Posts Tagged ‘MarketingSherpa’

How to Be Seen Online

Monday, December 10th, 2012

A famous Monty Python skit “educates” viewers on how not to be seen. While wonderful classic British humor, it’s the opposite of a productive online strategy.

When prospective buyers are searching online for information about whatever it is you sell, or about solving the kinds of problems that your products and/or services are designed to alleviate, your brand should be as widely seen as possible. Your content needs to be relevant of course, and merely being visible doesn’t guarantee you the business, but it is the essential first step.

The framework for maximizing online visibility is web presence optimization—the processes and metrics that enable coordination of the efforts of PR,  SEO, content marketing, brand management, advertising, and social media professionals to maximize and continuously improve an organization’s “findability.”

The recent MarketingSherpa blog post Web Presence Optimization: Evolving the view of online success details the evolution of web presence optimization (WPO), the strategy behind it, and the WPO metrics vital to keeping a diverse group of digital marketing and PR professionals on the same page. We think you’ll find the Sherpa post a helpful read; after all, it was written by the author of MarketingSherpa’s Readers Choice Best B2B Marketing Blog of 2012. :-)

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87 More Vital Social Media Marketing Facts and Stats for 2012

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Though social media marketing is now used in about 90% of companies, techniques, platforms and best practices continue to evolve.  Should you include Pinterest in your mix? Increase use of video marketing? Is blogging coming back or trailing off? What will likely be the hot trends in social media over the next couple of years?

More Social Media Stats for 2012Marketers have questions, this post has answers: 87 vital social media and online marketing statistics covering everything from how executives and large companies are using social media for marketing, customer service and recruiting to fresh stats on the leading social media platforms to search, email, content and mobile marketing trends.

The recent 72 Fascinating Social Media Stats post on JeffBullas.com was one of my post popular guest posts ever, so here is an entirely new set of social media stats, facts and research findings.

Social Media Stats and Demographics

1. Social media accounts for only 16% of customer engagement today, but is expected to increase to 57%—the second-most used channel, behind only face to face interaction—within five years. (Marketing Pilgrim)

2. 30% of the world’s entire population is now online, and social networking is the most popular and time consuming online activity—with users spending more than one fifth (22%) of their time engaging on social media channels. This means that more than 250 million tweets and 800 million Facebook status updates are now published every single day. (MindJumpers)

3. Brazilians have the highest number of online friends of any country, averaging 481 friends per user, while the Japanese average only 29 friends. (MindJumpers)

4. 56% of Americans have a profile on at least one social networking site. And it’s not just millenials; 55% of those aged 45-54 have at least one social network profile. (Convince & Convert)

5. Social networks and blogs In the U.S reach nearly 80% of active U.S. Internet users and represent the majority of Americans’ time online. (MediaPost)

6. 60% of people who use three or more digital means of research for product purchases learned about a specific brand or retailer from a social networking site. 48% of these consumers responded to a retailer’s offer posted on Facebook or Twitter. (MediaPost)

7. 90% of marketers now use social networks in their marketing efforts, but growth has plateaued; the figure was 89% in 2011. (eMarketer)

8. Half of all social media users are between 25 and 44 years old, but the age distribution varies widely across social networks. Reddit and Tumblr are among the “youngest” networks, with half or more of users under 35 years old. Twitter is about in the middle (55% of users age 35 or older) while 65% of Facebook users are over 35 (didn’t this start with college students?) and LinkedIn is the “oldest” network, with 79% of users age 35 and older. (Pingdom)

9. Women tend to be somewhat more present and active on social media than men, though the shares vary widely by site. Men tend to dominate on technical sites (e.g., Slashdot is almost 90% guys); LinkedIn is close to a 50-50 split; Twitter and Facebook are both about 40% male / 60% female; and women account for almost 90% of Pinterest users. (Pingdom)

10. Social media and blogs reach 80% of all U.S. Internet users. 91% of experienced social marketers see improved website traffic due to social media and 79% are generating more quality leads. (Business2Community)

11. 90% of companies with 100 or more employees use social media in their marketing mix. 83% use Facebook and 53% are on Twitter, though that gap is expected to narrow by 2014 due to rapid growth in Twitter use. (eMarketer)

Social Media in the Enterprise

12. Just 23% of Fortune 500 companies maintain an active blog, vs. 37% of Inc. 500 firms. (V3 Integrated Marketing)

13. 35% of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies have a corporate blog compared to 14 percent of those Fortune 500 companies in the bottom 300-500 of the category, i.e., top companies devote more attention to their corporate blogs than those in the bottom of the pack.  (V3 Integrated Marketing)

