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The pub is not a channel .
Over the past week a few of my specialist search and social friends have been talking non-stop about first click analysis and that social is not a channel. As someone who mainly focuses on platform and conversion I have tended to bundle social in with natural search, pay per click and email etc. however, the mists are now clearing and suddenly I understand why social is not a channel.
It's for the same reason that the pub is not a channel, or the school gate (for those that do the drop off) or the gym or anywhere that you meet your friends, shoot the breeze, chat about the weather and admire one another's personal achievements, laugh at each other's epic fails and praise or punish the things that you've bought and done. These places are not channels but they are where life happens, decisions are made and ideas are spawned.
You can probably see where I'm going with this now but to make the point, social media is like all of these places. It's where society now meets and shows off, asks and imparts wisdom or sympathises, shares life's good bits and bad bits and asks for help.
Just like the physical places where we meet, social does offer advertising spots, like the billboards near the school gates or the posters in the pub. However, social has the benefit of knowing who is in the pub, what they like, their age, demographic and geographical location and so the ads that can be placed can be better, be optimised, speak to the viewer in a way that they understand. Similarly, the websites that the viewer then visits can also be personalised for the customer. However, this is the channel side of things and my opening point was that social is not a channel - well, just to annoy my social friends, it still sort of is, however, it's not all that is.
I saw some really interesting stats on Black Friday recently showing that social only contributed 1% of conversion referrals to top US websites. However, step back from this and look at first click and suddenly social is where the buzz for Black Friday started two weeks prior and the brands that tapped into this, providing good social content, are the ones that benefited most come this actual annual shopping event.
This is the essence of good social - fuelling the conversations 'in the pub' before the event and not trying to just directly refer traffic at the time. So the next time you're in your planning stages and wondering where social might fit, go a month ahead of your timeline and look at what you can do to start creating a buzz beforehand - a buzz that can fuel the jokes in the office, the water cooler moments and the banter in the pub.
Image courtesy of Immediate Future