Yes, we're back into the Burning-Questions screed series.
Today, we're combining portions from two Burning Questions from two fired-up readers, because they are fundamentally related.
One part of this comes from Canada, where your faithful scribe is apparently very big. (I was once huge in Nova Scotia for about 15 minutes. Amazing what Twitter can do for a guy.)
The other part comes from Ohio. I think that counts as the heartland, but I'm not sure. (Apparently, they have internet there.)
Our Canadian brother says, in part, "I would LOVE to see your thoughts on 'social media marketing...' that 'free' panacea being pedaled by self-professed 'experts.'
The pro from Ohio asks, "How critical is SEO? Is it more important to build a brand or an SEO strategy?"
Both queries went on much further.
And we'll look more deeply into what they were asking later on.
But right now, right here, it's going to be about these two questions, why they matter and how they dovetail.
IT ALL COMES RUSHING BACK TO A BIG HOT, WET KISS FROM (YES) BRAND
Sorry to have to be like the branding version of Poe's raven.
Quoth the raven, "Everbrand!"
In answering the above questions, it's key to understand that both social media and SEO hinge on the brand.
After a business has an acute understanding of who they are and why they matter to a well-defined core customer, then EFFECTIVE social media and EFFECTIVE search engine optimization become possible.
Understand, I am not in any way an expert on either social media or SEO.
That said, Slow Burn uses them both.
And even a vaguely astute marketing watchdog can look at the digital landscape and start to understand how brand influences both social media and SEO.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHY DO YOU MATTER?
Moreover, how should your customer feel about your business?
OK, this is probably going to be redundant for you as an astute and dedicated reader to the screed.
But undoubtedly, somebody out there has forgotten: ALL decisions are made emotionally.
Not just buying decisions, mind you. EVERY decision.
When the brain's emotional processing cores are damaged, it becomes virtually impossible for someone to make even the simple decisions that make everyday life possible.
So, it follows that the old sales trainer's chestnut, "Customers buy emotionally, then justify the decision intellectually," is really not just about sales.
It's about life.
But if you really want to have people buying what you sell, you still have to understand how to resonate with them on an emotional level.
Here comes the list. Ready?
"I'm lovin' it." "We'll leave the light on for you." "Just do it." "We try harder." "You are now free to move about the country."
IT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR A BRAND TO HAVE POETRY LIKE THAT--
--without first understanding who the customer is.
Then, what is the emotional position being taken on behalf of the customer?
In social media, if the brand doesn't understand all that, it becomes very difficult to say anything that matters.
Social media is a vast sea of pointlessness with occasional brightly lit buoys that leap off of the page.
Those bright spots are invariably the brands that Get It.
Social media is like any other medium (including radio, for all your radio hounds out there).
If you don't go into it with an understanding of the medium and the desired outcome, it simply doesn't work.
AND THE "SELF PROCLAIMED EXPERTS" WILL TELL YOU AS MUCH
It's easy to tell who's really an expert and who isn't.
The experts actually have documented results to back up their assertions of expertise.
Just like radio experts.
About half of the radio "experts" I used to know really had no idea how radio works.
They just threw stuff against the wall and hoped it stuck.
Often, it did.
And just as often, it did not.
If you're in radio, think how many times you've heard people say, "I've tried radio and it didn't work."
If it didn't work, chances are pretty good that somebody in the equation didn't Get It and refused to let good radio happen.
I'VE GENERATED ROI AS HIGH AS 2,000% FROM A SINGLE RADIO COMMERCIAL
With cred like that, I should be able to make it work every time, right?
I've also been party to radio failures.
And usually, it was because there was someone in the mix who fought against proven tactics and strategy.
Occasionally, it was because the world simply wasn't ready for the message.
Social media is no different.
As it happens, one of the radio stations that I used to work for does a bang-up job in social media marketing.
Their station Facebook page looks completely on-brand. It shares a high degree of material that is obviously part of their station promotions. It shares other material that speaks to the heart of the listener.
It is all emotionally relevant and resonant.
IN EVERY WAY, IT IS A TRUE, ON-BRAND REFLECTION OF THE ON-AIR PRODUCT
We're talking about the official station page here.
But what about the individual on-air personalities?
Their Facebook pages are equally on-brand, on-message extensions of their on-air personae.
"You like me on the air? Here's more of me on Facebook!"
There's no reason it shouldn't be like this for any business that does social media--assuming they first understand social media.
And no, social media is not "free" and it is not a panacea.
Social media is a time suck.
It requires thought and persistence and consistency and more thought. That costs time. It also costs money if you're hiring someone to do it.
Yes, there are plenty of thoughtless social-media efforts by businesses who've bought into the if-you-build-it-they-will-come model.
That model doesn't work.
IF YOU BUILD IT, YOU HAVE TO THEN WORK IT
Social media is like anything else.
Do it half-baked without understanding it, and it simply doesn't function.
There is also no such thing as a panacea.
Silver bullets exist only in fiction.
And social media is like anything else in marketing: it should be part of a synergistic media mix.
And that media mix is going to work like department-store magnate John Wanamaker's advertising.
Half of what you spend is going to be wasted.
And you'll never know which half.
WE'VE BEEN HARPING ON SOCIAL MEDIA--WHERE'S SEO?
Let's go back to the core thought: without brand, you have no foundation for marketing.
It's necessary to lay the foundation before building a marketing house out of media blocks.
And among other things, social media is going to fuel SEO.
Done correctly, every social media effort is going to help raise a business's authority with search engines.
And "done correctly" includes understanding what social media platforms make sense.
Where is your core customer? What platform does she use?
You don't use Pinterest yourself. But does she?
Also, most people never even think of YouTube as a social media platform.
There is no better SEO strategy than YouTube videos done correctly.
Execute a YouTube video correctly, from metatags to description to views and likes, and that baby can get to the top of Google page one faster than anything else I know about.
AND LIKE ANYTHING ELSE--IT REQUIRES UNDERSTANDING IT
We're talking about weapons of mass communication.
Every weapon requires an understanding.
In the hands of a skilled user, any weapon can be deadly.
In the hands of an incompetent, it can backfire.
See also: Wyle E. Coyote time.
Understand your brand.
Understand your medium.
Understand your tactics and strategies.
Understand your goal.
Do all that, and social media and SEO all matter.
Do none of it, and it's all just whistling into the wind.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.