14. 62% of Fortune 500 companies have an active Twitter account, while 58% maintain a corporate Facebook page. (V3 Integrated Marketing)

15. Looking at five leading social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest), Fortune 100 company names are mentioned more than 10 million times per month. (Digital Buzz Blog)

16. The average Fortune 100 company is mentioned nearly 56,000 times per month On Twitter. (Digital Buzz Blog)

17. 87 of the Fortune 100 companies are now active on at least one social network. 82 use Twitter, 75 have a Facebook page, 50 are on Google+ and 25% use Pinterest. (Digital Buzz Blog)

18. To accommodate different product lines, business units and geographies, the average Fortune 100 company now maintains 10 official corporate Twitter accounts, 10 Facebook pages and eight YouTube channels. (Digital Buzz Blog)

19. Fortune 500 companies tend to be antisocial. Less than half of Fortune 500 businesses provide a link to their Facebook profile or Twitter handle on the Contact Us page of their Web sites. About 27% of consumer-facing Fortune 500 corporations do not list social media channels on their Web site home page, 89% do not list an e-mail address on their site, and 13% don’t list a phone number on their Contact Us page. (MediaPost)

Social Media Use in the C-Suite

20. 71% of consumers say that CEO participation in social media leads to improved brand image. (41 Stories)

21. Only 3.2% of Fortune 500 (largest companies) CEOs have a Twitter account compared with 17% of Inc. 500 (fastest-growing companies) CEOs. (41 Stories)

22. 52% of CEOs who are active in social media say that it helps their companies rise in search rankings, and 48% say that social media has generated qualified sales leads.  (41 Stories)

23. Though 94% of corporations use social media in some way and 58% of executives acknowledge that social media is useful for lead generation and developing brand loyalty, 70% of CEOs have no presence on any social network. 26% are on LinkedIn, 8% have a Facebook page and just 4% use Twitter. (Business Insider)

24. This is the case even though 82% of buyers say they are more likely to trust a company whose top executive is active on social media, and 81% of employees believe that social CEOs are better leaders. (Business Insider)

Social Media and Human Resources

25. 40% of organizations have a formal social media policy, and 56% of those policies include a statement regarding the organization’s right to monitor social media usage. More than a third (39%) of companies monitor their employees social media use on company-owned computers and handheld devices. (Resume Bear)

26. 92% of recruiters use social media to find new candidates, up from 82% in 2010. And 73% now say they have successfully hired through social media, up significantly from just 58% two years ago. (Ragan.com)

27. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn is the most popular social network among recruiters, with 93% using it. 66% use Facebook while 54% utilize Twitter. More dramatically, 89% of recruiters say that LinkedIn has produced at least one successful hire for them, compared to 25% who say the same of Facebook and just 15% who’ve had recruiting success with Twitter. (Ragan.com)

Facebook Stats

28. 20% of all pageviews on the web are on Facebook. (Jeff Bullas)

29. Half of all Facebook users use it on mobile devices, at least occasionally. (Jeff Bullas)

30. More than 500 million people log in to Facebook each day, and they collectively post 3.2 billion likes and comments. (Jeff Bullas)

31. Social media fatigue? Though 20% of Facebook users say they check in on the social network once or twice per day, 52% plan to spend less time there in the future. (SodaHead)

32. 73% of users believe that another social network will eclipse Facebook. (SodaHead)

Twitter Facts

33. Twitter attracts one million new users per day. (Jeff Bullas)

34. Of Twitter’s 165 million users, half access Twitter on mobile devices at least occasionally.  (HubSpot)

35. 53% of Twitter users have been a member for less than a year, compared to just 19% for Facebook. (Convince & Convert)

36. 76% of Twitter users are active tweeters, up from 47% in 2010. (Convince & Convert)

37. Want to get retweeted more often? Research shows that keywords which increase the likelihood of retweeting include “please,” “thank you,” “Twitter,” “social media” and “you.” Words to avoid include “lol,” gonna,” “hey,” “tired,” “work” and “bored.” (iMedia Connection)

38. Twitter users now post 340 million tweets per day, or roughly a billion tweets every three days. (Digital Buzz Blog)

LinkedIn Statistics

39. Two news users join LinkedIn every second.  (Jeff Bullas)

40. 75 of the Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn in their corporate hiring process.  (HubSpot)

