Why SEO is Easier than Social Media Marketing

There are a fair number of excellent search engine optimization experts (SEOs) in the wild, but there are countless social media marketing experts, many of whom are self-proclaimed gurus in their field. However, the number of SEOs I’ve come across are much fewer and farther between than social media marketers. In fact, I hear the same SEO names every day; I learn of a new “social media expert” twice a day.  Despite this, social media marketing is much more difficult than search engine optimization. Here’s why.

The Quest for Knowledge

What exactly does it take to become a search engine optimization expert or a social media marketing expert? In both of these aspects of search engine marketing, you begin by learning.  As the ideal marketer, you gets your hands on every single search engine optimization and social media marketing book or blog you can possibly find, and then you absorb the information presented within like a sponge. You begin following the experts (you know, the real ones) online. After awhile, you’ll be book smart. You’ll know what to do and what not to do. Hopefully, if you’ve followed the right books, blogs, and people, you’ll be armed with pretty decent case studies and pretty decent material to embark on your own journey.

The SEO Angle

If you’re a brand new student in the school of thought of SEO, after you’ve learned about improving your web presence via search engines, there are countless opportunities to prove to yourself that you know what you’re doing. For you, this means practice and true application of acquired skill. It’s not that costly to buy a few domain names (brand new or aged), invest in web hosting, and start applying that knowledge you’ve learned to websites. You can build a website from scratch or set up something quickly via a WordPress installation. You can purchase neglected websites through auctions. At the end of the day, you have websites — your subjects — upon which to test. When it relates to SEO, you can start right away. And you should. After all, you can’t learn SEO just by reading about it.

Wait, Maybe SEO Isn’t So Easy Then

SEO is an art and a science and one that is extremely difficult to understand and perfect. In fact, “perfection” in SEO is an impossibility since SEO is an ongoing process. Why, then, is SEO really easier? The issue is that the assets for performing SEO are right in front of you. To become a successful SEO, it will be necessary for you to get off your butt and begin testing and retesting, tweaking and optimizing, working hard to improve performance and rankings over time. But the sites are there. The access is there. That’s the easy part. They just need you to apply your knowledge to them.

The Challenge for the Social Media Consultant

In social media marketing, you can easily become book smart.  The problem begins when it actually relates to your street smarts.

See, it’ll take an incredible amount of time to engage in the education, but when it relates to social media marketing versus SEO, there’s something missing in the equation: experience. No, building your personal brand in social media does not count.

Social media marketing is a tremendous challenge, especially now that the market has become saturated with experts who clearly think that bringing their Digg front page success means that they’ve just launched a successful consulting business and can immediately sell their services to the highest (lowest?) bidder.  In social media marketing, the assets are missing.  The subjects are not there for you to test. You need clients. You need to be presented with a problem, one that you can actually analyze. You need to determine what kind of strategy you’ll implement. You then need to start executing. That’s not something you can easily do by just buying a few domain names and building up a real website presence.  But that’s easy to do where SEO is concerned.

Just because your wonderful piece of linkbait that drove 30,000 visitors to via Digg succeeded once (or maybe twice) doesn’t mean that you’re ready to go at having those clients alone. You’re not yet a social media marketing expert, not unless you’re consistently applying your skills to different and unique campaigns and initiatives. Much like SEO. Except that in SEO, you’re lucky because you can get started immediately. In social media marketing, you need to start hunting for people who are willing to take the risk to have you promote content or to push a marketing agenda online in front of the right people. Or they need to find you.  But when they do, they need to know that you have a proven track record of doing this on a regular basis and case studies to back that up.

Not All Experiences Are Treated Equal, Either

I do my own fair share of consulting by myself, but those who know me well know that I have been vocal about the fact that it’s great to work alone, but it’s even better to work with an agency where you can brainstorm with others and get access to some high level experiences not otherwise accessible as a sole consultant.  Real experience with a wide array of clients opens doors of opportunities and gives you the ammunition you need to say you really do understand what social media marketing is all about. That’s why I am working as a consultant on some amazing projects at a social media agency too. There’s only enough I can do as a one woman show.

Learning is the easy part. Applying the knowledge is the hard part. When it relates to SEO, the ability to apply that knowledge is easy since you can either create or buy a website that lets you begin applying the skills you need to become an expert. When it comes to social media marketing, you need to build up a presence by obtaining clients of some sort. And you’ll soon learn that it’s not that easy to find them.

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64 replies on “Why SEO is Easier than Social Media Marketing”
  1. This struck me as extremely relevant to my own back-story.

    I was a Digg power user twice over…and know you were one as well Tamar :). Thus, the similarities aren’t that surprising. I started as an SEO, went to Digg to see if I could do anything interesting and ended up finding a home there until Kevin Rose told me to leave. I eventually moved into social/content marketing because it was a more natural fit with my skill set (more writing, less testing).

    It’s always interesting to see someone give their take on both their experiences and give an honest assessment of the online marketing world. Enjoyed this quite a bit!

  2. says: Kevin

    I don’t get why these two skill sets are treated as separate skill sets. (I’m not saying you are separating them but traditionally on a whole they are.) Don’t they intersect enough where having more than a passing knowledge of either makes someone a stronger executioner of internet marketing?

    I’ve talked to some pretty big name social media people and they have zero concept of SEO. Doesn’t that hamper the overall effectiveness of their social media campaigns if they don’t keep SEO in mind as well? Also having a decent SEO skill set is going to help analyze and understand various trends, numbers, and analytics.

    On the flip side having a strong social media skill set to go along with your SEO skills helps market links, create relationships, and use the available social tools to build out your SEO campaigns.

