How Search Experiences Deliver Results on Social Platforms

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Over the past decade, digital platforms have become instrumental in influencing customer behavior. Here’s proof: 87% of consumers start their retail journeys online, and more than half of shoppers prefer ecommerce over brick-and-mortar stores. From an advertiser perspective, it’s clear that owning the digital customer experience has become crucial to capturing new buyers. The key is knowing where to allocate your budget in order to reach the right consumers at the right time.

In the past, we would see users turn to different channels at various stages of the digital marketing funnel. However, experiences have since become more consistent across platforms, spanning engagement, discovery, inspiration, commerce, and beyond. Take, for example, Amazon. We used to think of it as an ecommerce marketplace, but these days it’s evolved to also become a primary source of inspiration, research, and product comparison. While Google is still largely a search engine, it’s now expanded to include a Stories-like experience similar to what we see on social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Navigating a converging digital ecosystem

At the same time, many social platforms have started to integrate search functionalities into the user experience. Snapchat has partnered with Amazon to create a visual product search feature that allows users to find and purchase items with an in-app camera function. YouTube has rolled out an Explore search feature that presents users with relevant recommendations based on their search history. On Pinterest, where more than 2 billion searches are happening every month, visual search and image recognition functionalities help bridge the online and offline parts of the customer experience.

As digital platforms expand their offerings, disciplines that used to be viewed as separate (or even competing) have grown to become increasingly intertwined. Social can no longer be considered an isolated branch in the same way we can’t say that search is one. In an evolving digital ecosystem, social, search, programmatic, and ecommerce work together to deliver maximum impact throughout the customer journey.

Understanding customer intent

It’s not just the platform definitions and experiences that are changing; the capabilities required to create relevant experiences across these channels have also aligned. These days, digital marketers should think less about having separate “social” and “search” teams, and focus more on a holistic, cross-platform strategy that pieces together different channels to deliver optimal results.

The trick is to understand not only who your customer is but, more importantly, why they are interested in your products. Research shows that advertisers who rely too heavily on demographics when building out their audiences risk missing out on 70% of potential mobile shoppers. Identifying consumer intent often starts with analyzing search behavior, which can then be used to optimize strategies across other digital channels.

Platforms like Pinterest and Twitter are particularly well-suited for keyword targeting, which enables brands to build out audiences based on what users have searched for elsewhere. By analyzing top-performing paid and organic search keywords and uploading those to the platforms, we can create a new targeting segment based on customers’ proven interest in a topic, brand, or product.

An alternative method is to look broadly at customer behavior before narrowing your approach. 80% of US and UK consumers use Amazon as a research and comparison tool, even when shopping elsewhere. Looking at these insights can provide you with valuable data on customers’ wants and needs that can then be used to optimize cross-platform strategies.

Delivering results with search on social

Once we understand customer intent, the next step is to pair it with digital content that is tailored to the individual user and the platform experience. To do this, we’ll need to distill the insights gained from search data into actionable steps that make the most impact.

Ultimately, this comes down to segmenting your social advertising campaigns so that the content being served to users directly matches their search behavior. The most popular keywords for your audience will help you create content that resonates the strongest for each group. The opportunity then lies in creating a strong connection between the targeted keywords and the products or services offered by the brand.

Whether we come from a social or search perspective, it’s clear that the industry as a whole is becoming less about performance or channel specialty. Instead, it’s about optimizing and integrating every touchpoint of the customer journey to ensure a seamless, end-to-end experience that maximizes your return on investment.