YouTube and Video Marketing Trends

41. YouTube is the third-most-visited site on the web, with two billion views per day. (Jeff Bullas)

42. YouTube use accounts for 10% of all traffic on the Internet. (Jeff Bullas)

43. 76% of marketers said they planned to increase use of video and YouTube in 2012.  (HubSpot)

44. There are 1.5 million business-related searches on YouTube each day, and 75% of senior executives say they watch work-related videos at least weekly. (Earnest B2B)

Blogging Stats

45. Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages. And companies with more indexed pages generate far more leads from search.  (Search Engine Journal)

46. The very first blogs appeared in 1998, and Blogger.com was launched in 1999. By 2006, there were more than 50 million blogs in existence. (HubSpot)

47. Today, there are more than 158 million blogs (though only about 70 million are active). (Spin Sucks)

48. B2C companies who blog regularly see an 88% increase in median monthly leads and B2B companies who blog see a 67% increase in leads.  (V3 Integrated Marketing)

49. Roughly 60% of business blogs are updated at least twice per week. (Marketing Charts)

50. Another study found that while 60% of businesses have a blog, only 35% of those (i.e., 21% of all businesses) actively maintain them. (New Media Expo Blog)

51. The two most popular blogging platforms are WordPress (used for 43% of all blogs) and Blogger (35%). Surprised it’s that close. (New Media Expo Blog)

Content Marketing Findings

52. The most popular forms of content marketing for B2B companies are social media excluding blogs (79%) and article posting (78%). 51% maintain blogs, 42% conduct webinars and webcasts, and 41% produce videos. Just 11% use mobile content and only 9% create eBooks. (Earnest B2B)

53. However, 71% of B2B marketers view in-person events as effective while only 31% say the same about social media excluding blogs. (Earnest B2B)

54. Relevance is critical is content marketing. 45% of consumers have unsubscribed from emails due to irrelevant content, and on the B2B side, IT buyers say that 58% of vendor content is not relevant to them, and that this lack of relevance reduces the chance of closing a sale by 45%. (MarketingSherpa)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Facts

55. 70% of the links search users click on are organic. (This is an overall average, however, and the share of clicks on paid results is considerably higher for many commercially oriented searches.) (Search Engine Journal)

56. 46% of all searches are for information about products or services. (HubSpot)

57. 75% of searchers never scroll past the first page of results (which also means of course that 25% do).  (Search Engine Journal)

58. 93% of online experiences (including b2b and considered purchases) begin with a search engine. (Search Engine Journal)

59. Half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices.  (HubSpot)

60. 66% of new customers use search and online research to find local businesses.  (HubSpot)

61. 21% of all time spent online is spent on web searches. (MindJumpers)

62. It’s probably no surprise that the big three search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!) are among the five most-visited sites on the Internet. But consider that AOL is #7 and Ask is #10, meaning that…five of the top 10 most-visited sites on the web are search engines. (MindJumpers)

63. B2B companies that maintain active content (e.g., bloogging) and SEO programs increased their total website traffic, on average, by 25% in the past year, while those who neglected SEO (either never did it or did SEO only as a one-time effort at site launch) experienced an average 15% decline in overall visits. (Webbiquity)

64. How big is the SEO industry? Well, there are 863 million websites globally that mention “SEO.” There are 9.1 million searches conducted including the acronym each month, with the top two phrases being “SEO services” and “SEO company.” More than 60,000 Twitter users include “SEO” in their bios, there have been 13 million blog posts published that include “SEO” in the title, and Amazon.com carries almost 2,700 different books about SEO. (Search Engine Journal)

65. While it’s vital for marketers to integrate search and social in terms of their strategies, it turns out consumers don’t like the two actually mixed in search results. 62% say they do not want social results included on search engine result pages (SERPs), while just 19% do. (Search Engine Watch)

66. If social results are going to be included on SERPs, consumers prefer Bing’s layout (social off to the right side) rather than Google’s layout (social mixed with organic results), 63% to 37%. However, by a 5-to-3 margin, consumers preferred Google’s display of universal search results. (Search Engine Watch)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Online Advertising

67. Every marketer knows that click-through rates on banner ads are very low. Why? 31% of users say they are worried if they click on an ad that their behavior will be tracked, while 57% fear they will receive spam from advertisers. (Get Elastic)

