The Key to Multi-Channel Success: Understanding the Search and Social Mindset

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There have been countless articles, posts, and case studies regarding multi-channel digital strategies, and the role each channel should play in your marketing mix. And there is no shortage of opinions when it comes to which tactics you should be employing, or which new features and updates will help take your advertising to the next level. However, what’s often lost is the context of your audience’s expectations and mindset when they’re engaging with a given channel.

Not surprisingly, people behave differently depending on where they are in the digital space.  Even the same individual will exhibit drastically different behavior depending on when and where they are online. While a person’s behavior can change across all digital channels (and offline as well), I’ll focus specifically on the paid search and paid social channels. Understanding the different mindsets of your audience on these channels will help you align them more effectively and avoid the dangers of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing strategy.

Conversion Intent Drives Search
Search is an active, intent-based action. When people search online, they’re actively seeking things to buy, learn and experience. They might be looking specifically for your brand (“Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital” or “Best Buy”), or performing a non-branded search (“hospitals near me” or “car stereo reviews”), but in both cases they’re expressing a need for information and willingly engaging with sources that offer solutions to their inquiries. 

Search is a valuable tool to find what we want both online and offline: nearly eight out of 10 individuals use search engines to address health needs, over half of diners use their mobile device to find a restaurant, and four out of five searches on mobile devices lead to purchases.  With consumers exhibiting such a high conversion intent, it’s crucial for businesses to capture the attention of consumers through this channel. Positioning themselves as the go-to resource for a given subject is an effective way for brands to provide searchers with relevant products, services or information.

Leveraging this intent-based search mindset, you can start thinking about the best ways to approach your paid search strategy. You’ll want to determine which questions or queries align most with your brand’s value proposition, factor in device specific insights (mobile vs. desktop) and analyze how individuals engage with your ads throughout the day to inform dayparting strategies. All of these behavioral cues will help your brand better tap into your audience’s conversion intent.

A great example of a business that has capitalized on the intent-based mindset is how Red Roof Inn responded to flight cancellations to increase its hotel bookings. As Google discussed, Red Roof Inn realized that flight cancellations at airports typically leave thousands of passengers stranded without a place to stay each day. Knowing that stranded passengers would resort to search engines to look for places to say, Red Roof Inn began tracking the status of flight cancellations in real time and running ads for nearby locations. As a result, Red Roof Inn saw a 60-percent increase in bookings across non-branded search campaigns.

Engaging Content Drives Social Interaction
People have a much different mindset on social media platforms. When businesses consider how to best engage with their social audience, they need to understand that the social audience is a much more passive one — and therefore reacts differently to ads or content in social media than they do to search results.

A passive social audience does not necessarily lack interaction or engagement with a brand. Rather, they haven’t specifically raised their hands and expressed a specific demand for something. Very seldom does someone actively search for information from a brand when they log into Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. The information is coming directly to them through connections and behaviors they’ve already established.

Therefore, businesses must generate digital strategies that reflect this user behavior, and measure success differently than they do in search. The process is not as simple as choosing a target demographic and serving your standard ad messaging. It’s important to understand how your various audience segments communicate online, and what drives them to interact with content. This understanding will help you better reach your audience, engage with them and ultimately drive business value with your social strategy.

For example, I worked with an international airline based out of Mexico. We developed nine different audience segments, all with their own content strategy and messaging. First-generation immigrants were more inclined to be traveling to visit family; middle-aged individuals with disposable income were interested in the cultural aspect of traveling; and our younger audience was primarily swayed by more affordable airfare. The various social targeting methods available helped us serve up different content to these segments much more successfully than with search, and allowed us to develop audience specific key performance indicators (KPIs).

Multi-Channel Success
A business that understands the mindsets of its audience across channels can more effectively make those channels work together. For example:

  • Social can be a great branding tool and drive increased traffic resulting from branded searches for your business.
  • Ad testing across channels can help determine the most effective messaging and value propositions, and inform creative for other channels.
  • Analyzing search audiences for key demographic insights can lead to improved targeting in social.

Both search and social platforms are also increasing their focus on measuring their impact on offline metrics. Google continues to expand on its store visits measurement, and Facebook offers a number of tools to support location-based marketing to increase in-store sales. French retailer E.Leclerc used Facebook to increase their in store visits by serving geo-targeted ads near its stores with tremendous results: 12 percent of clicks led to a store visit within seven days’ time. Jeweler Tanishq used targeted carousel ads on Facebook to showcase its products and promote special offers, which resulted in a 30-percent increase in in-store visits within a month’s time.

Search and social strategies will continue to evolve. New platforms are released, new targeting is introduced, and new measurement capabilities become available all the time. However, as long as brands continue to consider the specific mindset of their audience throughout the various digital touchpoints, they’ll be better positioned to succeed.

Eric Pumphrey is the Director of Paid Media at SIM Partners. He’s provided search and social strategy for dozens of clients across a variety of verticals, including technology, healthcare, retail, and travel.