Developing a social search strategy – content reigns supreme
Social search is gaining in popularity as a marketing term and practice as more brands recognise the benefit in developing a combined strategy and the need to react to changing consumer behaviour. A search engine results page is no longer just a mass of static links, but combines photo, video and realtime content to present the user with an increasingly changing web of gateways to content online. The focus for a long time has been on the strategy on external social networks – increasing your profiles to reach new users but also improve your search engine rankings to control the front page for your results. The website has taken somewhat of a backfoot when it comes to a social search strategy, but you risk ignoring it at your peril.
Content is still king
I have a bit of a problem with this hypothesis, as it started doing the rounds a few years ago but I felt it ignored key factors. Many companies reacted and went on a content-creating drive, without looking at the distribution strategy behind it. A recent survey by Marketing Sherpa – The 2012 Search Marketing Benchmarking Report – shows us that content is one of the most effective methods of SEO, but it is also the most difficult, as the graphic below shows :
This is an invaluable chart for brands and marketers as it shows that while content is the most effective SEO/social search strategy, the results aren’t going to come as easily as you think. Built into your content strategy has to be a full plan of distribution, both to other sites, as well as creating methods to allow people to find your own content. SEO goes a long way towards this, but shouldn’t be the complete content distribution strategy on its own.
Making the most of social search
Content is the number one currency online. Whether it’s text, photo, or video, it’s what people trade in. Good content provides you with entertainment, it gets you noticed by your followers and will probably get you new followers. Brands can benefit from this by providing people with the ‘stock’ that they want to trade in. What you need to recognise however, is that you need to make this content available in increasingly changing and developing formats. Now that Twitter has embedded images and videos in its search results for example, it’s important to include more of this type of content in your Twitter feed, to increase the likelihood of you getting found. A good social search strategy needs to look at how Google works, as well as the social networks themselves. Both are indicators of – and pointers to – good content.
By developing a clear content strategy, you can start to commercialise your social media activity. The report concludes that social media content, executed effectively, can drive lead generation by 30% and revenue by 114% – certainly good news for marketers. This shows the ability for content to instigate the ‘natural’ part of the consumer journey, with the onus then being on the brand to use this to drive the consumer purchase or conversion.
Let’s hear it for the website
Intrinsic in a good social search strategy, is a clear strategy of the role of your site. Though social commerce is growing rapidly, the majority of your sales/conversions will still be through your site. An increasing amount of advertising is pointing people to social sites, but this should exist alongside the strategy for using your website. It is by no means a dark corner of the web, and the findings by Marketing Sherpa show the benefits of focusing on good content for your site, alongside a clear SEO strategy. The fact is that while you can exercise social SEO best practice, the extent to which you can control this on an external site is limited. Social search is by no means just about social media, but integrating and implementing social technologies into your website, where you are more likely to drive the conversion.
This may not be the way things are done in a few years time, and the role of the website in the long-term is certainly in question. But for now, don’t forget the basics. You can have all the widgets and gadgets that you like, but content wins out overall.