68. The average person is more likely to apply and be accepted by Harvard or be dealt a full house in poker than to click on a banner ad. (Get Elastic)

69. There are more tweets each month that include “PPC” (282,000) than there are that include “SEO” (248,000), though there are most searches on and blog posts written about SEO. (Search Engine Journal)

70. Click-through rates (CTR) on search ads for keyword phrases with “high commercial intent’ are up to 600 times greater than average CTR for ads on a typical Facebook page. (e-Strategy Trends)

Mobile Marketing Statistics

71. There are about four billion mobile phones in use. Of those, 27% (1.08 billion) are smartphones.  (HubSpot)

72. 50% of all smartphone users use their devices to search the web, and 49% use them for social networking. (HubSpot)

73. 8% of web hits worldwide are from mobile phones. In the US, 25% of mobile Web users are mobile-only. Further, 80% of this traffic will leave if your website isn’t optimized for mobile–a good case for having a mobile-friendly website. (Heidi Cohen)

74. Do some research and consider carefully before investing in design and creation of a mobile app for your business. A quarter of all mobile apps are used only once. (Heidi Cohen)

75. 74% of Americans are unfamiliar with the concept of checking in to a location via mobile device, and only 3% have ever checked in. (Convince & Convert)

76. One in four employees use personal smartphones at work. (Earnest B2B)

77. Almost 40% of social media users access social media content from their mobile phone at least occasionally. (MediaPost)

78. Mobile and video are the two hottest growth areas in marketing. 17% of marketers say they’ve been using mobile marketing for less than a year, while another 17% plan to start using it in the coming year. The figures are 14% and 10%, respectively, for video marketing. (eMarketer)

79. In a July 2012 survey, 26% of respondents said they were interested in the iPhone5, while 74% said they were “over it”–just not that intrigued by another new Apple device. (SodaHead)

Email Marketing Facts

80. Nearly one billion Internet users are on Facebook. But 3.1 billion use email. (HubSpot)

81. Less than one out of five email marketers include social sharing links in their emails. Of those, 91% include a Facebook link while nearly half include Twitter.  (HubSpot)

82. 19% of all time spent online is spent on reading and responding to emails. (MindJumpers)

Other Social and Marketing Stats

83. Instagram tripled its user base from 10 million in September 2011 to 30 million by April 2012. Its Android app had one million downloads on the day it was released. (Jeff Bullas)

84. 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook “likes” are from women.  (Jeff Bullas)

85. Google+ adds 625,000 new users each day.  (Jeff Bullas)

86. 67% of Google+ users are male.  (Jeff Bullas)

87. A majority of marketers worldwide say that less than half of all the analytics data they collect is actually useful for decision-making, and 34% say analytics are not integrated at all with their business plans. (eMarketer)

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Looking Back at 300: Top 10 Posts on the Webbiquity Blog So Far

Friday, October 5th, 2012

After 32 months (time flies when you’re having fun!) and 300 posts, here is a quick look back at the 10 most-read posts on the Webbiquity blog to date. This is an update of the looking back at 100 post in July 2010.

Again, thank you for reading the MarketingSherpa Readers Choice top b2b marketing blog for 2012. Without further ado, below are the 10 most-viewed posts on this blog to date. Some of the entries are surprising, but life and the web can be unpredictable. These are the posts that Webbiquity readers have “voted” as the best by their traffic so far.

Top 10 Posts So Far on the Webbiquity B2B Marketng Blog10. PR Monitoring and Management Tools: Which is Best? Vocus vs. Cision (November 8, 2011)

Vocus and Cision are both powerful and popular PR monitoring and management systems. Both provide PR and social media professionals with extensive capabilities for tracking and growing media coverage of their organizations or clients. So which is best?

9. How to Write an Effective Business Blog (January 8, 2010)

Helpful advice on choosing a blogging platform, authors, topics and frequency for an effective business blog. This post is starting to show its age, but the guidance is still useful to beginning bloggers.

8. 33 (of the) Best Marketing Strategy Guides and Insights of 2010 (February 14, 2011)

Sometimes it’s essential to step back from everyday marketing tactics to ask the bigger questions, like: What conceptual models are we basing our marketing assumptions and practices on, and what new models should we be thinking about? Which emerging trends do we need to keep an eye on? While you won’t find much in the way of “tips and tricks” in this post, you will find guidance on answers to these big-picture marketing questions and more here in some the best marketing strategy guides and insights of 2010. For a more up-to-date look at marketing strategy, check out the Best B2B Marketing and Sales Strategy Guides and Insights of 2011.

