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Meeting consumers on their turf: the value of social media in search marketing

Understanding the reciprocative relationship between search and content marketing will help brands effectively target and engage with consumers across multiple digital channels.

As the digital marketing industry matures, it’s important to revisit the basic reasons why it needs to be a greater area of focus for any company. To put it simply, we market online because that is where the customers are in ever-increasing numbers.

Flawed as they can be, statistics do tell a story. The Pew Research Center statistics clearly show that the trend is positive and rapidly climbing from year to year.

Additionally, Digital Insights reports some of these mind-blowing 2014 facts are impossible for any responsible digital marketer to ignore:

  • 75 percent of the engagement on a Facebook post happens in the first five hours.
  • 53 percent of interaction between Google+ user and a brand is positive.
  • 44 percent of users on Twitter have never sent a tweet.
  • 84 percent of women and 50 percent of men stay active on Pinterest.
  • More than two users sign-up for LinkedIn every second.
  • 23 percent of teens consider Instagram as their favorite social network.
  • Weekends are the most popular time to share Vines.
  • Number of snaps sent per day on SnapChat is 400 million.
  • 40 percent of YouTube traffic comes from mobile.
  • B2B marketers using blogs generate 67 percent more leads.

Method, process, and justification

Access to digital information is globally expanding. This widespread access to information necessitates that we cross markets over many digital channels. Now brands can no longer influence customers by controlling the information they see. Rather, branded content must deal in facts, features, offers, and benefits in a two-way, community-focused way. Customers will seek out the opinions of their friends, family, and social media contacts to find out what they think about your brand. Then they will go in search of truth by visiting independent, unbiased sources to validate the claims you’ve made about your brand with your content.

SEO content marketing must deliver customer-centric information via blogs, website content, and advertising content that responds to customers’ sentiments, questions, and anticipated questions, as a means to develop leads and ultimately convert them to customers.

The traditional marketing funnel of AIDA (attention, interest, desire, and action) will always exist, but the process has become more dynamic and sophisticated. Not only are potential customers using word of mouth to seek the advice and counsel of other potential customers when making a decision to buy brand X or brand Y, but they are now doing it online in real-time with digital search and social media channels.

Prospective customers are already beyond the interest stage – they have demonstrated desire to buy a product based on much of the SEO content you already have published to the Web. Since the customer is now omnipresent online via the use of one device or another, the process of AIDA is rapidly giving way to the new idea of mapping the customer journey. Brands are no longer engaging the customer at discrete points in time. Rather, it’s a continuous flow of engagement across digital channels and devices – it’s a journey.

Customer behavior

What does this mean for marketers as we strive to acquire customers, increase conversions on e-commerce sites, and earn customer loyalty?

  1. We must engage customers where they get their information, in their digital environment.
  2. We must make sure that the answer from their social media friends, family, and acquaintances to the question, “Does brand X really do that?” is an emphatic, “Yes!”
  3. We must be able to measure, target, and repeat this for similar customers across our marketing channels.

The social conversations from customers are part of the new data-driven, personalized approach to understanding customer sentiment, developing marketing insights, and predicting their behavior.

This concept of a brand being a person just like you and me may seem counterintuitive; the brand represents the “system,” thus many distrust it. However, that’s changing in the age of social media. When we engage socially, it’s all about stamping a face, personality, and identity on a brand. So brands must become one of them – a friend, a neighbor, or a respected and trusted source of information.

What is the SEO strategy?

So, what is the plan? What can SEO marketers do to optimize the customer’s experience?

SEO marketers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that websites are set up for high conversions, customer satisfaction, and visibility in social and search channels, so it is important note that SEO and social media follow a repetitive content-driven cycle.

When consumers want to buy something, they always have questions. Therefore marketers need to be the people with answers that are credible and influential, and they have to be online in the places their customers frequent in order to talk to them. They should provide useful information in forums that customers may frequent, without doing the hard-sell or hyping the brand. Part of that conversation should involve making it easy to find any brand content that can help answer customers’ questions, or can direct them to a reputable, trusted, and unbiased third-party. A brand’s content should clearly differentiate it from other competing brands and have the ability to uniquely capture customers’ attention to increase engagement. It also needs to reflect objective truths and definitively illustrate the benefits of the brand’s offerings, because customers will inevitably want verify what they read through an independent third-party.

This is the power of information and social media at work, under the control of the customer.

by Dave Lloyd