    Why are they continually treated as a one or the other skill set when in reality both groups would be best served understanding what is on the other side of the fence?

  3. Kevin, very good point, and one that’s not to be ignored — for the most part.

    In social media marketing, some people are hired to build buzz about a specific campaign. For one of my recent projects, it was merely a video. The client did not care about traffic to his website. It was a branding initiative. With that, SEO was not even an afterthought.

    Of course, if you want to build awareness of your site and then some through social media, yes, SEO and social media should be treated as the same. But it depends on the client’s goals, and sometimes those goals are just not about website visibility.

  4. says: Kevin

    Oh I agree that there are situations where it isn’t going to be applicable and as always with any project the goals of the client are going to dictate the tactics used.

    Design, SEO, and social media all on some level need to work hand in hand together. I know you understand that, it is just a shame that people get this laser focus and ignore the importance of the other skills.

  5. I totally understand it. But the point of the article is to articulate the fact that SEO can be started immediately, whereas when you’re doing social media marketing, you need to wait for clients. That’s what makes social media marketing harder: access to clients. 😉

  6. says: Domenick

    I totally agree with you Tamar, I actually think SEO is easier than Social Media Marketing because of the ability to find out what works and what doesn’t in a more timely fashion than actually having to build a relationship in hopes of getting a sale or providing a service. But as Kevin stated, if you can do both effectively, sky is the limit for whatever your providing.

  7. says: Kyle Judkins

    SEO is one of the most overlooked topics by marketers today. The shiny object of social media is where all the focus is, but people aren’t taking the time to learn some of the basics and other things that are involved.

    SEO is one of those topics. It’s not sexy and shiny, but it’s much easier to get started quickly and see great results, especially locally.

  8. Tamar, this was a great article. I agree with your assessment of the differences between SEO and Social Media Marketing. I also appreciate your characterization of both as ongoing processes (social media is not an event).

  9. Tamar, I think it’s unfortunate you’re making this an SEO versus Social Media face-off. I think there are plenty of people who do both. I also think both “sides” that focus on only one aspect need each other, so it doesn’t help to have either one of them start fighting over who has the hardest job.

    The argument also makes no sense. The core is that you have to have clients, a number of them, to prove your social media chops. Hey, how’s that different from SEO (or anything, say email marketing).

    If I rank my own site for some key terms, and have proven myself a success with it, how does this somehow make me more ready to go for clients alone than if I did linkbait for myself and had success for Digg? In both marketing venues, you have to hunt for clients to prove yourself. I mean, I’ve heard this from SEOs for years. They’ve been successful for themselves but struggle with how to get that first client to take a chance on them, in order to do it professionally for others.

    I just see absolutely no difference, in terms of clients. I think you can struggle in either SEO or social media if you haven’t built up clients and are beginning from only a few assorted examples of work you’ve done for yourself. I think you can also be successful in either from that start — because if you have a track record that’s good, even for yourself, people will want to consider you. And anyone, I mean anyone, can track down clients that are non-profits or small businesses willing to let you work for them for free to effectively do an internship that proves your skills more broadly.

  10. says: rohn smith

    I agree with all of them seo is really easy task with comparison to social media marketing.In fact now a days social media marketing become very important so it became the essential part of seo .I have seen many socail media experts who just drive traffic and earning high income without doing seo.So when It combines with seo it will boost your website..

  11. says: Suyog Mody

    tamar – nice post. i’m curious to get more of your thoughts on “No, building your personal brand in social media does not count.”

    for someone that is not looking to consult professionally or become a “social media expert”, building a personal brand provides a great way to test the tools necessary and build knowledge, albeit at a micro-level

  12. Thanks for the article. I will be forwarding this on to some of my collegues who have had some questions about SEO and SMO. I’d have to agree that SEO is extremely important to web site promotion, however… wouldn’t you say that social media is partially an extension of SEO? An SEO technique? Like Kevin mentioned, social media helps with link building, and that’s a key element to search engine optimization. I’d be interested to hear your take on that.

  13. Danny, first of all, thanks for playing devil’s advocate – I was waiting for that 🙂

    My main point here is that everyone and his mother can say s/he’s a social media consultant nowadays. Not many people play that card when it relates to SEO. However, I personally think that the resources for performing SEO are there in great abundance — you just need sites. And you can be continually challenged with site after site after site. There are billions of websites out there, and to stay on top of SEO, all you need are a few web properties to work on. They don’t have to be clients’ sites, but I understand and appreciate the challenge for them to get clients too. Still, though, I’m trying to drive home the notion that SEO can be an immediate process, whereas that’s not the case for social medi marketing. The understanding for some “social media marketing” experts is that if someone really gets the nuances of Twitter and Facebook, he’s a marketing wizard and can jump in and effectively market for many types of clients, from the small business to the Fortune 500. My response: WRONG.

    In social media marketing, you need to have something on which to work on (beyond your personal brand). And that is the hard part. One-off successes with Digg and Twitter are not qualifications for social media marketing expertise.

    I’m not saying that social media marketing and SEO are mutually exclusive of each other. I’m simply making the point that SEO is a process that you can get started on immediately, but my intention is to take a jab at those “social media marketing experts” who say that they’re experts because of one or two Digg frontpage successes.

    I hope that makes more sense. I have a ton of respect for SEO, but anyone can get started with SEO today on their own sites if they have the know-how. They just can’t do that with social media marketing.

  14. Suyong, I think having a personal brand is a GREAT thing, but I don’t think that’s ammunition enough to actually say you’re a social media expert. You need to know how to perform blogger outreach, build views to articles and videos, handle customer service or marketing through online properties, and perform countless other activities — and that is not something you can say you’re able to do just by having a personal brand.

