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B2B Social Marketing versus SEO: Which is More Important

New data coming out shows that social media marketing is now almost as important as search engine optimization (SEO) for B2B marketers. 

We don't buy it.

At least this is the claim that research from Demandbase and Ziff Davis makes. And research from Sagefrog Marketing Group argues that social marketing actually beats out SEO for number one!

We don't argue the point empirically. We haven’t done our own survey on the matter, nor have we developed any fancy pants comparison of projected spending on these marketing tactics. Instead, we’ve just talked to and worked with a lot of B2B marketers. So yes … our opinion is purely anecdotal. But we believe it nonetheless.

What are we Hearing from B2B marketers?

  • SEO is almost always one of the top things marketers want to improve on, and they’re willing to pay big bucks for SEO experts. B2B social marketing is just another task for their agency to handle.
  • No one (not even the CFO) questions the value of SEO, while B2B marketers are struggling to determine and quantify the benefits of their social marketing efforts.
  • Many marketers still think they can bring in a college intern or “young person” to handle their social marketing efforts. Why? Because social media is “native” to them. (Doesn’t matter that content marketing and lead generation aren’t, or that most B2B decision makers are not 20-something’s!)

What’s with the disparity between our observations and the research data?

We think the difference reflects a combination of “shiny-object” syndrome and intent. Meaning, talking about B2B social marketing has come into vogue for B2B marketers. And our experience is that there’s typically a long lag between marketers understanding they need to figure out and do something … and when that actually becomes standard practice.

Which is more important?

Of course both are important. But at the end of the day, for us, it’s about B2B social marketing. Why? Because we think of search engine optimization as more of a “best practice,” while B2B social marketing is a potential game changer for your business.

Let’s put it another way. There is only so much impact that SEO can have when (by and large) B2B oriented keywords have very little search volume. Anyone that’s managed a B2B paid search campaign can tell you that.

On the other hand, here are just some of the things that B2B social marketing makes possible:

  • Identify and reach highly qualified prospects (and their social networks)
  • Discover what they read, share and talk about
  • Engage them directly to ask and answer questions, and have conversations
  • Develop a trusted relationship with them over time
  • Build social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, blog, Facebook) stocked with prospects, customers and key influencers, all interested in what you have to say.

Of course, like most things with huge potential, B2B social marketing isn’t easy and none of these benefits will happen over night. Having said that, those marketers that do get it right will find themselves moving way ahead of the competition.

Now it’s your turn.

Tell us which you think is more important, SEO or B2B social marketing, and why. 

Editor's Note: To get more of Carter's insights into the B2B social marketing world, read Scaling Social: The Future of B2B Social Marketing

About the Author

Carter Hostelley is the Founder and CEO of Leadtail, a marketing agency that focuses on online marketing and social media for B2B companies. Carter and his team have developed and implemented social marketing programs and campaigns for leading consumer and business brands including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, British Telecom, Symantec, and TiVo.

 
 
 
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