Cross-Channel Coordination: Search & Social Integration Opportunities, Obstacles

Search and social elicit strong intent and interaction signals with consumers.

By Kelly Wrather


Throughout the path-to-purchase, consumers seamlessly move across channels and devices until they reach the moment, that zero moment of truth, to make a purchase or convert. As integrated and fluid as the experience is for the consumer, behind the scenes, cross-channel coordination can be a challenge for marketers.

Cross-channel marketing by nature is customer-centric and focuses on how the right media mix can impact and influence consumers to take action. Marketers must strike a balance of the classic push and pull relationship of marketing tactics to reach and engage individuals, and do so at scale.

It’s relatively easy to understand that various advertising channels push and pull to influence consumers and drive action. The hard part is putting together the right mix of strategies and tactics to achieve the marketing math of 1+1=3.

Search and social represent two channels ripe with opportunity to begin building this cross-channel synergy.

Why Search + Social: The Opportunities

Consumers Are Receptive To Search & Social

Search engines and social networks have done a great job of building equity and trust with consumers – search because of its transparency and control and social for its powerful personal networks.

A Nielsen study from last year revealed that nearly half (48 percent) of global online consumers surveyed trust ads delivered via search and social.

Even more powerful, 57 percent of respondents cited that they sometimes or always take action from search ads and 55 percent indicated as such for social ads, confirming the growing influence of these two advertising media.

In terms of time spent, “social networking” and “searching” rank as two of the top consumer activities online. Furthermore, 91 percent of online adults say they use search engines and 74 percent engage in social media.

For marketers trying to reach their target audiences, these two channels elicit both strong intent and interaction signals with consumers.

Search & Social Account For More Than Half Of Digital Marketing Budgets

This year, eMarketer projects that U.S. marketers will spend more than $16 billion and $6 billion on search and social respectively, accounting for more than 54 percent of the total projected online spend. In fact, more than 40 percent of business leaders planned to increase budgets across social and search, with only email as the only channel edging out the two.

Given the increased investment, if marketers can truly master the combined power of these two channels, they will have a huge impact on the entirety of their digital marketing programs and resulting outcomes.

Search & Social Work Better Together

GroupM released one of the first studies that helped demonstrate the interplay of search and social. Among its findings, the study cited a “50 percent click-through-rate (CTR) increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search.”

Since then, marketers have come to learn more about the added value these two channels bring to one another as additional research has aided in quantifying the impact an integrated approach has on sales and cost per acquisition. An analysis of a U.S. retailer’s search and social campaigns found that audience segments exposed to both search and Facebook generated a return on ad spend 30 percent higher than the search-only group.

When run in conjunction, search and social can help each other work harder and perform better. Results from a similar study for leading global information services provider, Experian, revealed a 19 percent average increase in total conversions among individuals who saw both Facebook advertising and paid search advertising compared to those who saw paid search advertising alone.

From a consumer perspective, conversion decisions typically aren’t made in an instant, so cross-channel reinforcement helps move people down the path. As technology innovates to unlock ways to leverage search intent data to better inform social targeting, not only do advertisers benefit from more data-driven targeting and optimization across channels, but consumers also receive a more tailored and relevant ad experience that can positively influence conversion decisions.

Cross-Channel Challenges: The Obstacles

A recent Econsultancy report noted that while 67 percent of client-side marketers find cross-channel marketing to be a top priority, 62 percent of respondents agreed that their messaging, execution, and delivery strategies weren’t actually aligned across touch points.

Marketing organizations that are siloed can be held back by their infrastructure and typically aren’t nimble enough to make coordinated changes across channels when needed to best take advantage of markets that are constantly in fluctuation. In fact, organizational structure was one of the top barriers to cross-channel marketing that global marketers identified, along with technology and budget limitations.

The fact still remains that marketers are leveraging an increasing number of vehicles to reach their audiences, citing on average 13 different channels in their marketing mix.

Cross-channel coordination is becoming more of a necessity, rather than a luxury, given the mobility of your customers across the web. Search and social are two channels where you can begin to take the steps toward true cross-channel coordination.

Make the case internally to better align teams and strategies; develop a plan with short-term goals to test out your hypothesis; and, prove that 1+1 can equal 3.

Have you seen great examples of companies making the most of search and social to influence consumers? What obstacles has your brand overcome?