    You might have a real strong online personal brand as a popular skier. What if, through your client work, you were tasked with work requiring you to work on a completely different niche — for example, fashion? How would you proceed? Hopefully you have some ideas.

    Sure, it helps, but if all you have is a personal brand built via social media, you’re missing what’s needed to be well-rounded in the nuances of social media marketing.

  15. Michelle, I’m by no means trying to discount SEO as a tactic. It’s an EXTREMELY valuable one. See my response to Danny and some of my responses to Kevin.

    To respond to your question, though, it depends on the client’s goals. Some are looking for web traffic. If so, SEO should be considered primarily and social media should be an extension of that. But if someone is just trying to build awareness to a campaign (for example, my last project was about a video and it wasn’t hosted on their site), SEO does not need to be considered at all.

    Each answer depends on what your client needs to have done. Some are campaign-focused, and those doing social media marketing are here to build buzz about campaigns or viral initiatives. Optimizing a website does not make sense in their goals. Consider it a “traditional marketing” initiative ported to the online space. SEO doesn’t work there.

    Others will be traffic-driven, and SEO is a mandatory part of that.

  16. I guess I hadn’t thought about it in that manner… the fact that some social media campaigns are not built on driving traffic to a site, but to furthering the actual campaign… Good point! Thanks 🙂

  17. Tamar,

    A few comments…

    (1) I believe you are wrong on the point about everyone being a social media expert but not the same with SEO. I cannot tell you the number of “SEO experts” I see pop up everyday. I see it in emails I get from both these SEOs and from my clients (fwds). I see it in forums and on blogs. I would honestly be surprised if there are not more self-proclaimed SEO experts than social media experts.

    (2) SEO is far from immediate. PPC is immediate, but SEO can take months and months. Some SEOs can get results immediately, depending on the keywords and link weight. But long term SEO success, like you said, is an ongoing process and requires constant attention. Which kind of makes it harder. 😉

    (3) Both SEO and social media, imo, require research before one starts. I believe both have a process. But I really do not think long term SEO success is achieved immediately.

    Like Danny said, SEOs see social media as our friends and many do both (you know that). 🙂

  18. Barry, good point. I think there are still self-proclaimed SEO experts too (actually, I know someone — an IRL friend of mine, in fact — who claims that s/he is an SEO expert, but yet the title tag of this person’s website doesn’t even exist, indicating that even the basics aren’t adhered to). I’m not denying that. I think that it is “shiny new toy” syndrome — there are a lot of claims that people can be social media rockstars because well, they’ve had a Facebook account since 2007! Having a presence on a social media site doesn’t mean they’re social media experts.

    I never made the claim that SEO is “immediate.” I tried to convey the point that SEO is a process that you can jump into immediately. You can’t jump into social media immediately unless there are clients or campaigns lined up.

    And yes, the “quest for knowledge” is the learning process. It’s in the article. I don’t discount that at all. In all cases, you can’t just jump in and hope for success immediately. Both take time. SEO is easier in that you can get started applying those learned skills right away, but that’s not the case for social media marketing. 🙂

  19. I don’t see why I can’t jump into social media immediately. Think of it like this?

    With SEO, to do any serious ‘damage’ you need links. New SEOs have a hard time obtaining links. It takes a long time to build the skill and the network to get links, which often drives rankings.

    With social media, it takes a long time to earn a reputation to drive things in front of the people who can make something pop in the space.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding you?

  20. Barry, I think that social media marketing differs from SEO in the sense that SEO usually has two goals: traffic and rankings. Social media marketing usually has different facets; it’s a broader discipline. You might have to build buzz about a campaign (like a video in my most recent case). You might want to establish someone as an authority. You might just want traffic through viral methods. Having different types of clients helps here.

    Onsite SEO in its most basic form can happen immediately just as long as you have sites upon which to test.

    If we’re considering link building, a more general search engine marketing strategy, we might as well combine SEO and social, since that’s a way to get killer results.

    I’m in agreement with you that “it takes a long time to earn a reputation” in social media. (At least it should be with the smarter buyers of social media consulting services.) That’s where it’s difficult. (That’s also a point that Danny says is a problem for SEOs as well.)

    SEO definitely is harder than social in some aspects, and I plan on having that explored in a future post. But the immediacy of bringing SEO versus social is unparalleled – you can start with SEO right away. You might have started with social to build your brand, but that’s not enough to consider yourself an expert.

  21. Many SEOs would say they care more about just rankings and traffic. Most say they care most about conversions. 🙂 And that takes skill beyond links. It is about analytics, multivariate testing, etc.

  22. says: Andy Beard

    You can start with social media straight away and have success

    Your equivalent to building a WP blog and doing a little content creation is the same as signing up on a few social media platforms, submitting some content, commenting, friending a few people etc.

    You do that enough you can have some limited success, especially if you stick to a niche.

    In fact a blog in a niche and a social media profile for the niche are ideal running mates, as long as the content is suitable for social media where it is submitted.
    You can go out and actively link build, or you can go out and actively build social media relationships or both.

    But you are not going to get to play in the big leagues.

    It is possible Susan Boyle was the biggest social media hit of the year, but whilst the Official Britain’s Got Tallent team eventually got their act together, they were blown away initially by someone on the ball uploading content faster than they could and capturing all those millions of views.
    Highest YouTube listing
    Over 80M views
    The official Britains Got Talent channel is at 8M currently

    For the finals even though they were more “on the ball”, the official channel were behind on uploading content by over 1hr from memory, possibly 2 hours.

