A Conversation About SEO, Social Media and Content Convergence

A Conversation About SEO, Social Media and Content Convergence

A few months ago, I sat down with Steven Sefton, Digital and Social Media Director for Zap Designs, to discuss a variety of topics including the changing face of marketing; where different verticals fit; how the UK and North American markets are different; where influence marketing is heading; and much, much more.

Below, you can find part one of that chat (which originally appeared on The Social Penguin), centred around the shifting face of marketing, and how demographic buyer differences between the UK and North America impact tactics.

I hope you enjoy, and you can find the concluding part here.


Are companies truly embracing social media (or at least seriously considering it) or do many still think it’s a fad?

Danny: No, although it’s much better than it was just a year or so ago. The problem remains poor information and conflicting advice. “Be everywhere”, “be focused”, “blog”, “don’t blog”, “social media is owned by marketing”, “social media is owned by everyone”. And on, and on, and on…

When you have that kind of confusion coming at you from all angles, you can see why businesses are unsure on what to do next. Combine that with the continued and very wrong assumption that social media is purely for relationships, and you can’t – shouldn’t – measure ROI on it, and I’m surprised any businesses are even considering social!

The good thing is, there are some very smart people trying to change the conversation and move us away from the warm fuzz mindset that so many consultants are clinging to as their business model. The trick is in getting these people heard, versus those with the easy soundbites.

What was the last social media campaign that was a success in your eyes?

Danny: I’m going to cheat a little here, and share the one we used as the case study in the opening chapter of our book.

MV-1 Canada was trying to launch their dedicated, as opposed to retro-fitted, mobility vehicle into Canada. With limited budget and no market penetration, they used our model of influence marketing, combined with social campaigns as well as on-foot outreach, and gained a 20% market share in the first 12 months of sale.

For anyone that says social media doesn’t equate to real business ROI, I respectfully suggest they think again.

They say social media and digital in the UK are lagging behind our northern American friends. Do you believe this?

Danny: I think it depends – there are some great agencies and consultants in the UK. People like Shannon Eastman, Paul Sutton, Andrew Burnett and more like them are paving the way for some really great forward thinking.

And in Canada, I’d say many businesses are lagging behind their American and UK counterparts, often because of the longer buy-in cycle that many Canadian businesses have, as well as the reduced budgets compared to their US counterparts.

It’s like most things – there are great examples and there are poor examples. I think the greater are starting to outweigh the poorer, and these countries are getting much closer to each other.

How does social media and digital work compare in general by brands and agencies from the UK to Northern America?

Danny: I find the UK is still very much focused on email as the lead social marketing tool, versus say an influence campaign or a social marketing one across networks.

This ties into UK social users preferring email as their primary means of communication from retailers, versus social channels.

Buying signals are also very different. UK consumers are still very much geared towards connecting with companies for discounts and low-cost goods, whereas in the NA market, consumers need more data and information before they commit to offering up their contact details. It’s a very two-way thing.

This means NA marketers need to have a far more tangible offer than a simple discount or special offer, while UK marketers have a slightly easier buy-in. This would suggest the loyalty factor would be something that NA brands focus on, versus the stack-‘em-high, sell-‘em-cheap UK marketplace.

Many companies are still finding it hard to merge the different departments within an organisation. How can companies manage the link between PR, Social and SEO?

Danny: By understanding they all need each other. There are still too many silos within businesses of all sizes, not just the bigger organisations. Companies that understand this and break down these silos are the ones that enjoy bigger success, because they understand the strengths of a fully integrated approach.

Different consumers use different methods to research, connect, purchase and review. If you’re still focusing on one core method over another, you’re going to miss these nuances and then wonder why your conversions sucked.

True influence webinar

Understand that all three disciplines work better when aiming towards a common goal. Let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter which department you feel should lead – every single one’s goal should be both the short and long-term success of the business. Gelling currently silo’d departments together isn’t just common sense, it’s business acumen sense.

How do you see SEO, social and content converging in the future?

Danny: There won’t be any divergence – there shouldn’t be today. It’s all marketing, pure and simple.

  • SEO – traffic to a destination for the goal of conversion (marketing).
  • Social – building two-way conversation for brand awareness that evolve into customers (marketing).
  • Content – thought leadership and advice for the purpose of attracting readers to your destination to evolve into customers (marketing).

Buzz words like content marketing, social marketing and yes, influence marketing, are simply soundbites that take away from the simple fact that it’s all still just marketing. That’s the hub – everything else is the spoke that’s used as and when needed.

It’s about how we use social search to define local SEO queries; how paid media drives social activity; how content educates and supports brand acquisition, whether that’s social ads, PPC, SEM, etc. There’s no separation – it’s simply marketing with a common goal.

Realise that, and we don’t have to worry about silos and how disciplines will converge.

Don’t forget to check out the concluding part of this interview here.

image: Rubin Starset

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Enjoy this post? Share your thoughts below:


  1. says

    I think he is right. It seems that businesses are really adopting social media but they are adopting it in the wrong way. There are simply too many conflicting advices out there that leads people to poorly use the medium.

  2. says

    Thanks Danny. A lot of wisdom here. So many people think about the tool or the formulae for posting x times a day, etc. that they forget the real people they should be opening dialogues with.

    • says

      Exactly, mate. Understand your customer and what they look like, and the rest is easy enough to implement. It’s not rocket science, despite claims to the contrary.

  3. says

    Great interview – appreciate the insights for sure.

