A Different Way to Think About Search and Social

Posted on: August 8, 2013

A lot of companies weight heavily metrics like lead quantity and cost per lead as measures of success for their search and social media campaigns. On the one hand, I agree that these are very important metrics. However, there’s another set of metrics relating to authority that a lot of companies are overlooking (to their detriment).

In the past, either on this blog or over on Blue Corona’s blog, I’ve stated that one of the keys of web marketing success is establishing and promoting your company as THE authority. I think most people read this recommendation¬†and think, “Well, of course.”

But, if it’s such a no-brainer, why aren’t more businesses doing it?

Why are people still debating the value of pay per click advertising or complaining about what it costs to launch and manage a content-centric SEO campaign?¬† Why am I still hearing that social media community-building is worthless because the cost per lead (CPL) is higher than (fill-in-the-blank other strategy)? I’ll probably never get a single direct lead from this article, but does that mean that the value is zero? (Of course not.)

Let me explain something to you …

Right now, the digital world does not match reality. Depending on your vantage point, this fact represents either an enormous threat or an incredible opportunity.

There are companies out there, in your neck of the woods and mine, that are authorities in the real world, but you would never know it from their presence online. They’re treating the internet, search, and social, as passing fads. Whether out of arrogance or ignorance, these companies are losing market share to a scrappy new bread of businesses.

Meet the new breed.

For the underdog, the web is THE most powerful marketing tool ever invented.

It provides an incredibly affordable way to create an authoritative presence. Savvy companies have used this fact to play a deliberate game of “act as if.” They’ve gone “all in” with the web to the point where their presence online is far superior to what they actually have in the real world.

Some people might say that this is unethical—claiming to be something that you’re not. Others will say that it’s aspirational and that it doesn’t happen only in business—you see it in sports, politics, and everywhere else.

In any event, one thing is certain: as long as the businesses playing this game use the opportunities gained from their authoritative web presence to invest in becoming a real-world authority, they will continue to grab market share.

All of this sets the stage for the point of this post.

Small businesses are always going to put a lot of emphasis on short-term ROI. They have to or they risk running out of cash and going out of business. I run several small businesses and help many others with their online marketing, so I get it.

BUT, taken to the extreme—not investing appropriately in email contact nurturing, PPC, content-centric SEO, and social media community-building because the CPLs aren’t as low as you’d like—is a mistake and a missed opportunity.

Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, recently wrote a blog post that included this powerful statement:
“First they have to find you. Not by interruption, but by discovery. You have to appear in response to the questions they ask via search and social.”

Without question, metrics like quantity of quality leads and cost per lead should be used to assess and improve the performance of PPC, SEO, and social media campaigns; however, these can’t be your only measures of success.¬† If they are, there’s likely a major flaw in your overall internet marketing strategy (too much emphasis on leads and not enough emphasis on building authority).

The companies I’ve seen do well over an extended period of time balance short-term objectives—like generating XXX leads per month at a cost per lead below $XXX—with long-term objectives like authority building.

And make no mistake, the two are not mutually exclusive. Authority-building tactics can absolutely generate leads … it just might take a while.

For example, proactively anticipating and then answering prospect questions via blog posts is an authority-building tactic that should generate a substantial amount of leads, but that’s when performance is viewed over a 9- to 24-month timeline. Building an engaged social media community can take years and may never directly result in leads, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in it (and the keyword word here is “directly”).

It can be very costly to beat an established authority. The web has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for small businesses that are NOT the authority in the real world to “act as if”—use an effective presence online to build the perception of authority and then use the opportunities (leads, sales, PR, etc.) to make it come true in the real world.

If establishing and promoting your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it isn’t baked into your web marketing strategy, you’re setting yourself up to win the battle and lose the war.

Think about this during your next PPC, SEO, or social media strategy meeting (if you don’t have a strategy, contact me—I can help!).

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