    Looks like it is pretty easy to practice social media marketing

    I realise they had the sound wiped from a large number of the videos, plus all their subscribers wiped, but they still have 42 more videos from this year’s series, and all the videos were more complete with commentary.

    X Factor UK was when the official team finally got things right, but I doubt controlling things actually results in a greater effect.

    A recent case study for a video product demonstrated that someone created a pretty rough youtube video, got it ranking, and then went to local buisinesses asking if they want something similar, and turned that into $10K/month home business.

    I still don’t class myself as a professional in either discipline I am just fortunate enough to be able to play around with sites doing 15M uniques/month.

    I still find holes in the SEO of top brands and Alexa 100 sites

    Social Media Champion for sales Dell, $6M in SALES from Twitter still hasn’t fixed their robots.txt file – it has been 9 days since I tweeted them about it, and 8 days since I blogged.

    They screwed up SEO basics.. fundamentals from the Google Webmaster blog.

    You can’t just give away free or cheap stuff to gain SEO success… unless it is giving social media people free stuff.

  23. You can start with social media straight away and have success”

    I’m not sure if that’s true, Andy, unless all you want from social media is links and traffic. If so, sure, social media is great and you can work with those existing sites just like you can with SEO. But looking outside the box of social media from a search engine marketing perspective is paramount. This isn’t about social media as a SEM strategy. This is about social media as an awareness builder and then some.

    But consider something else: you talk about Susan Boyle’s performance. Those people marketing did so accidentally. They weren’t tasked with buzz building. I need to emphasize again that accidental success doesn’t make you a social media marketing expert. I might have submitted 278 Digg stories that hit the front page (out of 419, which even though I haven’t submitted to Digg in over a year still puts me in the Digg Top 100, though not for long), but until I get out there and diversify my activities, I’m not a social media marketing expert. Social media marketing is all-encompassing and is about different facets of marketing in a social sphere. It’s not about just some traffic, and it’s not accidental either. The examples you provided don’t support the concept of “social media marketing” at all.

    A recent case study for a video product demonstrated that someone created a pretty rough youtube video, got it ranking, and then went to local buisinesses asking if they want something similar, and turned that into $10K/month home business.

    This is the problem I am trying to address. First, the guy thinks that one success makes him a video ranking expert. I think his clients are being misled unless he ranks them well consistently. Without knowing specifics, I am not sure how to respond to this issue, but perhaps he’s a rare success story. Most of the “experts” in the space have no real practical application of their skills, and they definitely do not have the ability to consistently apply these skills.

  24. says: Andy Beard

    It is repeatable

    Just go to Youtube and start typing big….
    You get suggested Big Green tractor
    First video isn’t an official version, it is a slideshow with big green tractors with the appropriate track with 4M+ views

    I know that because my 2 year old (almost 3) asks me to put it on every morning, the first words out of his mouth are “Big Geen Kako”

    That is brand advertising for a tractor site in Germany

    My own personal beef is most people I know think of video SEO as ranking something on Youtube or one of 60+ other video sites, and not hosted on their own site.

    With Susan Boyle whilst they weren’t “tasked”, they must have had a serious setup to get footage online before a major broadcaster, and they had done previous seasons as well.

    Social Media as an awareness builder? Just throw in enough free stuff – Give away a high end sports car for the video submitted that best depicts how they would feel if they won the car.

    New gadget, just leak a bad iphone pick

    One hard part of SEO SEM SMM or whichever acronym you want to compare is dealing with HiPPOs (coined by Avinash I believe) and other stake holders.

  25. Andy, not always. People aren’t always looking for your video. If you upload a brand new video and nobody even knows it’s there, how do you market it?

    Your examples are about specific people already seeking out videos. What if nobody knows this video exists but they want the world to see it? How are you going to do that? How are you going to get the required 70k views to make it a popular YouTube video?

  26. says: Andy Beard

    Now you are listing edge cases of clients trying to market products that no one is searching for, aren’t cool enough to generate buzz with a little nudge, and who haven’t got the budget to add any kind of incentive to help generate the buzz.

    You can do an aweful lot with social media before you have to handle SMM edge cases for the Fortune 500, just like with SEO.

  27. Andy, regardless of how you are attempting to discount the campaign methodology, these opportunities exist. There are “viral videos” that people aren’t searching for YET because they don’t know about them. That’s where the assistance of a social media marketing expert or agency comes in.

    You can’t tell me that you’ve never heard of this kind of marketing? People don’t just upload video to YouTube and leave it there. Someone has to know about it or at least has to be tasked with marketing it. Otherwise, the video might get 5 views.

    Would the Samsung Omnia unboxing video have gotten 3 million hits if a marketing agency wasn’t behind promoting it? You do realize that there are hundreds of thousands of videos updated to YouTube a day and the discoverability is minimal unless someone is tasked with this job.

    What about a piece of linkbait? Are you going to publish it and leave it there? Surely you’ve heard of the Gary Vaynerchuk mantra “content is king but marketing is the queen.” Someone needs to do the marketing. We have so many bytes vying for our attention at any time. Advertisers use social media marketing to help bring these pieces of content to the right people whose attention we want to capture. Otherwise, that audience might gloss over it like they do everything else online in this age of information overload.

    These aren’t edge cases, Andy. They are real, and they happen every day.

  28. says: Dave Dugdale

    @Tamar Ha! You had my fooled. A cool blog post would be to take a picture of all your tech books and let your readers share photos of theirs too. That would really help you figure out what people are interest in.

  29. Dave, in due time, you bet I will share a photo. Mine are more marketing oriented though… definitely not so techy. In a past life, the bookshelf above would have been mine, but I gave up the programming life. 😉 (I guess that makes me a bad SEO!)