7. The One Effective Use of Facebook for B2B Marketing (March 9, 2010)

The intimate, informal nature of Facebook makes it the ideal venue to showcase the human side of your company, with content that may not be appropriate elsewhere. While I’d write this differently today, the post holds up pretty well considering there were “only” 350 million users on Facebook when this was published.

6. 78 (of the) Best Social Media Marketing Tips, Guides, Tools and Strategies of 2010 So Far (August 16, 2010)

More than six dozen of the best, most bookmark-able articles and blog posts about social media tactics, tools and strategies written in 2010, by leading writers like John Jantsch, Lori Dicker, Lee Odden, Lisa Barone, Jay Baer and many more. You can find a much fresher version of this type of content in the recently posted 33 (of the) Best Social Media Guides, Tips and Resources of 2012 So Far.

5. 50 (of the) Best Twitter Guides, Stats, Tips and Tools of 2010 So Far (October 5, 2010)

What are the best ways to use Twitter for business? How you can use it most effectively? Which tools are most helpful? You’ll find the answers to these questions and many more here—or check out more recent thought on the topic in Best Twitter Tips, Tools and Tactics of 2011.

4. The Nifty 50 Top Women of Twitter for 2011 (May 3, 2011)
50 of the most remarkable women on Twitter, from B2B marketers to social media experts, journalists, PR professionals, or just plain fascinating personalities. Though this list is almost timeless, The Top #Nifty50 Women in Technology on Twitter for 2012, published just last month, honors 50 remarkable women on Twitter who work for or with technology companies.

3. What’s the Best Social Media Monitoring Tool? It Depends (October 13, 2010)

The explosion of social media has led to a corresponding need for more sophisticated monitoring tools that can crawl the hundreds of social networking and bookmarking sites and millions of blogs across the globe. A rapidly proliferating collection of tools are being developed to meet the need. This post highlights nine tools at various price levels that may or may not be the best but are certainly among the most popular and capable social media monitoring tools currently available.

2. Best Email Marketing Tips, Tactics and Metrics of 2010 (February 21, 2011)

How can you use email marketing most effectively and avoid overloading your recipients with information? How can you grow the size of your email marketing list? Avoid mistakes that will cost you readers? Integrate your email and social media marketing efforts to improve results through both channels? Find the answers to those questions and others here in more than two dozen of the best email marketing guides of 2010. Or get more current email wisdom in 17 (of the) Best Email Marketing Guides of 2011.

And the number one, most viewed post of all time so far on the Webbiquity blog (imagine mental drum-roll sound here) is…

1. Best Social Media Stats, Facts and Marketing Research of 2010 (January 17, 2011)

Learn how buyers use social media, which platforms are most effective, and more here in the best social media marketing stats, facts and research of 2010. If you crave social media stats and data (clearly a popular topic), check out the much newer collection of such in 79 Remarkable Social Media Marketing Facts and Statistics for 2012.

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Vote for Your Favorite Marketing Blogs on MarketingSherpa

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Time to stuff the ballot box again! MarketingSherpa is once again out to find the best marketing blogs across a range of categories, based on reader votes. The nominating “primaries” are over, and it’s time for the blog-reading public to select the winners.

Vote Blue Focus and Webbiquity - MarketingSherpa Best BlogsNo speeches, no (terribly) controversial positions, no fundraising (thankfully), just your chance to acknowledge your favorite marketing blogs.

So here’s my “voter guide” to the MarketingSherpa slate of candidates, but like any vote, it’s your call. Let you voice be heard! Vote for your favorites today.

Best Email Marketing Blog nominees

I’m partial to Janine Popick so I’d vote for the VerticalResponse blog. But as with every category and entrant here, there are no bad choices!

Best B2B Marketing Blog nominees

Um, Webbiquity, of course!

Best E-Commerce Blog nominees

Ooh, tough call—both really solid choices.

Best Inbound Blog nominees

Okay, now this just isn’t right; this is arguably the most difficult vote of the bunch. Both of these are outstanding inbound marketing blogs. HubSpot needs no introduction, and features remarkable bloggers like Laura Fitton, Peter Caputa and Rebecca Corliss.

Kuno is a real contender in this race though, featuring thought leaders like John McTigue, Chad Pollitt and Duce Knipper (okay, Duce isn’t really big on thought leadership, but he’s cool anyway). I like Kuno as the “underdog,” but wow, you’ve got to go with your gut on this one.

