Is It SEO or Is It Social Media?

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There is a popular term in social media circles that “social is the new SEO.”  The relationship between being active in social media and how it affects your search engine optimization cannot be denied, especially with the emergence of the Google +1 button and Google+.  The issue on hand, however, is that social media marketing and search engine optimization should be two completely disciplines, but some of the latter discipline experts feel that social is becoming an important part of their role.

A recent SEOmoz post pointed out how the responsibilities of SEO have been upgraded.  There were 12 different responsibilities for the new SEO practitioner, who has now been labeled an “organic web strategist.”  The interesting part is how half of these responsibilities might be perceived as falling into the camp of many a social media strategist:

  • Content Strategy
  • Content Creation
  • Social Media Promotion
  • Social Network Reach
  • Community Management
  • Reputation Tracking (SM Monitoring)

The approaches between search engine optimization and social media marketing are intrinsically different.  SEO is an art that helps to technically improve your chances for the right content of yours being found in search engines for the terms your customers are probably searching for.  Social media marketing, however, is about engaging with other people on social platforms through communication and providing shareable information.  There is no technical way to optimize your socializing with present and potential customers, so the approach taken by an SEO agency and a social media agency towards social is going to be fundamentally different.  While SEO is clearly focused on search engines, social media marketing is concentrating on social websites.

The need for SEO, especially on-site search engine optimization, has not and will not lessen in importance.  But having a deep understanding of  social media websites and being effective in communicating and managing both shareable content and conversations with customers require skill sets that might not exist with your traditional search engine optimization practitioner.

The debate between SEO and social media will only intensify with the emergence of Google+, and the truth is that both are necessary to help the marketing efforts of any given company who needs an online presence.  Understanding the approaches taken by each practitioner will give you a better idea as to which type of agency or employee you might want to hire to help out with your social media.

Now it’s your turn: Would you classify the above 6 responsibilities as search engine optimization or social media?

And if you want to see me speak on the issue, see my Social 5150 video below. Thanks!

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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
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Neal Schaffer


  1. says

    Seems no one is actually taking sides so ill be the first, i completely agree that Social Media is the new SEO. And i say this because in your Social Media efforts you can easily increase your SEO, but In focusing on increasing SEO you wont increase participation, interaction or engagement.

    I do still think they work best when used together but if we are looking at budgets etc… 2 birds – 1 stone, that’s all i’m saying :)

    • says

      Thanks for chiming in Terri.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Social is the New SEO – I think that Social has “eaten away” at some of the things that traditional SEO did, but there are still things that Social can’t do but SEO can to help your website and content be “found” on the Internet.

      I do agree with your conclusion that it’s best when both work in tandem – that will be a subject for a follow-up blog post!

  2. says

    Social Media is NOT the new SEO and the primary reason I believe this is that people are still to be convinced about both the security of some social media platforms, their ease of use and the use of some platforms (eg Facebook) as a place for adverts with a lack of trust blamed.

    My own personal opinion.

    • says

      As in my post, of course we can have both, in fact it’s like saying can’t we have a and an in person navigator for a particular important journey.

      Tool vs. person yielding a tool.

      I see things like say Hootsuite, as a tool a SM consultant might recommend to a business to help with just one area of social media management etc., just as they might recommend that a business really need to sort out their SEO when they realize it’s an area the business need help with.

      • says

        Thanks for the comment Jason! Don’t know what post you were referring to, but, yes, you can and MUST have both. But they are two different disciplines, which I feel are truly best delivered by two different types of people/agencies. That’s my take, at least.

  3. says

    For IT Buffs or at least people who prefer analogies I see SEO as ‘IT Infrastructure & Software/Applications’ and Social Media consulting as ‘Professional Services’. (So not even in the OSI layer!

    I see SEO as a TOOL in the Online Marketing Toolbox, and Social Media consulting as the USER OF THE TOOLS in the Social Media compartment, of the Marketing toolbox.Very different.I also think SEO for the average business, is nothing more than a tick box ‘atari mai’ component of web design & management (Atari mai is Japanese for something like: ‘of course, goes without saying’) . Of course if you sell B2C and rely on huge numbers of new online customers, the tool has significant importance, but if you don’t…. it’s may be something you should just optimize your website with in the basic areas, and get on with engaging with your customers & market through every means that is appropriate, and some of those being Social Media channels & communities.Of course this doesn’t mean Social Media people, especially those with B2C clients heavily dependent on web sales &/or visitation shouldn’t learn more about SEO (or partner with a good SEO technician), but I hazard a guess, looking at the type of information that floods the internet in the area of SEO, many in that business would have a hard job being a consultant at all, let alone one so linked to a holistic marketing & business strategy such as a professional Social Media Consultant. Indeed I suspect a significant % of SEO folks, people who make real incomes from the business of SEO services to other people, would not have much interest in becoming what I see as a much more business consulting role, that the tweaking of Search.

  4. says

    Aaah…now I see what post you were referring to 😉 Thank you so much for weighing in, Jason, and in such an impressive way. You introduce a very interesting analogy, one that I think works. Thanks for adding value – and depth to the conversation. See you in Tokyo in February!

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