It's Time To Get Social With Search

An important moment for digital marketing passed without much notice during the holiday rush. I’m talking about a white paper that Facebook published on the connection between social media ads and search results. It matters because it’s the first hard evidence of something advanced practitioners have intuited for some time: that paid advertising on social networks triggers more productive search activity.

Specifically, Facebook studied 23 categories of campaigns from July-September 2015 and found that people exposed to ads on its platform were significantly more likely to search for the branded keywords they contained. In some cases, people were also measurably less likely to search for unbranded keywords. This was especially true of people on mobile devices.

That’s a critical finding at a time when returns on search activity overall are declining due to volume. It means that a higher return in search isn’t just about how we target and bid on keywords. It’s about how we work the chain reaction that leads to conversion. More searches for branded keywords translate to more precise engagement at a lower cost.

As marketers, we need to change the way we look at paid social advertising. The value extends well beyond likes, comments and shares. Done right, it generates a direct line to search and conversion. Rather than looking to social media for leads, we need to advertise there to trigger people to search. And we need to focus our research pros on creating reliable ways to measure this increasingly important cross-channel lift.

Equally important, we need to expand our definition of search performance. Search performance isn’t just about bidding on keywords anymore; it’s spending intelligently on the other channels that drive defined search. And it’s using the data gained from search — such as branded keyword searchers who don’t end up buying — to guide retargeting on social networks.

We don’t need to reinvent the techniques of search to manufacture lift; we simply need to capitalize on the lift that’s naturally occurring. As more people access social networks via mobile devices, more searches will start on mobile. The right brand message can create that moment of initiation.

By planning social and search together, marketers can make 1 + 1 = 11. Brands new to paid social, in particular, can achieve exponential gains by focusing on search performance. Because Facebook advertising is still relatively new, for example, it’s not uncommon for teams to miss the opportunity to plant specific keywords in targeted ads.

Such planning requires a broader view — looking across disciplines to find synergies — that poses a challenge for agencies and marketing departments alike. Cross-platform expertise remains more the exception than the rule, because client departments organize by specialty and the majority of agencies focus on a single discipline. The chain reaction advertisers need requires search and social experts to team up.

As demand and pricing for search terms rise, advertisers won’t be able to automatically boost returns by spending more. They’ll have to find new ways to get more of the right people typing in specific keywords to swing the odds in their favor. Social media presents an ideal environment for triggering targeted search activity.

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2 comments about "It's Time To Get Social With Search".
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  1. Juliana Casale from Nanigans, March 2, 2016 at 12:22 p.m.

    "Rather than looking to social media for leads, we need to advertise there to trigger people to search." Let me get this straight - you want marketers to pay to get in front of someone on social so they can pay again to get in front of them on search *and then* maybe they'll get a conversion? Social channels like Facebook and Twitter have spent years developing direct response ad units like Mobile App Install and Carousel so marketers can drive leads immediately. Why add the extra step?

  2. Sanjay Teckchandani from Elite SEM, March 11, 2016 at 3:32 p.m.

    Hi Juliana! Thanks for the great question. My goal with this article is to demonstrate the synergy between Social and Search that marketers may not be aware of. By capitalizing on natural consumer behavior, marketers can increase the impact of their campaigns and drive incremental lift for their brands. I am not suggesting extra steps as you're right, the social channels have already invested in building great direct response ad units. Rather, I wanted to outline how marketers could ALSO gain increased efficiencies for their campaigns by thinking of the collaborative roles of Social and Search - deeper connections can seamlessly lead to increased conversions.