Most companies’ websites are not on the first page of an organic search in the category. Probably half don’t even show up in the first couple of hits on their company name. This is the fundamental reason that social media is becoming more important to those companies. It is about distribution.
In the brick-and-mortar world, manufacturing and distribution were two well defined roles in business. Manufacturers created the products and then went to distributors (VARs, wholesalers, or even retailers) who distributed. The reason was economics; cost of sales and cost of distribution. Distributors broke up pallets, combined products into solutions, provided consulting, marketed, and managed the relationship with the customer. Manufacturers made the product and managed the relationship with the distributors.
I see the same model evolving with content on the web in marketing. Content manufacturers create the content (on websites, blogs, tweets, social networking posts, Youtube videos, and pictures) that is then redistributed (linkedin, referenced, clipped, forwarded, emailed, etc) to others on the web. Two critical roles are emerging; content manufacturers and content distributors. There is a whole class of bloggers and twitterers who don’t create anything, but play an incredibly important role of cataloging, annotating, and redistributing content for the particular interest of their networks. You need both.
I think you are seeing a fundamental shift in the way that people distribute information via the web from a traditional direct distribution model (My website is cataloged, I invite people I know, or emailed to a list) to an indirect distribution model where you need a distribution network to reach and influence the right audience. These distributors ( really influencers) are critical to getting the “word out”, but you better have something compelling, interesting, and relevant if you want distribution. They “pay” for the privilege of distributing your content with a real currency… “their attention”.
At the end of the day, SEO is still extremely important for all companies. If only for optimizing your site for secondary and tertiary key words, you still can pick up traffic. Pay-per-click also helps. Search engines are still the leading way to find information on the web.
The “but” in that sentence is that social media is increasingly becoming a strong distribution channel for generating marketing awareness. As in the real world, those manufacturers (marketers) who have the stronger distribution network…. win.