Don't get blinded by Social Media's Shining LightSocial media…. it’s all everyone seems to be talking about in online marketing circles these days. Well, that and mobile marketing… which inevitably evolves into a conversation about social media on mobile.

In the digital marketing multiverse the star of social media is very much in the ascendency – but as a small business owner you need to be careful that this shining beacon doesn’t lead you to take your eye off the ball when allocating your marketing budget.

The simple, inalienable truth is that, if the thrust of your online marketing is to send targeted, conversion-ready traffic to your small business website, search marketing is still where you should focus the bulk of your online marketing effort.

It’s easy to get swayed by the headline-grabbing, buzz-generating hype surrounding social media. The statistics seem to back up the fact that spending on social media marketing is a no-brainer. Facebook now attracts more traffic than Google in both the US and the UK markets – so surely it makes sense to shift more marketing dollars to social channels… right? Not necessarily. Statistics tend to be equivocal beasts at best, and generic traffic numbers don’t tell the whole story.

While more consumers now visit social media websites than search engines, the real question you should be asking when you’re apportioning your online marketing budget is WHY are they going there? People typically go to social media sites to share with their peers – to exchange information, ask and offer opinions, discover what their friends are doing, liking, working on, reading, listening to… the list is practically endless.

But when a consumer is ready to part with their hard-earned cash, when they’re on the brink of making a purchasing decision, they’re unlikely to log in to their social media profile to do it. They’re much more likely to turn to their search engine of choice and type in a highly targeted keyword phrase.

As a small business with a limited online marketing budget that’s the kind of traffic you’re looking for. Your goal is to attract the maximum number of targeted visitors who are actively looking to buy the product or service you’re selling. For that, search engine marketing (both PPC and organic SEO) remains your best option.

Yes there are boundless opportunities to engage through social media, and I’m a strong advocate of using social media to reach out and connect with customers. Many small businesses do a great job of building advocacy, bolstering reputation, retaining customers and yes, even finding new business through social media channels.

So by all means invest in social media… just do it for the right reasons, and in the full knowledge that it isn’t a direct replacement for your search marketing efforts.

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