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5 ways social media can build on search engine marketing

4 min read

Social Media

Like many companies, SmartBrief utilizes search engine marketing (SEM) and social media to drive growth. On the pay-per-click (PPC) side of our marketing, we have some fairly robust equations aimed at maximizing conversions at a comfortable cost.

Once upon a time, SmartBrief’s PPC metrics existed in a vacuum. We continuously refined our bidding and selection strategies to meet our price-per-acquisition goals, and the data gathered helped us form a baseline on what we were willing to spend on a subscriber to each publication. In time, those baseline numbers became useful when negotiating partnerships, barters and affiliate deals — and have now become a target for our social efforts.

When I read “Trial and Error with AdWords and SEO” and saw the firestorm in the comments pitting SEM against social media, it struck me as irrational. Like search, social-media performs better when you employ a smart targeting strategy. If you’re using AdWords or any other PPC platform, you’ve got data at your fingertips that will make your social-media efforts smarter. Your SEM efforts will provide significant insight into the right keywords, conversions, locations, times of day and costs that will allow your social presence to flourish.

Here are five quick and easy ways to apply PPC data and tactics to your social strategy.

  1. Keywords matter: This seems like the simplest piece of the puzzle, but the SEM folks often sit in a different section of the office than the social-media folks. Which keywords will help your social-media campaign generate  sales? Getting that data regularly communicated to the social-media side of the business will help define which blog posts will be written — and what titles are most appropriate. It will also help you decide what tweets might resonate with your audience and what quality Facebook content might look like. People are searching for these keywords and making purchasing decisions based on them, so take advantage of these lessons and apply them throughout your social channels.
  2. Your free time might not be the right time: What time of the day are people searching for your goods and services? This data is common in PPC but rarely applied elsewhere. If you’re spending the majority of your time tweeting content, offers and limited-time specials in the morning and your target market has proven to be most active in the early afternoon, maybe a shift is in order. Align your social strategy based on demand.
  3. Locate your target market: So you sell products across the globe and you could care less where an order comes from. Social media is great for you, since its reach is endless. Point taken. But if you’re actively starting conversations and engaging with potential customers, wouldn’t you rather focus your time with those in a city, state or region that has already proven to have an affinity to your products? If search marketing can profit from refining outreach, there’s no question social strategies can benefit from greater focus. Which bloggers do you engage with? Who do you follow on Twitter? This is not only about saving you and your team time, but also about reaching influencers with networks in proven markets.
  4. Smarten up your spend: Most of us are still trying our best to connect the dots between sales and social activities. We can track links from Facebook, our blog(s) and via Twitter — but there’s still plenty that falls through the cracks. What we can do is play the SEM card and develop a baseline. Few companies are giving up on social media, but almost all are looking for signs of improvement. Your cost can be as simple as time you invest in your social-media effort, and your yield is whatever you can directly attribute to social efforts. While this measurement won’t tell the whole story, it will deliver a metric that you can build on. This tactic strikes me as potentially the most useful of all, especially for those eternally searching for true ROI.
  5. It’s a two way street. If you walk over to the search team and ask them for data, you’re more likely to get the response you’re after if you bring some information of your own. Gather the keywords that are driving visits to your blog. Build tag clouds of interaction and discussion on your blog or Facebook page from visitors. Generate reports on what your followers are retweeting, reacting to and sharing amongst themselves. The search team will thank you — and reciprocate.

The battle between search and social isn’t really a battle at all. Both require data, insight and improvements based on time, effort and resources. The good news is that when built and enhanced collaboratively, each will deliver like never before.

Image credit: 123render, via iStockphoto