Best Copywriting Blog nominees

Lightning & the Lighting Bug—going with the underdog again.

Best PPC (pay-per-click advertising) Blog nominees

This is a question, seriously? No disrespect to the contenders, but PPC Hero is the standout choice here.

Best SEO (search engine optimization) Blog nominees

inBlurbs. This is a real David vs. Goliath matchup, and I’m pulling for David.

Best Marketing Strategy Blog nominees

No pick here, but no bad choice.

Best Social Media Marketing Blog nominees

I liked the VerticalResponse blog in the email marketing category above, but for social media? No question, the Blue Focus Marketing blog hands-down. Cheryl Burgess and Mark Burgess are a must-read for social media marketing and branding strategy.

Best Viral Marketing Blog nominees

I have to go with Jeff Bullas on this. He’s a perpetual font of knowledge.

Marketing Operations Blog nominees

Another tough pick; I’ll go with Chief Marketing Technologist as I gave the nod to inBlurbsfor best SEO blog above.

Best Design Blog nominees

Both very solid choices, but for website design, Smashing Magazine is really, really good.

Best Optimization Blog nominees

Flip a coin on this one, once again two excellent choices.

There you have it, my sample ballot. Just food for thought. Now go forth and do your patriotic blogging duty—vote for your favorites before the June 18 deadline!

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6 Reasons Social Media Sucks, But You Need to Use It Anyway

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Amid all of the hype, conferences, and rapid adoption of social media marketing by organizations from sole proprietors to the Fortune 100, there remains an undercurrent of skepticism. This surfaces in posts like Social Media Skepticism, 5 reasons why social media skeptics maybe right and Business social networking: where’s the ROI?. It’s why posts like 20 Ways to Generate ROI from a Corporate Blog have to be written to help people who are “doing everything right” but still not seeing business results from social media make adjustments to their efforts. It’s why a search for “social media sucks” on Google yields almost 12 million results (so much for my SEO on this post, oh well).

Social Media Sucks, but it Vital for Business Anyway

Image credit: Spin Sucks

It’s true that social media remains in many ways a sort of wild west. Many of the participants are shady, self-proclaimed experts are sometimes snake oil salesmen, and paths are still being created. Yet there are also an increasing number of social media success stories and the picture of what social media success looks like is becoming clearer. And there’s no turning back; social media has changed buyer expectations and behavior. Despite the dangers and potential pitfalls of social media, businesses will continue to expand and refine their social networking efforts.

Here are six reasons why social media skeptics have a point, and six reasons businesses must and will continue to embrace social media marketing anyway.

6 Reasons Social Media Sucks

1. It’s full of self-promoters. No question. Certain aspects of social media (such as the ease of building a large following on Twitter—if you’re not picky about things like quality or relevance) are like helium for those with already overinflated egos. Facebook can be a wonderful platform for sharing information, but also a playground for narcissists. These people aren’t shy about telling you how wonderful they are (it’s amazing how many Twitter handles and profiles, for example, include terms like “guru,” “expert” or even “god”), or treating social media as a direct sales channel rather than a mechanism for sharing valuable insights and information. The great thing about social media, however, is: you don’t have to follow, friend, “like” or in any way encourage such folks if you don’t want to.

2. It’s more of a place to interact with peers than to engage prospects. Again, no argument, most of the activity across social networks is of the birds-of-a-feather variety. Marketers follow other marketers, PR pros hang with other PR pros, engineers interact with other engineers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (see below) and it’s the biggest part of what makes social media activity enjoyable. Problem is, few CEOs or general managers are excited about the notion of paying employees to essentially spend their time engaged in online water cooler chats with cohorts at other firms. Ultimately, both sides need to come to an understanding, with management conceding that not all of that peer interaction is a waste of time and employees focusing primarily on achieving business goals through social media activity during work hours.

3. It’s an easy way to waste a lot of time. It can be. The more active a person is in social media, the more time it naturally takes up (e.g. because there are more blog comments to respond to, more Twitter followers to check out, etc.). Then again, almost any activity, improperly management, can be a time sink. The key is to prioritize between networks and spend the time on each wisely.

