Social Media Marketing - PR vs SEO - Where Does it Fit? |

Social Media Marketing - PR vs SEO - Where Does it Fit?

By Kevin Gibbons / September 9, 2009

There’s an interesting discussion in Communicate Magazine today asking where does social media marketing fit? Is this better suited for a PR agency or an SEO specialist?

Social Media Marketing
Image credit: Matt Hamm

There are some excellent arguments provided by both Andrew Girdwood for SEO and Abigail Harrison for PR. In theory, Abigail is completely right and should win this argument hands down – PR is about creative thinking and building publicity around excellent ideas. When successful, this earns the right to grab a large amount of attention, creating great brand awareness and potentially leading to huge profits for their clients.

But how does PR translate online?

I’m sure there are some great PR agencies out there, who really “get it” and understand how to integrate an offline marketing/PR campaign with an online and social media marketing strategy. Here are 50 PR and marketing experts on Twitter (some from an SEO background) who undoubtedly could make the transition to social media with little difficulty.

But in my (admittedly biased) opinion I would side towards Andrew’s point of view. Obviously this isn’t true for all PR agencies, but I’ve found that many have long been solely focused on offline promotion – aware of the potential of social media, online PR etc – but they seem to lack the understanding and knowledge of how to implement this as a strategy.

Plus without using social media on a day-to-day basis, they’re unlikely to have the connections and online community which is available to many SEO’s who are actively online and can instantly get the ball rolling to drive social media bookmarking votes, Twitter retweets, new Facebook fans, RSS subscribers etc.

Does this mean social media is an SEO campaign?

No, not entirely – and if I’m going to be fair, there are probably a lot of search marketing agencies who don’t get social media either. But in order to understand the type of stories which attract attention, find the most suitable social media audiences for specific content to be pushed and spotting the reason why your blog has 7 subscribers with a Digg button containing 2 votes for each story – I think SEO’s are generally better equipped to achieve this.

Why not use both?

As a search marketing agency, we’ve managed to do an excellent job of copywriting and promoting blog content for our clients. This has obviously stemmed from our own blogging experiences and knowledge picked up along the way. Blog marketing is a service which I think SEO agencies should be able to provide reasonably easily and hit the ground running in terms of blog setups, ideas for different social media audiences, content creation and promotion. In my opinion there’s no real need for a PR agency here, but they would be very useful when looking to reach local or national media for a creative post, interesting research/survey or breaking news story.

At the moment SEO’s may like to think they can be great at PR too, likewise PR agencies also want to do it all and smoothly move into online promotion. But let’s face it, the best SEO agency in the world would struggle to create a such an effective PR/marketing campaign as Compare the Meerkat (to be honest even most PR agencies would too). But at the same time, most PR agencies would struggle to do such a good job at integrating this online and promoting their clients using social media marketing. That’s without even considering how your search strategy plays a part!

So where do you think social media fits?

Judging by the responses I’ve seen so far, unsurprisingly it’s very mixed – with PR guys having the opinion that social media is a PR service and SEO’s thinking this is a digital marketing task. It would be interesting to see if anyone else thinks PR and SEO/digital could work well together, I could certainly see it heading that way in the future – if it’s not already.

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