take at quick look at the statistics.  A survey by Pew Internet showed that 92% of its 2,277 American participants use search engines, and 59% percent of the group use it on a typical day.

 Meanwhile, according to a report by Outbrain, the top 3 traffic sources for content websites are search engines or have search engine functions.

With these reports, we can safely assume that search is still one of the top things that people do online.

People use search engines to find out about things that interest them based on their lifestyles.  They also use search engines when they are looking to buy a product or service.  However, what’s also worthy of note is that oftentimes search results display pages or videos from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Yes, social network posts also appear as results in search engines.  In fact, with the emergence of Google Plus Search Your World, we’ve already told you how Google Plus conversations are starting to appear in your search results, while it’s a known fact that Bing also displays social search results from the likes of Facebook and Twitter. That means search and social go hand in hand.  Social networks provide user-generated content and search engines crawl, index and filter them as results for specific queries.

With this in mind, how can you concoct the perfect mix of search engine marketing and social media marketing in order to create the ideal marketing strategy for your startup? Here are a few tips for starters:

1.) Have a Working Website.  Before anything else, have a permanent and presentable online residence.  We all have experienced searching for something and clicking on one of the top results, only to be annoyingly directed to a 404 error page.  Before you even worry about being searchable, first give your market something to search for.  Of course, it comes as a must that your website have one objective, and from that, build your content.

A good example is the Web Marketing Association’s WebAward 2011 Winner for Best Small Business Website, which has been judges for design, ease of use, copywriting, interactivity, use of technology, innovation, and content.  These criteria may help you as you build out your own website.

If you are starting on a new website or want to revamp your current one, read why you may want to consider building a website using WordPress.

2.) Implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  SEO is increasing your site’s visibility in search engines by appearing in organic search results.  Meaning, you don’t pay to be the first result on the first page of a search engine; you find out what keywords relevant to your business are commonly used in queries, and you use them on your website prominently so that search engines will index your content.  You also have to consider how search engines work as well as when or why your audience searched for certain keywords.  Although SEO may sound a bit daunting, there are free tools that can help you, such as Google Keywords and Alexa.

If you decide to use WordPress as the base for your website, you can also use plugins such as Scribe SEO to help with your on-site search engine optimization.

3.) If you have extra budget, go for paid advertising.  Google and Bing are probably the best places to go for pay per click advertising (PPC).  You can bid for certain keywords or phrases which can appear on the upper right hand part of an organic results page based on its relevance.  If you still have money to spend, you can try going for banner ads for special occasions like the opening of your brick-and-mortar store, or a time-sensitive promotion.

You also don’t want to forget about the potential for Facebook Ads in micro-targeting your intended viewing demographic.

4.) Be on social networks.  We have to admit that user-generated content (UGC), such as a customer’s review on a product or a service, is one of the biggest factors that impact buying behavior.  UGC is usually found on social networks and blogs, where people openly share their experiences among friends, or to the rest of the Web.  Moreover, social media can actually help in your link building and contribute to raising your rank on search results.

Before you get glued in front of your monitor creating account after account, first think about who your market is and where they reside online.  From there you can find out which social platform will work best for your small business.  For inspiration, check out one of Social Media Examiner’s Top 10 Small Business Facebook Pages, Intrepid Travel.  Aside from a neat lay-out, they also have activities for their fans that range from posting a “Photo for the Day” to playing an interactive game with mystery travel tips.

5.) Blog.  As they all say, “content is king”, and it’s true.  Content is what keeps people coming back to your website or to your social network page.  Aside from the fact that you can actually bombard your articles with SEO-friendly keywords, blogging gives your business a personality and a voice, and presents the opportunity to have a conversation with your audience by allowing comments in your posts.  Blogs are also sharable on social networks, so always keep yours interesting enough to pass on to other people.  Remember, you’re writing not for yourself, but for your target market.

Here’s why I think you should actually start your social media marketing with a blog.

In the end, there is really no such thing as social or search engine marketing being better than one another.  It’s just all about which ones to use at the right time and with the right people.  Find the best mix for your startup, and your customers will definitely find you.

What has your startup found to be the best combination of search engine marketing and social media marketing?

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
RT @sbengine: Keeping Your Head Above Water with #SocialMedia Tools [Podcast]: with @NealSchaffer #sbeshow - 6 hours ago
Neal Schaffer
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  1. says

    Social media marketing and the personal blog both are working well for the businesses and for me its up to the marketing strategy one should adopt to promote the business.

    Thanks for sharing great informative post! 

  2. says

    In Malaysian market, we need to have offline marketing and advertising as well because the social media marketing is not as mature as other western countries.

    And, the most use is Facebook, followed by Twitter and Linkedin. But I prefer Linkedin and Twitter because of the strong relationship. :)

      • says

         Agree. That’s the reason why after setting goal, the first thing to do is identify your marketing and check where your market is. It can be on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin. :)

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