SES Interviews: Neil Patel and Cameron Olthuis on the State of Social Media

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Joe Whyte got a chance to catch up with social media gurus, Neil Patel and Cameron Olthuis, at the recent Search Engine Strategies in San Jose. Neil and Cam share their thoughts on the state of the social media optimization industry, spam and the right pricing for the SMO professionals.

SMS: Hi Cameron and Neil. I’d like to get a general sense of where social media is right now. I’m getting a lot of emails from people and I’ve seen a lot of blog posts and forum threads on the high rate of spam in social media. What’s your take on the current state of social media?

Cameron: There is a little bit of spam that actually creeps through the filters of the community. Most of the stuff gets filtered by the community, since they are the ones deciding what is popular and what’s not. Sometimes something squeezes through there, but it’s pretty rare for that to happen. Usually if somebody is trying to spam social media or promote content that’s not good, it’s not going to go anywhere. So, one key to social media marketing – to having an effective campaign or strategy – is coming up with really good content that’s going to be useful to the community and is not considered spam. The community members are the ones that promote it, so it’s got to be useful to them and they’ve got to like it in order to vote it to popular pages.

Neil: Yeah, it’s pretty much like Cam said. Sooner or later we are going to see open ID implemented on all these social networks. If you think about it, there is digg, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Facebook – all these sites. The problem is that people are developing each and every community separately, and that takes a lot of time. With open ID and a lot of integration, sooner or later we are going to see one really strong community. In that case, your community-developing efforts will carry on to all of them.

SMS: That would be pretty neat. There are a lot of people on forums saying something like “digg me for a dollar” or “digg me and I’ll digg you.” What do you guys think about that stuff? Is that falling into the spam side?

Cameron: Yeah, I think it does fall into the spam side. I actually don’t see a lot of that going popular. I think some of these sites, at least the more sophisticated ones like digg, have filters that are trying to combat that. Obviously they are not catching everything, but for the most part they are catching a lot of the stories. They have certain filters set up to see what IPs people are coming from and where they are getting the referral from. If you’re sending out a bunch of IMs and asking people to digg your stuff, I think they catch that.

SMS: I don’t really think anyone’s ever talked about that. I know Rand did a post about what the real pricing for SEO is, but what do you guys think is fair pricing for social media marketing?

Neil: It’s tough to say. There are some people who are going to be willing to do it for pennies on the dollar. There are some people that will be willing to do it for a minimum of six figures. It truly depends on the company. It’s not necessarily what we may feel is fair – it’s whatever it’s worth it to the person that’s providing the service. That’s how I look at it.

Cameron: I think a lot of it depends on the type of social media marketing. The thing about it is that it is not clear-cut. You can have everything from a linkbait campaign you are trying to push through digg to some full-blown production company creating a viral video for a huge brand to spread on YouTube. I think a lot of it comes down to the value that you are going to be able to provide to the client, and that’s probably the best way to at least try and come up with a pricing model.

A lot of it also depends on demand and fulfillment. There are only a certain few people right now that are super-good at social media marketing so obviously in order to retain the services of someone like that, it is going to cost you a lot more than somebody who’s not so good.

SMS: Thanks for spending some time with us. We wish you all the best and good luck with your new venture, Cameron.

About the Author

Joe Whyte has been developing, managing and implementing successful, innovative, bleeding edge digital marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies for over 7 years.

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