To start with this post started off as a comment in response to MOGmartins post about Social Media, PR vs Traffic. Where the argument is,
whether social media sites, like facebook and twitter are of use to large corporations as traffic sources, or are they just vehicles for public relations and one to one, or one to many communications.
Now I both agree and disagree at the same time, let me explain. Social Media is about making connections with people which it does for individuals, but I don’t think it does for most businesses at this moment in time to make a marked increase in the profitability of a company.
Quality of Traffic
Social media like Facebook and Twitter do produce traffic. When someone clicks through what is the users intention. Is it to buy from or use the company’s services, for the most part , no. I myself see a link posted and click on it to be nosey.
With SEM or search engine marketing when a user clicks through from Google ,Yahoo or Bing you can be sure that they are actively looking for what you have to offer. The user has been qualified by the search engine. Of course some customers are more qualified then others but for the most part a user coming from a search engine will convert to a paying customer click for click a lot better then a user from Facebook or twitter.
The Flip Side
There is a flip side to this argument in that fan pages and twitter is like an segmented email list , it’s full of people who are interested in one way or another in what you have to offer. So per head, these interested people are going to convert quite well. when the right offer is presented. These people are waiting to see the next big thing and simply have to be told about it . A well segmented email list can be a gold mine allowing you to sell to the same person over and over again. social media I see working in a similar way.
Nobody can be certain of what the future of social media and search marketing is going to be. My view is that we are going to see a total merging of the two, we see the beginning with Google and Bing showing tweets in search results. We will to have to wait and see.
Yes social media does have an ever increasing part to play in traffic generation for businesses we will just have to be creative in how we use these channels.
UPDATE: DECEMBER 26th 2014
Wow wrote this post a while ago and all in all not a lot has changed social media is growing in its importance as a ranking signal for SEO. I spoke about a merging of social media and search marketing back in 2010, well thats happening in a way. I now focus more or less solely on internet marketing and see that for a well rounded effective campaign you need to send the right signals to Google and the other search engines. Links used to be king but now even they look suspicious and unnatural without some form of evidence that your content is useful. If lots of links appear without any social signals that looks unnatural in the eyes of the search engines.