  30. says: sarah

    Both are important, I favor SEO more though. Social media is good, but you need to put a lot more effort into social media than SEO Media to get the results in the most cases. For SEO, you get to #1 and enjoy the traffic, for Social Media it is constant updates (twitter, facebook) , failures (digg, mixx, never got to page 1 actually), etc

  31. I’ve really enjoyed following the discussion. One topic that hasn’t been covered so far are the different impacts of social media and SEO on the marketing funnel. SEO enhances the awareness of the product or service and enlarges the funnel; however, social media can increase customer awareness and also improve the “consideration” phase so that more customers decide to buy. Customers might purchase based on customer reviews or the opinions of influential bloggers or loyalty based on membership in one of Seth Godin’s Tribes (great book!), but the multiple impacts of social media tools can make them worth the time and resources to get them working.

  32. Paul, thanks very much for your insights. I agree. I have bought many products based on simple awareness through social channels. I hadn’t actively been searching, but I learned about a product through a front page Digg story, for example, and ended up buying it months later when I was in the market for such a product. That visibility through social channels helped make my decision.

  33. Thanks for this article that eventually points out that both activities are fully complementary. Social media alone are pointless if not related to a company’s corporate communications strategy. Analysing conversations on the Internet to build-up a social media strategy can lead to many options including SEO.

  34. I love your last paragraph: “Learning is the easy part. Applying the knowledge is the hard part” No matter how much you know, if you can’t apply it in ever-changing world of social media, you won’t get far. Thanks for sharing your view!

  35. says: Michael Abehsera

    I disagree with you, the root of social media is different from SEO in the sense that social media has far less to do with technical skills and “tricks” then SEO does, and every thing to do with people skills and psychology (which is a skill set to but different), which means that every one in the world has a roll to play in social media big or small.
    In my opinion I am very happy that they are so many people that “claim” to be social media experts and I hope that one day every one in the world will be one, the goal of social media is to give any one the ability to spread their ideas to the world.
    Also I have a weird feeling that you wrote this post to try to prove that every one else in the social media realm is not good except you and some others you know. Who knows maybe that guy that only got 2 fps on digg has an idea that can change the world or change my company or yours? again social media is idea and people driven good ideas spread, and the beauty is that every one has ideas, if they are good don’t worry they will spread without knowing any “trick” in social media.

    Have a great weekend.

  36. Michael, I’ll have faith in that guy with 2 Digg FPs when he actually changes the world. Please give me a concrete example of someone who has proven himself instead of giving me theoretical/hypothetical situations.

    Yes, a lot of my post was about the fact that there are so many self-proclaimed experts. If you have built your personal brand, that’s wonderful! You’re simply not a social media expert until you actually have clients. I’m not sure why your comment didn’t even touch upon that fact.

    I’m not comparing the nuances and actual application of social media marketing and SEO here. I’m simply saying it’s easier to get started on SEO than it is to get started on social media marketing. Is that really inaccurate?

    I think you’re right that everyone should eventually become social media experts — you’re touching upon an important point that people should begin evolving socially and understand that this is the future of business. But people should have experience promoting client content before they make the claim that they’re ready to take on clients — because they might be a complete failures if they don’t have experience in the form of client work first. What a waste of money that would be! And you wonder why our industry has so many snake oil salesmen?

  37. says: Michael Abehsera

    Client work has nothing to do with being an expert in social media, where did the “social” part go? again its people skills more then any thing else, for example me and an agency I work with worked with Fred (a youtube sensation) on a campaign for zipit wireless, back then he had no clients (now he makes a lot of money, signed to Disney etc) and is not a social media “expert” according to your rules, but the reality is that the guy is an animal he can move people at a level that I have never seen before with no money budgets (he uses a 150 dollar camera) , experience etc, in my opinion a social media master is a person that has massive personal skills which makes this whole game more democratic because the entry level is simple: be nice, be original, be remarkable and you can take your message and have the opportunity to change the world or change a group or individual which is very very powerful and its why we are all excited about social media, so this is for every one, not only me and you or other people that work for some big name clients.
    Basically judge people based on their people skills and their ability to move people not client work.

  38. I think you’re confusing two points. Being social online doesn’t make you an adept social media marketer. What happened to defining goals, setting a strategy, executing the campaign, and actually calculating metrics?

    Just because I’m an online social butterfly doesn’t make me competent in social media marketing.

    This isn’t a post about people skills. This is a post about whether you can handle client work, whether you can write a proposal that clearly defines the deliverables you will deliver, and whether you can actually execute it.

    I don’t know much about Fred’s history, but I have a feeling he was one of the accidental superstars of YouTube. It just so happened that his success was viral. He’s NOT the example I’m trying to illustrate here. There are countless companies that create advertisements that they want to build momentum for in this space. They hire social media marketing experts to do that for them. Just because I have a great personality and lots of online friends doesn’t mean that I can get my friends interested in everything I push in their direction. What if my friends online are all marketers and I have to promote something relating to a lacrosse fashion item? Do you think my friends will care?

    You have to realize that this is still marketing, Michael. Marketers need to have social skills but they also need to have the skills to understand where to go next. Your examples are the very reasons for my post and earlier comment. How many of the 15,000+ social media marketers actually engage in true marketing?!

    I’m happy that people are becoming social online — and that’s a point that I agree with. In fact, it’s better for marketing experts since they have more of an audience to target. But “social media marketing experts” need to have the marketing skills or they’re just self-proclaimed gurus that the true members of the industry want nothing to do with.

