Which is better, SEO or Social Media Marketing?

As an agency that specialises in both, we’re often asked this question by clients looking to increase their reach by improving their marketing.

The reality is for most businesses, you need to be doing both, but utilising them in different ways.

SEO is a fantastic way of capturing pre existing demand for your products and services. Studies show that 86% of all online sales and enquiries will have a touchpoint on a search engine at some point.

Think about your own search behaviour, when you have a problem, you hit the search engines to look for information to find the answers. Google doesn’t own much content itself, it simply scans the internet, finds the best content for their searchers query and presents it.

If your information is presented you have a great opportunity to get in front of your target customer.

However, with social media, generally people are using it to connect with others and to be entertained, so whereas with SEO your content needs to be informative and answer searchers queries, with social media content you need to engage, educate and entertain.

Unfortunately, the best social media content, in terms of virality and engagement, generally tends to be divisive and stoke emotive reactions. At Lilac James, our most liked social post in December 2021 was a picture of our direct Karen James new puppy JD… social media loves dogs.


So lets talk funnels…

Businesses need to think of their marketing in terms of funnels because it forces you to target your marketing at various levels of the buying cycle.

The biggest mistake we consistently see with businesses marketing is that they spend all their effort targeting people who are ready to buy now. This is like trying to find a new life partner and approaching people saying, ‘will you marry me’.

Odds are you’ll give up before you get lucky, and this happens with marketing. People will also start viewing you as desperate and a pest… this also happens with marketing.

Both SEO and Social Media can be used to target people at all levels of the marketing funnel but in our experience SEO can convert better at the later stages of the buying journey, and social media is fantastic for increasing engagement and brand awareness in the earlier stages.

Here is a crude example of a sales funnel that I knocked up on Google Drawing. Our designer Vinay will be mortified but here we are…

When people desire a product or service, they will often consult Google asking ‘hot’ questions or simply looking for best value and deals etc…

If someone wants a new fire alarm system and someone to fit it, you can bet your house that they’ll search something similar to ‘fire security company near me’ or maybe ‘what is the best fire security system for a warehouse?’ etc. 

People aren’t generally using social media to find out this type of information. However, if you were within the fire security industry, you could utilise social media to engage, entertain and educate your prospects at a higher level of the buying cycle.

For example, you could seek to achieve maximum brand exposure by targeting social media adverts towards your customer avatar with a well edited and entertaining video about the benefits or dangers of inadequate fire security with a simple call to action of liking or following your page. Naturally many of the people viewing your video won’t move beyond the awareness phase but some will become interested and watch the video, you can then target remarketing adverts towards a more focused audience who have shown interest in your video by watching 25%, 50% or 75% of the content. The remarketing advert could be a simple low-cost offer for a fire safety audit.

It’s far more difficult to target and scale such campaigns with SEO and requires a far greater degree of consistent effort.

Of course, social media can be used at the Desire and Action stages of the funnel but you’re aiming at a very small demographic here and businesses miss such a big trick by aiming for the vanity metrics of click through rates and direct sales where they can achieve brand exposure and engagement for a much lower cost, higher up the funnel.

So in summary, both are great, but have to be used differently to maximise benefit. 

SEO is great for scooping up pre existing demand for your products and services, if you can get on page 1 for relevant search terms, you will drive traffic from hot prospects and make easier and low cost sales.

Social media is fantastic for getting wide exposure and bringing people in from the top of the funnel and patiently nurturing them down the funnel over a period of time.


When wouldn’t you use social media or SEO?

We would always recommend pursuing both. We must remember that social media is a ranking factor for SEO, so even if you weren’t keen on pushing a social media marketing strategy you would need a basic level of social media output to maximise your SEO.

Quite simply, Google wants to know the businesses it puts in front of its searchers are both relevant and active, social media output is an easy way for them to measure this.

Sometimes with SEO, depending on your sector, page 1 is dominated by big players who are spending millions per year on their SEO budgets.  For example if you were a medium sized fashion retailer in the sports sector, you’re simply not going to compete with Sports Direct, JD Sports and MandM Direct. Alternatively you may well sell a product which people don’t really search for, if you were a new to market fizzy drink, no one generally searches for new fizzy drinks so there is very little point pushing an SEO strategy. However, on social media, you could do fantastically.


How do SEO and Social Media Marketing work together?

In the main, both rely on content that is highly relevant to your target customer.  Content produced with SEO in mind, like this blog, can be utilised organically on social media, turned into a video and hosted on YouTube or even utilised as a social media advert.

In 2011 Google conducted a review of changing online shopping habits and found that on average across all sectors, an online buyer needed 7 hours of engagement with a business, with 11 separate touchpoints, across 4 separate platforms before they make a buying decision.

In short, people shop around and need to know you, like you and trust you before they buy from you. 

Potential clients will no doubt conduct a range of research on your business including consulting Google, your website, blogs, social media, review your brochure, attend a webinar, look at reviews, sign up to newsletters and more. 

If you would like us to review your SEO or Social Media Marketing and offer recommendations for improvement, please get in touch via the contact form on our website or call the office between 9-5 on 01480 219355.

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