    I read an article yesterday from Jeff Bullas (Winning the Content Creation Arm’s Race) which discusses the effect of content marketing becoming mainstream marketing – basically an ever-increasing flood of content. As a content marketer myself I’m not sure where I stand on this. Is this really quite astounding influx of information a good thing or a bad? Does it raise the standard on what content finds success? Or does it, as you mention, just provide more confusion for those less savvy? Both?

    I’d appreciate your thoughts, and again, great article.

    • says

      Hi James,

      I read that article as well from Jeff Bullas and my concern is the idea seems to push you to write more content. Whether it be valuable and of quality is not the point.

      The term ‘content marketing’ has the word marketing in it, meaning we need to figure out what content serves the purpose of what is it you are marketing.

      If the influx of content proves to increase the bottom line of the business, then by all means, go for it.

      Our time writing posts against the value of content and because of the amount that is out there is decreasing but depending on what business you’re in, you might only need a small part. Read Mark Schaefer’s blog post from the other day, great read. (http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/01/06/content-shock/)



    • says

      Hi James,

      While I haven’t read the article, or the one that Steven refers to, the common flaw I generally see in these types of article is that it uses a blanket metric of “content is becoming harder to stand out due to the amount on the web today”.

      That’s such a marketing blogger’s spiel (not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation). It’s like social media and all the facets in there – it doesn’t matter to the general public. They’re simply looking for advice, and they’ll find it, regardless of what we feel is too much to wade through.

      I read Chris Penn’s take on it over at SHIFT, and it fell into the same mindset. “Write stellar content to stand out” – but who’s to decide what’s stellar and what’s mediocre? Certainly not the blogger – I might land on a blog and think it’s basic 101, while the blogger looks at it as a masterpiece in content marketing.

      As Steven mentions, it’s simply marketing at the end of the day. Content is multi-faceted, and too many bloggers are getting wrapped up in the idea that content is restricted to a blog, or owned media. It’s not – far from it.

      The businesses that realize that are the ones already succeeding, because they’re not getting mired down in overarching conversations about too much content.

      • says

        Thanks for your insights guys!

        I have just read Mark Shaefer’s article and written my page-long response (really need to start work today, but whatever). Here’s where a somewhat cynical view of marketing comes into play. Danny, you say ‘who’s to decide what’s stellar and what’s mediocre?’ My answer, unfortunately, is Google.

        Right? I mean if we’re talking about a huge influx of content, doesn’t this simply mean that SEO becomes more, and more, and more important?

        For instance, when a burgeoning B2C business types ‘How can I generate Ecommerce sales with a blog?’ into Google they get hit with the most optimized response (oddly enough I did this, and the third-most-popular organic hit was a Kissmetrics article on using Instagram to do it, and the fourth was my own article on using Facebook Ads – pretty much proving my point that the most optimized article is not always the most accurate).

        So this entrepreneur will click on the top link, the link with the highest SEO. With the rise of SMO, won’t this article be the one with the highest readership, shares and Likes?

        And if you have the best answer out there, most straightforward, complete and easy-to-understand, but unfortunately you started blogging in June of 2014, you’re screwed.

        But perhaps I’m missing the point slightly. Danny, you mention that content marketing is not restricted to a blog or owned content. Can you expand on that? Are you referring to inbound marketing as interaction with the consumer?


        • says

          Hi James,

          Thanks for the thoughtful comment, mate, appreciated. I’m not so sure it is Google, though.

          Yes, they change their algorithms constantly to try and bring quality to the top – but they can make mistakes too. And Matt Cutts’s recent announcement that Authorship has less to do with results than previously thought has thrown a spanner in the works of many content marketers who were using that as an excuse to force people onto Google+.

          To your point about the highest shares, Likes, etc. Possibly. But then there’s my wife’s new company that she started late last year with two friends. They’re a small, indie ebook-only publisher in Canada, and they’re going up against established businesses and publishers. Yet they sat down, strategized, highlighted targets, and laid out an awesome content strategy that included forums, book events, etc.

          From that, they’ve already built a decent-sized email list; they have a great, interactive blog; their first publications are selling nicely; and they have a very loyal community that’s promoting their work and authors.

          That ties into the “content marketing” question. While they’re going down the content marketing route we know – blog posts, social profiles, email lists – they’re also taking their message to offline events, but providing “content” – discussions around the future of print, indie publishing versus self-publishing, advice to other would-be publishers about starting out, etc. All this is tied to their swag – bookmarks, mouse pads, USB sticks, etc.

          It’s a nice mix of semi-paid and owned content, that goes beyond our own digital footprints, and it’s working really well for them.

          Hope all that makes sense, mate!

  4. says

    Interesting article. I agree that the “noise” around social media now, and where it is going next, can be pretty confusing for marketing decision makers – with many agencies and commentators “banging the drum” for their own agenda.

    But I also completely support the point about the solution being to focus on the customer. If you focus on what your customer wants and how you can most effectively communicate with them it makes it a lot easier to make the right decision. I’d probably go as far as to say its the only way I’ve found to find a way through……

    All the best

    • says

      Exactly, Sam. It’s what we talk about in the Influence Marketing book – identify your customer, identify who influences their purchase decisions, and work back from there to determine what the marketing message and platform will be.

      Like you say, it’s the proven method of business success, so why try and mess it up?


  1. […] C is for Customers.  Yes, it always is.  If you were expecting “content marketing”, well… Who do you think all of that content marketing is for?  Content marketing is to convert people into customers!  Plan the right message in the right venue and you make the authorization code come up on the transaction.  That’s it.  I could not agree more with Danny Brown on this. […]