  39. says: Michael Abehsera

    I think you are ignoring completely what I say, I didn’t talk about some guy who just talks online and has some friends, I am talking about remarkable ideas, ideas that spread, ideas that make a difference for a brand, a political campaign or what ever, and those “ideas” can come from ANY one and more often then not dont come from you or me, they come from people like Fred, or kevin rose, the will it blend guy, and the many other charity and online social events, and awareness raising that came from people who dont have your “metrics” and “planning skills”, what I mean is that its unexpected from where it will come and who can do it because you are dealing with human emotions.

    The biggest issue with bloggers who write about social media, is that they make it seem like social media is all about: whats the new “tools”, new sites, metrics, new tricks etc, when social media has ONLY to do with: the product and how its built, the idea and how its structured, and if the message/product/idea is worth spreading and builds value, once these things are in place, the message will spread on its own and you will have an army of people fighting over spreading your messages. Marketing has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, before it was all about who is better at interrupting people with products that most of them were not that amazing, now its all about the product/idea and if its made to spread or not, the best marketers today understand that, and know how to build a product from the ground up for it to spread, some of these “new” marketers know half of what you know about metrics, and planning, but they still create products that really change the world, I dont need to give examples because its all around us.

    Metrics, planning, etc does not make you a pro, thats just some technical skills that you can learn in a short period and usually when it comes to social media planning your strategy goes right out the window when it comes to moving people, its hard to know what will work as your dealing with human emotion and not an algorithm that can be cracked.

    What I am mainly arguing here is that you claim that social media has every thing to do with: metrics, planning, tricks, and being a “marketer”, which is weird to me (I kind of got used to it because most SM bloggers make it about that) I am saying that it has to do with something else entirely and the best blogger that I think understood SM best is Seth Godin, and the many other examples of people online that make a difference daily.
    Also I am in shock that you think that Fred is a “chance” kind of thing, please do some research on the subject you will learn some valuable lessons 🙂

    Have a great night.

  40. Michael, I am not ignoring what you say, but I simply don’t agree with you on most of what you’ve said thus far. It’s not just about having great ideas. When you do social media marketing, you better know how to work strategy, tactics, goals, and metrics. Having a great idea is only one part of the picture.

    Social media isn’t all about the tools — we agree on that point. And to go back to your original point, social media is about the people. If the people aren’t compelled to share information, you can’t force them to. However, some people might have a great idea in the form of a campaign and yet they have to hire marketers to spread the message. Your examples are fine, but if ALL great ideas spread by themselves there would not be a marketing discipline and we’d all be out of a job.

    I’m not sure where you got the idea that I said that understanding of metrics and being able to plan makes you a pro. If you at least have those concepts understood, you’re more of a marketer than someone who goes out without a strategy in place, but I never said that makes anyone an expert. I bet that makes them smarter than 14,500 of the people highlighted in BL Ochman’s post though.

    btw, I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t sure about Fred. And Fred aside, there are a lot of accidental superstars on YouTube. Was Susan Boyle a carefully crafted campaign? Nope! But can you name 50 campaigns that had viral success beyond the ones you’ve given me? Do you realize how many people look into hiring a consultant or agency for social media marketing daily? Surely you know that there are some GREAT campaigns and then there are some good ones that need a marketing boost. And if you’ve worked with REALLY big companies, you know that there is bureaucracy and legal red tape that gets in the way. You might, for example, be presented with a video and told to market it. You may not have a say in the actual creation of the video. It’s not the ideal situation but it absolutely happens.

    You also keep emphasizing that it’s all social and should take off because of people spreading ideas. Social is a big part of it and that’s why it’s called social media marketing. I’ve only disagree on the part where you don’t believe that having experience is critical. In fact, I’m going to say that even to all of what you’ve said so far. You often need experience (working with a client) to know what a great idea is. And hopefully you know the communities that you’re pitching to, because what works on Reddit might not work on Digg. ALL of this can’t be understood without experience. And that’s what makes this practice difficult.

    People spreading ideas only goes so far. You better hope the people you’re spreading the message to is the right audience. It should happen in the right place at the right time.

    Finally, just so you know, “creative agencies” have been doing what you say is a social media marketing skill for decades, and they don’t necessarily consider themselves social media marketing experts. In fact, I recently worked with a creative agency to market their campaign in the capacity of a social media marketer. The creative agency didn’t do it because they didn’t know the social space. Even though they’re social enough to think they know what’s viral doesn’t make them adept at the marketing of the content. That’s why we exist and we thrive — because we’re needed.

  41. says: Aaron Elharar

    I agree with Danny Sullivan’s and Michael Abehsera’s posts. First of all, in agreement with danny’s post, your argument does not hold water. just because you can get started easily in SEO and have success with your own little projects does not mean you can easily get clients. And you can change the POINT of what your article says all you want in a response to this, but your article clearly points out that solo SM experience does not give you the resume needed to get clients. From that standpoint there is no difference whatsoever between social media and SEO. because getting a few digg front pages and optimizing your own little sites are both solo experience and have proven nothing. so i really really dont see the difference. sure, maybe SEO is more “technical” than social media and can probably be measured more, but that’s a primitive argument because you’d be comparing apples to oranges. they BOTH have their own science. So again, just to reiterate, in terms of getting clients and building a name for yourself THERE SEEMS TO BE NO DIFFERENCE. Anything is like that. if someone hires someone with no experience that’s their fault.

