These two channels also boast quite a few differences, including the way ads are delivered (triggered by queries vs. targeted by segments) to the way they appear (first-party-served text vs. third-party-served images).
At the end of the day, both the similarities and differences found in search and social make them highly compatible. To capitalize on this tangible synergy, many marketers are now managing these channels holistically and applying lessons from one to the other.
Here are 10 current trends we’re seeing in social that mirror what’s happening in search:
1. Ad spend going up as organic reach goes down. Over the years, the percentage of people exposed to any given post from a brand they like on Facebook has continued to decline. And, as people follow more accounts on Twitter, the odds of them seeing any given tweet get slimmer. Today, it’s virtually impossible for a marketer to ensure all fans will see a brand’s content without buying ads to amplify posts.
We’ve seen this trend on the search side as well. As the major search engines devote more real estate to one-box results and/or remove previously free listings (as in the case of Google Shopping), it’s become imperative for marketers to bump up their ad budgets.
As a result, both search and social are posting double-digit growth year-over-year in ad spend, with marketers realizing that brands can no longer survive on organic reach alone.
2. Native ad formats driving increased engagement rates. As social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and now Pinterest introduce new ad formats, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between paid and organic content. The best-performing social ads are directly embedded into the main areas of content on each network (typically the feed) and result in much higher engagement rates when relevant targeting is applied. I’ve always said paid search is the best native ad format ever so it’s no surprise that other platforms are adopting the approach.
3. Marketers using cross-channel signals to improve performance. There are a number of ways to leverage search signals to improve social marketing, such as using keywords to expand “likes” and interest targeting on Facebook or as keyword targets on Twitter. There are also tools available for marketers to take the best-performing Product Listing Ads and automatically turn them into Facebook ads.
Search marketers have been using cross-channel signals to improve campaigns for years. A few best practices include expanding keyword lists based on audience affinity data and adjusting budgets to capture incremental demand during TV flights.
4. Ad copy testing delivering significant and scalable insights. Social marketers have learned that keeping creative fresh is critical to avoiding ad fatigue and scaling campaigns. Beyond rotating images though, testing different elements of the ad copy is essential. Combining various headlines, offers, promotions, and calls-to-action will help identify the strongest messaging and provide insights that can be used well beyond social media.
Along these lines, using paid search as a real-time focus group has long been a core strategy for marketers. There’s no better way to figure out what message will resonate most than stripping it down to 95 characters of text.
5. Campaigns managed with multiple goals and objectives. When Facebook first introduced ads, most marketers thought of the opportunity as a brand awareness play and used metrics such as reach and frequency to evaluate success. Nowadays, Facebook and social ads at large are proving to deliver strong direct-response results. Indeed, social plays a role at every stage in the consumer purchase funnel.
Search has always been the dominant direct-response platform, capturing demand from people who are in buy mode. But, over the years, search has proven to be effective at driving brand favorability as well. Just appearing in the search results can give your brand added visibility and credibility. As such, many marketers manage multiple search programs with different objectives and key performance indicators.
6. Bid-management platforms leveraged for real-time optimization. Sophisticated marketers are adopting third-party bid-management platforms to go beyond the capabilities of Facebook Power Editor and optimize campaigns across multiple social networks. From automated workflow in the campaign creation process to advanced algorithms that constantly update bids to meet goals, these platforms are driving tremendous time saving and performance lifts.
Search marketers are no strangers to bid management platforms and use them quite extensively to achieve efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, some of the functionality being baked into social bid management platforms is coming from the search world, including bulk editing and portfolio-based bidding.
7. Rapid scale in mobile. In its last earnings report, Facebook revealed that 59% of its ad revenue comes from mobile. For Twitter, that number was approximately 80%. The rapid growth and adoption of mobile social on both the consumer and marketer side is astounding. Search is no slouch when it comes to mobile. Google captures nearly 50% of all mobile ad dollars, thanks to heavy consumer reliance on Google mobile search, apps, and Android. Yahoo is also making moves with Gemini, and Microsoft is putting Bing at the center of its cross-device play.
8. Retargeting proving effective for reaching highly valuable audiences. There are many ways to re-engage with people on social networks after they have visited your website: e.g. Facebook Exchange, Facebook Custom Audiences, Twitter Tailored Audiences. There are similar opportunities with Google via remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). Taking things to the next level are solutions that leverage intent-driven audiences: targeting people on social networks based on their search engine queries.
9. Multi-touch attribution (MTA) models deployed to give proper credit to every interaction. Studies have shown that Facebook gets 30% more value when MTA is applied. Sometimes this is at the expense of search, but we’re also seeing situations where search get more credit for driving upper-funnel activity.
10. Offline tracking helping to close the gap on ROI and customer lifetime value (LTV). Facebook, Twitter, and others have done deals with companies like Datalogix to close the loop on online and offline activity. This allows marketers to buy social ads with true LTV in mind. Meanwhile, the offline impact of search is well documented.