Kieley Taylor is the global head of social for M Platform (part of GroupM). Her focus is in streamlining operations, disseminating thought leadership, training, best practices, and advocating on behalf of client interests with key publishing partners. She is the lead subject matter expert within social for GroupM clients.
Why integrating search and social is smart marketing strategy
For some time, marketing experts have pointed to the numerous benefits of integrating social and search capabilities. And yet, plenty of obstacles stand in the way despite the benefits this integration can do for your business.
Combined, they can inform your marketing strategy, capture demand, improve results, deliver insights, create efficiencies and encourage fluidity in your processes. They can also lead to social relevance and impact, social reach, focused search growth and search reach for your campaigns.
But, how do they work together?
Search informs social by using top SEO/SEM terms to buy on social platforms, increasing targeted frequency and driving action using relevant search keywords in social posts. This can improve paid social resonance and earned impressions and allow you to find new audiences based on search click volume.
For efficiency, re-target site visitors on social to drive efficient frequency and convert prospects; shift poorer performing lifestyle or category search budgets into social affinity targeting to benefit from reduced CPMs and greater scale; and inform social channel allocation based on full business impact. For example, use Pinterest as a top site traffic driver, potentially facilitating greater investment than paid media CPM would initially dictate.
On the other hand, social can inform by analyzing social conversations to develop relevant content on your site and search ads. You can grow insights into consumers by leveraging data from a brand’s social fans to inform factors like messaging, keyword lists and site content; and optimizing outbound social links for SEO analysis and impact.
For efficiency, use test messaging within social, first to scale learning quickly and to preserve search quality scores while also avoiding CPC premiums. Use social conversations to build keyword expansions and gain lower CPCs in search based on limited competition; coordinate between channels to heavy up SEM based on real-time social trends, and shift budgets from broadcast social targets to fully fund increased branded search for 100% SOV.
Considering the benefits, why don’t all marketers employ these strategies?
The architecture of some clients and agencies are impediments. At agencies, responsibility for traditional media (publisher direct digital, print, video, broadcast) can be divided from responsibility for programmatic, while both those can be separated from oversight for search and social. Likewise, at clients, separate disciplines over branding, PR and performance do not deliver on integration. Structures that don’t define the strength and purpose of collaboration motivate teams to focus on what they alone can do. This can result in land grabs that benefit a singular department looking out for its own best outcomes as opposed to the greater benefit of the client and the agency.
Savvy clients are increasingly expecting integration between search and social and elimination of inefficient silos.
So, how do you make integration happen?
First, you need to employ an audience-first, cross-channel framework, one that starts by formulating objectives, determining audiences and developing actions. Only then do you move on to creating content and settling on distribution channels. At every point along the way in the campaign, you measure reach and results.
In the planning phase, you’ll want to take into account key audiences that will help you drive the business forward. Critically, you’ll want to also be able to fund messages that are relevant for each audience.
For the purposes of illustration, we’ve taken a deeper look at three distinct categories: lapsed loyalists, category buyers and client CRM/current loyal customers.
Lapsed loyalists are brand aware but need to be re-engaged through relevant messaging. They’re likely to convert via branded search or programmatic after being reminded about why they loved the brand or being educated on why it’s worth trying the brand again.
Search has strengths for this category in meeting explicit customer needs (lower-funnel/DR performance) while social’s strengths are that it is a strong consideration driver with the ability to deliver relevant creative at scale (addressable within closed social platforms, easily and quickly adaptable with depth of knowledge about the human side of an audience).
Meanwhile, category buyers are in-market but may not be brand aware. Contextual adjacency and higher frequency are needed to convert them, while a skew toward upper-funnel tactics is required. The traditional strengths of this segment are the opportunity to negotiate for high-impact placements with custom integration for strong brand positioning and DR/performance.
Search’s strengths here are meeting explicit consumer needs and lower funnel/DR performance. Meanwhile, social’s strengths include the ability to be a strong consideration driver with the delivery of relevant creative at scale, high reach at efficient CPMs, and depth of knowledge around the human side of an audience.
Finally, client CRM lists and other signals from those who are brand loyal provide the most informed view of audiences as personalization and optimal frequency are key to driving loyalty and cross-selling or upselling. For this audience, programmatic’s strengths are dynamic creative optimization, fluid optimization across the open web, and custom integration for strong brand positioning.
Here, search’s strength is discoverability; social’s are addressability in closed social platforms and dynamic optimization.
An omni-channel trigger system and action plan can help optimize integrated search and social solutions. Begin testing on a limited scale and, in case of a high response rate, scale-up using lookalike modeling. Share creative learnings across channels to target similar audiences. If the response is low, recall the investment and identify the best channel for reallocation. On a larger scale, if the response is high then share the creative and audience insights across all channels and reallocate funds to support this plan from poorer performers. In the case of low response, minimize this investment and review audience segment performance across channels to identify creative optimization or best-fit reallocation.
And what are the bottom-line benefits of integrating search and social?
One of our clients defined their post-integration success with a 13% lift in overall organic and paid search-referred site visits.
For another client, their integrated campaign delivered a 17.3 percent lift in paid search-referred site visits and 97% of incremental paid search clicks came from branded (highly efficient) keywords.
Finally, in a third client case study, an integrated approach produced a 9.7% lift in website visits due to Facebook ad exposure.
The consumers reached through search and social don’t live on different planets — neither should your teams trying to reach them.
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