The Power of The Search and Social Combo Meal

When we talk to clients, we often find they think about search and social media programs as completely separate efforts.  They’re either very focused on search (either PPC or SEO), or they’re highly motivated to get Facebook working for them (since most people believe Facebook equals social these days).  Thinking this way—that search and social are distinct and separate efforts—is a shame, because the true power for your business is having both programs in place working in perfect sync.  As Jay Baer has eloquently
described, “search and social are PB&J”– and there are a whole bunch of good
reasons why you should thinking about them as your next combo meal.

So here are some facts.  According to a 2009 GroupM/comScore study, social has a direct impact on consumer searches for a brand.   The study found that consumers exposed to a brand’s influenced social media and paid search programs are 2.8 times more likely to search for that brand’s products compared with users who only saw paid search.

In the spring of 2011 the same team fielded a study of how search and social impact online shopping.  As eMarketer summarized, the findings were pretty impressive:

Marketers still skeptical of the overall influence of social media on online purchasing habits have reason to rethink that skepticism. In fact, buyers who purchase or convert online are almost as likely to use a combination of search and social resources (48%) as they are to use just search (51%) along the path to purchase.  Furthermore, when consumers were exposed to both brand-specific search results and social media, search clickthrough rates increased by 94%, indicating the investment in social media can help marketers to better influence consumers during their purchasing process and boost search performance.

So how does this all work? As GroupM describes it: “Generating upper-funnel awareness and influencing consideration through social media can produce better down-the-funnel performance with paid media, such as paid search.”  Since that sentence contains quite a bit of marketing speak (and you probably don’t care much about funnels other than to get the gas into your lawn mower), I’ll translate.  Using social media like Facebook gets the people you want to reach seeing you– and hearing their friends talk about you– early on in the process of deciding what or where to buy.  Then, at the time they are ready to pull the trigger, they go to a search engine to find info to guide their final choice.  When you show up in paid or organic search (or ideally both PPC and SEO as I’ve suggested in past posts), they see you, and whammo (that’s a technical term) the earlier exposure to your brand, plus seeing you right there– with the authority conveyed by a top Google position– is all the motivation they need.

So the next time you think of search and social, just remember to think ham and eggs, Quarter Pounder with cheese, rice and beans- or whatever floats your boat.


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

2 responses to “The Power of The Search and Social Combo Meal

  1. Great article. something I have been preaching for years.

    Social is rewriting how we go about branding and awareness plays. Search will always be the nexus for where people need to find out more information about what they were just made aware.

  2. Emil:
    Agree completely. I believe search will always be that key piece that represents the ideal opportunity to convert- right at the point where people are raising their hand saying they are ready to buy.

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