The Holy Grail of Social Media: Conversions or Conversations?

The Holy Grail of Social Media: Conversions or Conversations?

I just finished reading, “Digg is Not Social Media Marketing” and I’d have to agree that using Digg alone is not social media marketing. While this may be an important tactic in the overall scheme of things, there is much more to social media than Digg. And, It is quite apparent that many marketers spend a considerable amount of time trying to game the Digg algorithm, grow their friend’s list, and seed content in hopes of achieving front page placement.

Why? Well…usually in the form of linkbait, most savvy SEO practitioners have found that achieving front page placement on Digg equates to high visibility, traffic and links. Here is a quick and basic formula:

(Digg front page = high visibility = many links = higher rankings = even more traffic)

But as a marketer, what else can Digg do other than drive short term traffic to a site coupled with a few hundred links? Is it really worth the effort and can a positive ROI be extracted from the amount of time invested? Is there a transparency and authenticity issue when building a sense of community for the sole purpose of getting others to digg your story? This is a clear example of Digg-Enomics; where there is an over abundance of supply (content) with no real demand.

Could it be an ego thing? Bragging rights of achieving front page placement?

Marketers are aware that conversion rates from Digg are minimal. And, despite the many efforts to camouflage marketing messages in content, Digg users are sharp and notice the little details. All it takes is one person to notice it, comment on it and then bury it. I even know of one of the top SEO agencies that was banned from submitting content to Digg; and it wasn’t even their fault.

In my opinion, Digg is just another customer touch point in the long list of social/traditional media outlets. It’s a potential distribution channel for content to reach a target consumer group just like paid/natural search, display advertising, traditional media, community related marketing, etc. If you are tying to reach main stream consumers (stay-at-home moms, baby boomers, college students), Digg is obviously not the place you should be spending all your time and effort.

Here’s an analogy.

Digg is a one night stand. You submit your content, get it on the home page and reap the rewards of a ton of traffic, links and more traffic. Then you wake up, reality kicks in, the fun is over and perhaps you sneak out the back door before she wakes up.

My point is simply that the core of Social Media is embedded in the conversations between marketers and consumers, whether it happens on-domain or off-domain. It’s about cultivating long-term relationships and empowering brand ambassadors of your product. It’s a multi-directional conversation, with no room for marketing messages. It’s about acknowledging, listening and creating a sense of community.

Direct marketing is important. Don’t get me wrong. But, perhaps social media in general is not the best channel for customer acquisition. Unless, of course you are a new Web 2.0 start up with an innovative technology.

There is so much more to social media than discussed in this post. Look out for additional posts on this topic real soon! If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my RSS feed and recieve all future posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Tags: social media, conversational marketing, digg, banned

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Sarah Simmons

    This is a great post! Trying to explain why Digg isn’t the holy grail of social media is exhausting. I’m going to lead with your analogy from now on…

  • Tom O’Brien

    HI Michael:

    (Nice new design!)

    This is something I have been talking to clients about continuously lately. Conversational marketing is not about conversion or clicks. It is about building a relationship.

    Pursuing conversational marketing is like being a new kid at school. It takes time, commitment, willingness to contribute and some sweet skills to become a trusted member of the community. It ain’t a drive-by.

    MotiveQuest LLC

  • Jens

    i think social networks are completely overvalued when it comes to their actual potential to monetize on them. the names and profiles people choose are often complete nonsense – using celebrity names, car brands or politicians – so much about targeted content. in the meantime people realize how embarassing or dangerous digital traces in the web can be – employers, press etc are all potential parties interested in the traces you leave. not to mention government authorities. so people become – finally – a bit more aware of the pros and cons. just a bit though. if you really want targeted high value traffic go to the (i have nothing to do with them at all) . . . they drive the traffic every advertiser is dreaming of. except your ads are jamba, “click-here-to-get-rich-in-24h” or “meet-sexy-singles-from-your-neigbourhood”.

  • Michael Brito

    @ Tom

    Thanks for the comment. Love the analogy about being a new kid at school. If done right, that new kid can become the most popular kid in school! ; )

    – Michael

  • Michael Brito


    This is precisely my point. If you join a community just to monetize it, it will not provide the value that you expect (social networks aren’t the best channel for customer acquisition). However, if you join the community in an attempt to join the conversation and build trust, you WILL seem some positive results in the future – like brand stewardship, etc.

    Then again, it really depends on your product/service and/or value proposition. Not all companies should go join a social network. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build a community around your product; and host/facilitate the conversation on your domain.

  • Ryan

    Yeah but without traffic, there will be NO conversations.

  • Kelly Feller

    Traditional marketing orgs have always looked to easily quantifiable metrics to justify their marketing ROI. Relationship building has typically been seen as “soft” marketing with limited (or at least difficult to measure) ROI. And in an era of increased budget constraints, the programs not easily quantified are first to get the knife across the neck. I think this explains the attraction to sites like Digg which provide easily reported metrics that help justify activity to upper management.

    Social media may be the darling of marketing departments today in part because many of these programs require minimal upfront investment (in theory). But I predict that later down the line–if it hasn’t happened already–execs will also hold these “programs” under a microsocope and ask for the click thrus instead of commitments, or conversions instead of conversations.

  • Linda Bustos

    Every once in a while I mention Digg in passing to a non-techie/non-Internet marketing friend or family member. No one’s ever heard of it. It ain’t no YouTube :)

  • Linda Bustos

    Ugh I failed your skill testing question. Hmmph!

    PS I digg your new redesign

  • Jeremy Rodriguez

    Great post. I try and tell my clients the same thing. Thank you!

  • Brick Marketing

    “Digg is a one night stand.”

    You’re exactly right. The short term benefits do not equal the effort put into gaining first page status. Digg is certainly NOT social media marketing defined.

  • Amanda

    I’m certainly not a seasoned player in the Digg field, and I found your post very interesting and had to do a little research of my own in regards to what Digg is all about. I’m curious to know if you would suggest using this “type” of social media over other types. I understand some of the pros and cons to this, but do you think the pros outweigh the cons and is the reason that marketers are using this approach because of the pros?

  • Michael Brito

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for the comment. When I look to engage in a social media campaign, I like to take a holistic approach.

    Number one – how do I drive traffic to my site; and I may very well use Digg as ONE channel for this purpose.

    Number two (which is the most important) – what am I going to do once I get visitors to my site? How will engage them? How will I facilitate ongoing, two-way conversations that are aligned with my overall business goals?

    Also, social media may not even revolve around driving visitors to my site. It also involves monitoring conversations that are going on – off domain – like Facebook, the Digg community, Twitter, etc. – and engage I these conversations in these communities as well.

    I hope this helps.


  • Ed

    I’m not a Digg user because I have never used it due to my reservations about it. Not intending to rebutt you, but rather, do we really expect nothing out of a social media campaign other than relationships? In truth, we are all working towards what comes after the relationships are established. It’s almost like establishing brand evangelists through conversations with foster the relationships. That’s only how I feel, which may differ from you.

    Since I don’t agree with Digg’s (or rather the top user’s) practice, I am only reduced to the idealogy it’s just another traffic-raking site.