4. It means giving up one’s privacy. Not an unreasonable concern. Facebook in particular is notorious for privacy issues. Google settled a lawsuit last fall relating to its Google Buzz service. I’ve always found Foursquare a bit creepy; turns out there’s actually an app named Creepy that aggregates “GPS coordinates for any user (of geolocation services like Foursquare, Twitter and Flickr), pointing out their most frequented hangouts on a map…Essentially, it’s a stalker’s dream app.” The solution? Be careful and thoughtful about what you post online. Always assume the entire world can see anything you do on line. If you wouldn’t do it in front of your mom, your pastor and your boss, don’t do it online. That award you just won for your last brilliant email marketing campaign? An excellent thing to add to your online profiles or post a status update about. Last night’s extracurricular activities? Probably better shared over a beer with your buddies than with the world on Facebook or Twitter.

5. It’s just another avenue for spam. Sadly, yes. Twitter was riddled with tweet spam early in its ramp up phase, though the service has added tools and made other significant strides since then to combat spam and p*rn on its network.  Google “Facebook spam” and you’ll get 246 million results. LinkedIn has had problems with LinkedIn group spammers, though the business social network has responded by creating new group management tools to fight spam. Yes, like email, social media sites and social networks can be sources of spam. Having learned from email, however, most networks (as a matter of survival) have taken spam-fighting into consideration from the start and make their tools more sophisticated as spammers have developed new techniques.

6. It’s hard to measure the ROI. Maybe or maybe not, the social media ROI debate continues. But in general, measuring the ROI of social media with any precision is problematic because social media far more often influences a sale than leads directly to one. Still, as Jennifer Kane noted at the recent OMS Minneapolis event, correlations between social media activities and sales can be measured—and correlations are good data.

6 Reasons Social Media is Essential Anyway

1. Social media has become a vital element of SEO. Links from authoritative websites are still of course an important signal of authority to the search engines, but social media links now play an increasing and essential role in these calculations as well. So much so that Rand Fishkin now places page-level and domain-level social signals among its top three search engine ranking factors. Michael Gray has written about which social signals the search engines use and Lee Odden has put together an outstanding presentation on how to use social media for SEO. With more than 80% of consumer purchases and 90% of b2b buying cycles now starting with search, this may be reason enough to embrace social media.

2. Your buyers are there, and they expect you to be there as well. According to recent research, one-fourth of all online time is spent with social media. Nearly 60% of American spend time on a social network at least once per month. YouTube reaches 36% of all business decision makers (more than 10 times the figure for Forbes.com). And 93% of business buyers believe all companies should have a social media presence.

3. Social media produces high-quality leads. Based on research from MarketingSherpa, my own experience and that of clients I work with, while social media activities don’t usually produce a high quantity of leads, they do result in quality leads–the kind that convert, and buy, at a higher rate. It makes sense; while social media is more about branding and PR than lead generation, those who follow your brand in social media are much more likely to look favorably on your company and its offerings, understand the value, and to have engaged with your company previously than leads generated through most other sources.

4. It’s a critical and cost-effective tool for gathering market and competitive intelligence. Gone are the days of conducting expensive surveys and focus groups to find out what your prospects are thinking. It’s no longer necessary (or at least not as necessary as it once was) to spend thousands of dollars on analyst research reports to find out what your competitors are up to. The buyers in your market are telling you all of this now, through social media. They are talking about their challenges and looking for answers on LinkedIn, in blog posts and comments, on Twitter, Facebook, and dozens of industry-specific social media forums. It just takes listening.

5. It’s an excellent way to find business partners. Remember all of those peers mentioned in point #2 near the top of this post? Turns out all of that cohort networking isn’t such a waste of time. Increasingly, business gets done by networks. Both individual consultants and companies generate opportunities where they provide only a partial solution to a customer’s needs themselves; they need to bring in one or partners who have complementary skills in order to win the deal. Those partners are very likely to come from their social media network, where a level of trust and familiarity has already been built up. It’s a bit like the much-maligned “old boy networks” of years gone by, but much more open and effective.

6. Social media is the new PR. Journalists increasingly rely less on wire services and more on social media (more than 75% say they use social media to research stories) and online newsrooms for story ideas, sources and research. Effective PR has always been about building relationships with reporters and editors, and social media is now how these relationships get built. A PR program that relies exclusively on traditional phone, online wire service and mail tactics is no longer effective.

So, every negative thing you’ve heard, read, or even said yourself about social media is probably true. But that doesn’t matter. The benefits are too compelling. The key is to listen, plan, and monitor activities to maximize the value of business social networking while avoiding the trolls and pitfalls as much as possible.

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