The SEO-Social Media Debate: Which Marketing Strategy is More Effective?

With the social media hype, and with practically everyone being on at least one social networking site, many online-based businesses and e-commerce sites have turned to social media to solve their sales-related woes. But can social media really outrank and outperform SEO? Is it really the most effective strategy in terms of sales generation? Surprisingly, the answer to both questions is “no”.

At present, social media spending accounts for roughly 7.4 percent of the total budget allotted by fast-growth businesses for marketing. According to a recent CMO study conducted by the Duke University, social media spending is projected to reach as high as 18.1 percent over the next five years. However, contrary to the hype surrounding the use of social media in marketing, sales analysis show that SEO and other electronic marketing strategies remain more effective in increasing direct e-commerce traffic. Social media accounts for only 1.14 percent of e-commerce traffic, whereas SEO accounts for as much as 32.61 percent of traffic. Likewise, while SEO conversion rate is at 2.28 percent, social media conversion rate is lagging behind its counterparts at 0.74 percent.

Dunbars Number

Dunbar’s Number: Why Social Media is overtaken by SEO

Why is social media not making much difference in terms of generating and/or increasing online sales? “Dunbar’s Number”—named after Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist—is enlightening. “Dunbar’s Number” presents the limit on the number of genuine social relationships that a person can have. The figure varies widely, ranging from a low of 100 to a high of 230. On average, “Dunbar’s Number” is pitched at 150. While a person’s social media friends can hit thousands, the number of meaningful social interactions that he can have may remain relatively low.

This disparity between the number of “social media interactions” and the number of “genuine social relationships” explains why social media lags behind SEO in terms of generating sales. Social media recommendation is an effective marketing strategy, but only insofar as the recommendation is made to “real friends”. A thousand Facebook friends might be a lot, but the number of people who will actually respond to a sales pitch is limited to “Dunbar’s Number”.

SEO, on the other hand, is a more targeted approach. An online search for a particular keyword can get million hits, thereby exponentially increasing the chances of conversion.

SEO and Psychology: The Human Element of Marketing Strategies

An effective marketing strategy is one that takes into account the behavior of the target audience. This is where SEO triumphs over social media marketing.

Social media marketing heavily relies on social interactions and the varying interests of a diverse group of people, while SEO takes a targeted approach by predicting the behavior of the people searching for particular keywords. In addition, SEO can actually utilize social media through the strategic use of keywords, especially in social networking sites such as YouTube and Google+.

In conclusion, social media remains an important marketing tool. However, SEO still delivers better and more optimal results, in terms of generating leads for business owners.

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