Fishkin said the traffic and response from using Twitter, Facebook and other community sites is immediate and gratifying. But he warns that they can drain time and energy away from other online efforts with greater monetary payback.
His hypothesis is that most marketers engaging in social media aren’t doing it because it produces greater return on investment “but because the metrics are more immediately tangible and emotionally rewarding.”
Of course, Fishkin is in the business of supporting search engine marketers, but it’s still a thoughtful take on the currently hyped phenomenon. An excerpt:
Social media engagement, whether it’s building a name for yourself on Twitter, growing your connections on Facebook, increasing the number of followers on Digg or ratcheting up your popularity in a niche service or forum, produces some very compelling results. Changing some title tags, tweaking internal links or writing an article on a boring, business-relevant subject may bring more direct financial ROI per hour invested, but the metrics don’t FEEL as emotionally rewarding.
Twitter generated 14,928 visits to his site during one period (compared with 666,642 from Google) that he shared to support his theory.
“That’s huge, right?
Here’s the problem… It’s also the lowest converting traffic of any referral source — less than half that of aggregate Google referrals.
I grant that direct referrals are never the whole story, and that there is real branding, marketing and user acquisition value to the traffic, participation and effort spent in social media. What I worry about is whether these intangibles are worth the expenditure.”