Multi-Channel Strategy – Search + Social

By now, the vast majority of digital marketers are familiar with this classic dichotomy  – the need for cross-channel marketing vs. current technology and cross-channel expertise. The importance of cross-channel marketing is well understood; however, the majority of marketing organizations still operate in solos – Display, Social, + Search sharing information but continuing to function as independent business units. With advancements in multi-touch attribution, it’s understood (now more than ever) the interdependency between push and pull advertising channels that ultimately result in improved ROI and cost savings.

To benefit from true cross-channel marketing, a good chunk of digital advertisers are, intuitively, turning to Search and Social to bridge the divide. As Social continues to layer enhanced targeting capabilities, these two channels are becoming further alike – allowing advertisers to more easily leverage learnings from one channel to the other.


Similarities –

Auction-Based, Pay-Per-Click Models:

Many Search and Social platforms are sold on the basis of being self-served and auction based. The majority of agencies whose core competency is Paid Search can leverage learnings from PPC (think granularity of account setup, advanced bid management) to segue into Paid Social.


Reaching the right audience at the right time – both channels have many of the same targeting features which allow advertisers to focus solely on their brand’s key demographic. Geo targeting and exclusions, ad scheduling, device targeting, retargeting, contextual based and interest targeting – the options are vast and often are shared between Search and Social.

Continual Optimization:

Success in both channels requires continual optimization on all 3 levels: keyword (if applicable), ad, and targeting. The same type of granular optimization of bids, keyword mix, strategic A/B copy testing, and targeting that makes Search successful can (often) be directly applied to building successful Paid Social campaigns.

Differences –

Ad Formats:

Which was once simple text ads, Search has evolved into a channel that offers a complete creative offering (text, image, video, engagement), remarketing – dynamic remarketing, product listing ads, ad extensions and more. Social ads units can include many of the layouts often associated with Search, but the viral, network, and premium placement (often image focused) components of Social give these ads great potential.


While Search gives us the ability to match consumer queries to the right ads via keywords, Social allows us to target based upon social signals such as likes and interests – though there are obvious overlaps in capabilities here. Being active in both channels, while layering some of these targeting capabilities, allows advertisers to target consumers with a specific intent + interest.

Post-View Tracking:

A key functionality offered by many Social networks is post-view (impression tracking). Unlike Search networks that focus on last click, Social networks can give clearer insights into the purchase journeys of consumers who have been exposed (but not clicked on) to an ad. The impact on optimization and channel mix when post-view tracking is taken into consideration is huge – from headline, call to action, to the right allocation of Search and Social exposure that provide the highest ROI.

Push vs. Pull Advertising

The power of pull advertising is also something that’s well understood. There’s something to be said for being able to trigger relevant ads based upon a consumer’s search intent extracted via keywords. The more the ad presented speaks to the consumer’s interest, the more likely the consumer is going to engage. It’s the ability to slice and dice search marketing based upon geotargeting, day – time of day, device et al. that has made SEM one of the most profitable advertising channels to date.

Alternatively, push marketing is more closely related to traditional forms of advertising where scale is King. Push marketing has the ability to create interest and brand awareness across relevant consumer groups (who might otherwise be unfamiliar with your product or service offering). Search has limited opportunity to capture a user’s attention, Social creates opportunity by zeroing in on relevant social signals and ques.

The best marketers in digital advertising realize the innate differences between Search and Social and utilize them to their advantage. Often we hear “push at the top of the funnel and pull at the bottom” – realistically, it’s just as important to build brand awareness among passive consumers as it is to capture users who are actively engaged in the purchase cycle.

The Integration of Search + Social

Platforms are increasingly making it easier for markets to bridge the gap between Search and Social. Campaign creation and management, bid – budget – creative optimization, along with multi-touch attribution (MTA) reporting are all offerings from ad platforms that provide synergies between channels that (often) manual optimization and analysis cannot provide. Without clear insight into MTA, marketers are unable to successfully allocate dollars to channels based upon holistic account performance. Platforms that are able to harness cross-channel synergies, in addition to MTA data, into bidding will provide the most value to advertisers.

Kenshoo, for many, has been a pioneer in analyzing the synergy between Social and Paid Search. Released in early June of this year, Intent Driven Audiences – or “IDA” – matches clicks on Paid Search to audiences in Facebook (in real time) via cookies. The customer click path is as follows:










IDA is a breakthrough in Social advertising as it allows markets to create Custom Audiences in Facebook directly via Search intent. From there, marketers have the ability to create Lookalike audiences and further refine their targeting via demographic, behavioral, device information and so on.

The benefits from this type of integration are not seen solely in Social. Often, both channels experience performance improvements as a result of refined targeting that more efficiently captures user’s interest as they find their way through the purchase cycle.












Where to start? The best way to begin the integration of your Search and Social programs is to simply start doing it. Current technology or lack of cross-channel expertise are not obstacles large enough to prevent integration from happening. Look at the opportunity cost of not integrating channels vs. additional employee training and investing in the right types of tools for your company (that can win new business). Search and Social will continue to evolve, and with that growth will come the expectation to optimize the channels together.

Dustin Lewis About the author
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