Creating a virtuous circle with search and social media: a Q-and-A with GroupM Search CEO Chris Copeland

This blog series, featuring interviews with speakers from the SES Conference & Expo, scheduled Aug. 15 to 19 in San Francisco,  is brought to you by Incisive Media.

This Q-and-A is with GroupM Search CEO Chris Copeland.

How do you see the influence of social media changing search engine marketing?

Research we’ve conducted looking at the impact these channels have on one another suggests that search has an authority to it and that consumers are becoming more and more reliant on the views of others, whether or not they are trusted friends in the social graph. With that being said, it makes sense that Google and Bing continue to move toward a model where third-party opinions factor into the relevance of a results page and help keep consumers from abandoning search as their decision tool of choice.

In the future, I expect two things to happen:  1) the signals will get better thanks to scale and data and create an even greater need for brand-owned assets to be optimized across social media for search inclusion; and 2) social media will begin to be more like search with relevance and intent forming experiences more so than ever before.

When companies are trying to figure out the return on their social media investment, should they be taking the intersection of search and social into account? How so?

In 2009, we released a study that showed a 94% increase in search (click-through rate) for three advertisers when consumers saw the brand’s social media in-channel as well as search listing. So, if a brand wants to give attribution to a channel for its impact on search performance, the social channel is a good one to consider. It is clear that a virtuous circle exists between the channels with consumers bouncing from one to the other to fulfill their research needs on the pathway to making a decision.

What advice would you give companies looking to use paid, earned and owned media as part of a single campaign? How do you make those components harmonious?

When it comes down to digital signposts, outcomes and measurement are important. We see each step of a consumer’s journey as an opportunity put a sign out to direct them to their next encounter with a brand. Consumers are willing to shift between mediums from paid to owned and earned platforms to expand their knowledge and make the best decisions. Brands need to have a strategy for connecting and execute on this strategy by determining the right media type for the moment.

There are obvious times when in order to create scale and establish reach, paid media is the best solution. But, more and more often we see consumers wanting opinions from their social graph and beyond using social media and the wisdom of an earned response from a community built up on behalf of a brand. The data and measurement components validate the process. If brands cannot measure the movement and connectivity between their brand and consumers, they have lost sight of their own relevance in the process and then outcomes will be questionable.

How can businesses use the data they’re getting from their search and social marketing efforts to improve their marketing efforts? How do you create a virtuous circle?

Search has been the single biggest Petri dish of consumer intelligence for the better part of a decade. Every search is an expression of consumer intent. Every click is a response (positively or negatively, depending on whether or not they clicked your ad) to the connection your brand tried to create and their intent. Now, social layers in their ability to follow information, share information and take up arms as an activist on your brand’s behalf. The combination of intent expressed and relevancy between the consumer and a brand cannot be gathered anywhere else compared to the depth and degree that search and social offers today. This can shape everything, including your future marketing efforts, by tightening up the connection points via signposts on the journey. It can also shape future product development and macro business decisions. The data, when measured properly, is just that powerful.

Can a corporate blog place too much emphasis on SEO? How does one find the line?

Priority needs to be given to your owned assets based on the role you want them to play in the journey consumers are taking. If your brand is built on hearing from the authority of your own people in a confined setting, then you should optimize it to the fullest. If you believe that third-party opinions and a variety of experience beyond blog formatted text are important, then you have to find balance. No one sign will get people from A-to-Z, so the weight you give to SEO efforts should be proportionate to the impact and influence that asset will have on your brand in helping customers reach the final step of a journey to engagement.

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