    in terms of michael’s post, i do agree it does not have much to do with this post, but i will say that i’m kind of annoyed with people continuously talking about “experience” in social media like it’s some kind of technical trade. social media has simply brought back, on steroids, the super old-school concepts of value and influence. look you can “learn” how to “push” anything you want but if it is not valuable it simply wont grow and you’ve wasted money. I work at an ad agency and we hire social media people, bad and good, but if the product/content sucks… it just freakin sucks! people will look at it but so what. will it spread? will they buy? will they come back? is it worth telling your friends about? i think people should stop spending so much damn money on on this “technical” crap and start figuring out if the stuff is good. did you see facebook do social media campaigns? google? twitter? don’t think so. it’s called value. not sure if that word means anything anymore. secondly, i see social media as having a lot to do with influence. is influence technical? can it be learned? maybe. but it’s always moving, changing. Fred has influence. a good social media expert, in my opinion is someone who has major connections and influence in the online space. that’s why its called SOCIAL… SOCIAL! FRIENDS! PEOPLE! but that’s not what social media “experts” focus on. people who have power online have a lot of “friends” in the online space. not facebook friends, but friends who are actually interested in what they have to say. that’s called influence. that is not a “technical” science. social media is people interacting with people, but on a large scale. and michael is right. the way you gain influence online is through value. good ol’ fashion value. how do you define that as a technical trade? that’s why it is so unpredictable.

  42. Hi Aaron,

    Interesting how this conversation was dead until last night and now I’m finally seeing detractors. Might I have Michael to thank for this? 😉

    On the first paragraph, I disagree with you. Once you’ve learned all there is to know in both disciplines, you can simply get started on SEO immediately, thereby being able to apply your skill. My point is simply that you can’t easily do that with social media marketing. The reason for that is because you need a testbed upon which to experiment and apply your learned skills. With SEO, you have websites. With social media marketing, you have to get clients first and foremost to actually apply that learned skill. I never said anything about it being easy to get SEO clients. I said that it was easy to start with SEO as a practice.

    (I also mentioned in the comments that I’ll have a follow-up post on this.)

    On the second paragraph, you nail it on the head with this quote:
    “but if the product/content sucks… it just freakin sucks!”
    That’s true. The right marketer can give it more eyeballs than it might have gotten previously though.

    The bottom line is that when someone hires you to do something, Aaron, they want to see return on their investment. And they want to know how they got there. Smart people don’t hire “influencers” without knowing what they’re paying for. Most influencers simply don’t consider themselves marketers because well, they’re not!

    You know who is influential? Celebrities. Are they marketers? Some endorse products, after all. I wouldn’t call all influential people marketers, and I’ve certainly seen no-names behind real successful viral stories. Fred was a nobody up until a point.

    People hire social media marketing firms for the sole purposes of getting their content, good or bad, spread in the right places. They might want page-views. They might want links. They might want to build community. Yet they may not have the skills do to this themselves. Some people who don’t have “influence” can do a damn good job at bringing visibility to a specific campaign because they know how to cultivate the right relationships (social, right?). That’s part of it. Having the right influence when starting out may not necessarily be needed.

    But there are some technical aspects to social media marketing. Surely if you work with clients, you’ve been asked to provide deliverables and actually, well, deliver them, right? Surely you’ve actually been asked to promote sucky content, right? (Or do you send all prospective clients away unless you can score a home run? In that case, they really didn’t need you and that would be ethically questionable, IMO. Just saying.) In the marketing discipline that you and I know, hopefully, most clients will actually pay for a breakdown of what is being done and what actually happened.

    That said, I’m sure that some companies have signed up with celebrities too — you know, that influential type — and not actually bothered with metrics. But those are fewer and farther between because marketing budgets are typically small (and even when they’re large, the companies behind the promotion want to know that they’re getting what they’re paying for). People want to know that they’re investing good value with their elected “influencer.” You better hope that there’s some investment made.

    The bottom line, though is really this point:

    If everyone had GREAT content, they simply wouldn’t need marketers.

  43. says: Michael Abehsera

    By reading your response I still really think you dont understand my point, I am not talking about ideas like ” hey lets write a top 10 list” or what ever, I am not talking about what might work on digg and will not work on reddit, or targeting, conversions etc, thanks for telling us that, now we all feel smarter. I am talking about the core the basics the root.
    I am trying to say many times over that the best social media marketers are the ones that build the product from the ground up for it to build value, be remarkable and worth spreading, so basically I will argue that the best marketers are the best product guys (do you understand what I mean by that?), and yes once the product is remarkable and builds value it will spread with very little effort, again its almost sad that I even need to give examples of marketing being built from the ground up to spread, but there are dozens out there: twitter, facebook, kiva, will it blend (have you heard of them? please watch their videos, perfect example), threadless, etsy, and many more.
    The problem is with most brands and esp bigger brands is that just like you they treat new media and social media as just another tool to interrupt people almost like CPMs, and usually it fails.
    Every thing you said about metrics, tricks, planning is all 100% right I am not arguing with that, OF COURSE its important, I am arguing that you are saying that that’s the ESSENCE of social media and that shocks me esp coming from you.
    “accidental superstars on YouTube. Was Susan Boyle a carefully crafted campaign? Nope!” this comment of yours is very sad, yes it was not a crafted campaign agree, never said it was, BUT its NOT in NO WAY an accident why it became big, Susan Boyle came at a time when every one was down and gave many people hope, Fred is the guy who with 150 dollar camera makes teens feel that they can make it big to, and connects with them very well, there are many things that go into these “accidental” super stars that made them viral, and as a marketer you need to understand it as best you can so you can try to reproduce it, and I know many great marketers who do.
    Unfortunately when you work with bigger brands it sucks when it comes to bureaucracy, and yes when a client comes and he wants you to push a crappy video or bad product its hard but we all fall into the trap of going for it (we need to pay the bills), repeating again I am saying that the BEST marketers are the ones who change the product that are given to them in order for it to spread and build value and that Tamar is the greatest marketing (it will save you a lot of time, also there are many details and psychology that goes into how to be better at it and execute, it will take me to long to explain, I am sure there are a lot of people here that know what I am talking about) I hope that you do more research into it and I pointed out Seth Godin for a reason.
    I think he explains it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBIVlM435Zg

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend

  44. Of course I know what Blendtec is. 😉

    And yes, I see that you’re taking a Seth Godin philosophy on this one. Make a remarkable product and the rest will follow.

