Social networks have evolved into the world’s largest focus group -- but for social marketers, search also holds valuable insights into the attitudes, feelings, opinions, and needs of consumers who have not taken to social media. Only 22 percent of Americans use social networking sites several times a day, leaving the vast majority of the population’s voice unaccounted for in these channels.
While social media contains rich insights, search is a necessary component of a well-rounded analysis. People who are not socially active still turn to the Internet for answers. In contrast to the 22 percent on social networks, AYTM Market Research reports that 40 percent of Americans say they use Google search multiple times per day. According to Pew Research, Google is the most-visited site throughout most of North America.
A Crystal Ball
It’s important to consider how people use social networks versus search. Once people are discussing something on a social network, especially when they are complaining, they have often already exhausted other avenues for answers. In contrast, search is a crystal ball, as understanding what consumers are searching for clues us into what people want but aren’t able to find currently. This could include everything from the date of a highly anticipated movie premiere to troubleshooting advice for a technical kink in a brand new device, which may not yet have entered the discussions on social channels.
This crystal ball can also help companies head off potential problems and decide what merits action. In the age of social media, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a few unhappy social media mavens and a major issue with a product or service; search gives us more evidence to help us differentiate between the two.
For example, Apple may come across several tweets about one of their products not holding a lasting charge. Before taking action, they need to answer several questions. Was the product used correctly? Were expectations of these particular customers appropriate for the product? However, if Apple turns to search and sees that the product name plus the search terms “charger” and “defect” are steadily climbing the ranks of top-searched items, it will discover that it has a real problem on its hands. By monitoring what customers are searching, companies can get ahead of issues before they spread through the Web and put an appropriate response plan in place.
Case Study: Discovering Accurate Sentiment
One mobile phone service provider learned the hard way that it can’t rely solely on insights gathered from social channels to gauge customer satisfaction. In an effort to drive new subscribers, the provider launched a broad advertising campaign that included TV ads. The campaign created positive buzz on social networks about the ads and the company. This broad exposure next led consumers to search for the provider on Google to learn more about its services.
At the time, the top search results were “[company] customer service” -- which linked to several negative customer reviews. By incorporating search results into its online monitoring, the provider learned that it needed to quickly address customer complaints as well as enhance its broader support services such as building more online communities to provide real-time support. Had the company only relied on social insights to understand customer sentiment, it would have missed the real picture, as well as many sales opportunities.
Understanding what frustrates and delights audiences is not an exact science, and often requires substantial detective work. Taking into account many consumer touchpoints -- including social, search and other channels -- will together paint a more complete picture of where a brand stands in the eyes of its most important critics.