SEM is not SMM. It’s Just Not.

There is so much misunderstanding of these two terms, how they relate to each other, and which to target. I’m going to try to diffuse that dichotomy. 


It’s not a case of the chicken-before-the-egg or vice versa. They are two completely different disciplines, though each can benefit from the other much as SEO and paid search can benefit from other online and offline advertising.


Let’s look at each of these terms in isolation:




abbreviation for:

social media marketing


definition a’la SEMI:

An internet marketing practice involving the participation of a company/brand/identity on social media* sites to pursue marketing & brand objectives online via social bookmarking*, media* and professional networking sites.


*Bookmarking sites traditionally allow you to bookmark and share sites, while social media sites offer bookmarking capabilities along with advanced voting ‘rights’ to ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’ a post.


achieved via:


1. Finding relevant social sites around your online offering. For example;


·    Sphinn is pretty much utilized and targeted by search marketing bloggers and professionals involved in SEM;

·    Care2 is for businesses making a serious attempt to ‘go green’;

·    NetParty for younger SMM practitioners to connect online & organize real meets to network in the flesh;

·    Autospies focuses on everything auto related;

·    NowPublic focuses on citizen journalism;

·    Twitter is a ‘mini-blog’ site allowing users to post short messages on new products, posts & ideas.


2. Determine if the sites you see as ‘relevant’ actually have a following of people that will make engagement worth your while.


It’s easy to get fixated on the ‘popularity’ element of these sites, but if you don’t find and interact with your target market, it’s ultimately a waste of time.


·    Look for brand evangelists or competitor evangelists on the sites. Read what they have to say. Follow the commentary for a while. Determine if you can get mileage out of being involved, or if it is too contentious, too combative, too irrelevant, too targeted, too whatever. You need to plan your SMM strategy with clear objectives, just as with any other media. Just because it’s free to join, does not mean that your time is free. And building and maintaining your presence on the social sites does take time. A lot of it.


3. Create a realistic, robust, ‘cool’ profile and engage the community


·    Develop your social persona as a brand evangelist with a personality

·    Keep the same handle on all sites for recognition

·    Use your logo as your avatar, or your picture – how ‘big’ or ‘recognised’ are you at the start? You can always change your avatar. Start with easy identification one-way or the other. Be as ‘personable’ as you can if you are a new entrant with little to no social brand recognition.

·    Be fair

·    Never be judgmental or rude

·    Never ignore negative commentary

·    Always acknowledge positive feedback

·    Deal with detractors as soon as possible either via your persona, or by directing them to an ‘answering’ official blog post on the brand site as soon as negative comments arise

·    Empower your brand evangelists by giving them new story heads-up early, by giving them acknowledgement on your official site, and by following their social media profiles and commenting as warranted

·    Consider promoting test market products not only through geographic areas, but also through your social media network. If you’ve built your persona up right, they’ll be fair and impartial in an effort to assist you in your R&D

·    Offer contests & competitions around your brand embracing online media – the best humorous amateur video promoting a specific product or service gets a free ‘whatever’ and a month’s free publicity when you include it in your newsletter and on your News page; a bit like ‘iReport’ on HNN

·    Drive media to your social profiles via other online and offline media

·    Use your social profiles to link to your feed, blog, site, microsites, videos, mobile sites etc

·    Offer (limited) printable, redeemable-on-site ‘coupons’ to community members

·    Keep engaging to build your reputation, your recognition, and your authority



abbreviation for:

search engine marketing


definition a’la SEMI:

SEM involves the use of search engine optimization (SEO), paid search, and web analytics.


·    The objective of SEO is to rank a site in the organic listings for a sample (defined population) of the universe of relevant terms;

·    the objective of paid search is to list the site in the sponsored results across the engines for the universe of performing terms;

·    the objective of web analytics is to monitor the efficacy in terms of return on investment, profit and exposure for either or both of these practices.


SEO and Paid Search complement each other to a significant extent. Neither is cheap, and neither is easy. It’s not a case of rocket science, it’s a case of experience in an increasingly competitive and combative environment as web site numbers climb into the multi-billion numbers, and paid search advertisers reach into their comparative stratosphere.


achieved via:

·    effective keyword research

·    integration of SEO with IA, copy, web design, development, and analytics

·    relevant, aggressive targeted and relevant backlinking campaigns for SEO (where SMM plays part of it’s related and enormously important role)

·    tactical refinement of both SEO and paid search (more immediately) via web analytics data from all sites including referral sites, some based on SMM personas

·    web analytics reporting on conversions, profit and exposure via both impressions (on placement), CTR and messaging of paid search ads

·    integrated analytics reporting where provided for to monitor effect of other online campaigns and offline campaigns on paid and SEO listed pages

·    overall increase in exposure and recognition of brand online in the search engines including listings and exposure due to SMM efforts


Conclusions 1 & 2:

1. The only time SMM can be seen to be boosting SEM strategy without dedicated spend on a paid search campaign to persona pages which may, or may not (in most cases), be worth your investment is when SMM profile pages, blog posts or reviews start moving into viably ‘visible’ pages of the engines (from a CTR pov), and begin to generate traffic of their own. This is when SEM would step in, as warranted, to boost that exposure, assuming it was worth the additional investment.


2. The only time SEM can be seen to boost SMM is when the SEO or paid search efforts are actively targeting prfiles.


My by-line for these two disciplines is this:

‘united-but-unique; related but mutually exclusive’.



My disclaimer is this:

This is for folks new to SMM. If you are a fundi and find fault, please say so in the comments, but please link to a relevant respond page on your site to substantiate your answer for the newbies. Thanks 🙂 – (it’s all about the readers – and if you’re new – Welcome! – L)


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