    Still, though, we’d need to argue that even remarkable products need to be marketed. Twitter is a perfect example of this. Thankfully, it had a core group of tech influencers who were the sneezers needed to bring Twitter to the mainstream.

    Most products and services fill a need. Some are more niche and others are more general. The right marketing tactics will make those products more appealing since some consumers aren’t convinced they’re for them — but they might actually become convinced if the marketing message is just right. I know that I personally found a lot of great products through great marketing.

    Next point: I absolutely don’t see social media as an “interruptive tool” in the way that you say. We agree that social media is about people — fostering relationships and being genuine and then perhaps sharing a little more about yourself and why you might really be here in due time. Yes, there are big brands that might have a one-off campaign (I’ve worked on some myself) that are interruptive in the way that you say, and while I don’t agree with that kind of tactic (I think these brands should be involved in social interaction throughout), that’s just sometimes how it is. I’ve used the examples above simply to say that I know that some companies do this. It’s not an explicit endorsement of these tactics.

    I’ve never quite said that metrics, ROI, etc. is the essence of social media, but it’s certainly part of it if you want to be called a “marketer.” Actually, let me say what I believe and have said on this blog and to anyone who asks: social media is about real relationships with real people.

    Also, I’m not sure why you think my comment about Susan Boyle is sad. I agree with you. But her specific viral success was accidental. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t expected. Even Simon Cowell didn’t expect her to be greatly successful — could you blame the rest of the world? It’s like David after Dentist or JK Wedding Entrance Dance. Perhaps Susan is on another level herself, actually, but the latter two videos were quite viral but possibly unexpectedly so. I know that JK Wedding Dance actually was unexpected, since interviews with Jill and Kevin specifically said that they wanted to share their wedding with friends and family and never expected the success they achieved. My point about Susan Boyle was to say that it was at the right place at the right time, but there were no marketing masterminds behind it at all. Sometimes great content markets itself just because it’s good — like you said, the content is remarkable. (Not all companies/products/services work this way, though! In fact, 99% of them don’t.)

    I think we’re essentially skirting the issue though. I think we both agree on many of the points but my point really is that I don’t think the everyone who exists is entitled to call themselves marketers. That dilutes the discipline and puts the people who actually make a living out of it in the category of snake oil. I’m glad people have become more knowledgeable in social media, but they’re not ready to call themselves marketers. For our sake, they shouldn’t.

  45. says: David ZahavTov


    It is so funny. I am reading your blog and getting so annoyed at how you have this completely wrong. But, then I realized what the problem is. You are using two different definitions for SEO!

    YOU are using the term SEO to mean in it’s most basic form “Search Engine Optimization”.

    YOUR READERS are using the term SEO to mean Rank number one on the search engine.

    Thus the disconnect.

    You are saying.. “Hey, any one can optimize their website”

    The readers are reading, “any idiot can make their website number one”

    That is where the issue is, that is why people think you are dissing SEO. It’s gotten to a point where people just assume that SEO means number 1. They can’t fathom that you just mean, “optimize your website”

    Also.. It seems as if you are calling Social Media a glorified PR person.

    Not to discredit you, but if you managed to build up buzz for your video by getting people to blog about it or tweet it by asking people then it is not organic and while still impressive should be considered PR.

    A True Social Media Expert, would tell the company that is hiring the PR company to make sure they do it right by asking for subscribers, capturing emails, etc.

    But, calling up bloggers and saying, Hey can you tweet this video is PR not social media.

  46. David, like other articles you’ve read on here, you are looking at what I’ve said in a very narrow lens. You’re not actually reading what I’m saying.

    My point has nothing to do with “SEO” and its “definition.” My point has to do with the ability to easily be able to start doing website optimization without needing clients. I’m not sure what your tangent has anything to do with, but like the three other articles written by me and guest writers that you nitpicked, you completely missed the ball. Again.

    The video example was a hypothetical example, but it happened. But again, you’re comparing apples to oranges. You actually CREATE viral videos. I am tasked to MARKET a video AFTER it’s created.

    Finally, you’ve gotten it wrong again when you talk about “social media experts.” Do me a favor and read my book (unless you’re going to knock that too, simply because it has my name on it) and check out the chapter where it says to set goals. Asking for subscribers, capturing emails, etc. as you say is not necessarily the goal of a campaign or company.

    When your goals are the same as mine and these clients I represent, you’ll see what I’m saying. Until then, your comments are completely unrelated.

    Thanks anyway for dropping a line.

  47. says: EDITED!

    SEO is easy than social media marketing.But SEO strategy is a difficult.Because going in right direction is a more difficult thing.and social media marketing need good strategy.

    Editor’s note: Your SEO strategy has failed on my site. Please read my blog policy.

  48. says: Daz

    I am a novice trying to learn SEO. You guys are closed and biased to your own views. Why can’t you agree on anything. SEO is easier to get started and get stuck into from my novice point of view. Anyway it all depends on your own background, mine is more practical web stuff and not social networking.

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