Over the past few years, social media marketing has continued to grow as an integral part of any successful, cohesive digital marketing strategy. Community building, engagement, and marketing are all extremely powerful tools to help your content gain attention and traction on the web. However, as social media marketing has grown, so have the assumptions of its capabilities and the power that it wields over SEO and other marketing media.
First, let's clear up one of the biggest assumptions that Google's Matt Cutts has recently helped put to rest: social signals like Facebook Likes and Tweets do not directly affect Google's search rankings. Over the past years, marketers have aggressively pursued likes and tweets for their content in hope that they would help elevate their content's search rankings in Google and other search engines. However, as Matt Cutts explains, since Google does not always have consistent access to Facebook or Twitter's data, including social signals, they cannot incorporate them as a variable within their search algorithm that ranks websites and content.
However, that is not to discredit Likes, Tweets, or any other social signal as an important part element to successful digital marketing (even if they are not directly contributing to SEO). Just because there is no direct causation between social signals and search rankings does not mean that there is not a high correlation.
Content that receives a lot of social interaction will obviously expand its reach to a greater, relevant audience on the web. As a result of reaching more users, this content is also more likely to attract links that will help the content rank in search engines like Google. Additionally, content that garners an abundance of social interaction is most likely to actually be genuinely interesting or helpful content that users feel compelled to share with their peers. The fundamental quality of the post alone is what will earn your website some links and boost you in search results.
In 2014, social media's appropriate role and purpose is to act as a bullhorn for your brand's content. After you create a solid, well-developed blogpost, infographic, video, or other piece of content, you should use social media to get the spread the word. Social media should be the "marketing" aspect of your 2014 "content marketing". Providing valuable content via social media will help build your audience to increase the effectiveness of future content and will attract the attention your content needs to generate some buzz, links, and ultimately new business.
The path to digital marketing success in 2014 is no different than 2013 or any other year: be sure to create well-developed content that will naturally gather attention, links, and social interaction on its own. However, be sure to use social media, in addition to other tools like press releases, as an initial bullhorn to get the word out about your amazing new blogpost or video.