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Blurry Lines in 2011: Social + Search + Media

  |  January 4, 2011   |  Comments

Four tactical opportunities marketers can apply to blend social, search, and display.

So let me start this column by expressing how grateful I feel to be in this industry. Knock on wood, what a great year 2010 was for most of the people I know in online marketing. Amid all the doom and gloom, online marketing seems to be a rare bright spot in the economy. At trade events, the atmosphere is lively and infused with enthusiasm. What a big change from the last bubble pop back in late 2000 where all of us "new economy" workers got slammed.

So what is my prediction for 2011? More blurring of the lines between social, search, and online media. These three areas are coming together faster than many people can follow. Social media actions and technologies are acting as a common thread that binds campaigns (online and offline) together. Social media metrics like friends, fans, likes, and shares are adding a whole new menu of actions and success metrics to what we apply to online display and search. Social media marketing is also adding new dimensions and opportunities to SEO by allowing marketers to build rank and links via Facebook Likes and social sharing, and distribute their content and brand to other pages and profiles living all over the Web.

The challenge for today's media and online professional is to understand where the lines are blurring and how to capitalize on those points of integration. The questions one must ask are: Where are the lines blurring, who should own what, and what are some of the things we can do to add octane via these specific points of integration?

For example, are Facebook ASUs (Facebook's self-serve, cost-per-click ads) media, social media, or paid search? Certainly they are a form of online media (as is paid search), but who should manage them? They are targeted via keywords and similar selects to search. They are PPC text ads like search. They can be managed, measured, and optimized much like search. Should search managers master this skill as well? And they also can be used to drive Likes (fans). So does that make it social media marketing?

How about the Google network? Although you manage this through your AdWords account, is this search or media? When you serve "image ads" or banners via the Google Content Network and target by keyword or utilize retargeting, is this search or display media?

Finally, what about all these rich media ads with the Share buttons that encourage you to post content and share things via Twitter and Facebook? Is this online display? Well, it's actually socially-infused online media.

So let me lay out four tactical opportunities marketers can and should apply to create a 1 + 1 = 3 (or more) situation.

  • Creating fans with the Like button. Clearly we are all going crazy trying to build up Facebook fans with the Like button. I mean, why not? It creates a nice lasting connection with consumers and the potential to have them engage with your brand in an environment that is ripe for instant social sharing and engagement. So look across your banners, landing pages, media programs, and site content and ask the question, "Where can I incorporate a Fan Widget or Like call to action? People can also Fan/Like your products. What objects and products on my site might people express an affinity for among there friends? To see a good example of this, check out the Levi's site below and see how every product (or object) it has is acting as a Like generating a fan page!

  • Distributing content with the Share button. Fans are great, but not every company has the mass appeal to build up 1 million fans. However, social media marketing and the octane it can add to anything you do online isn't just based on fans. The power of social media is not always in "social connections" made by fans but more in instant "social sharing" or, as we have long called it, "viral marketing." So you used online media and search to drive people to your landing page or e-commerce site, right? Have you asked them to share your interesting content? Have you done it in a way that is more like a call to action rather than a hidden ShareThis link? Have you actually considered sharing a high value and measurable call to action? C'mon, surface those Share buttons and let the viral marketing begin! The Share buttons are positioned as central and screaming calls to action on my company's landing page.

  • Combining search and banner retargeting. OK, so you drove thousands of visits to your site via paid search and a small percentage of those people actually converted into a lead or sales. Now what? All those people looking for mattresses, enterprise storage units, cookware, etc. should not just be sent off into cyberspace never to be seen again. You paid to find them and for the click to their site, so set a cookie on their browser and stay in touch with them. Combine search and retargeting powered display to put mattress ads (or ads promoting whatever you are selling) in front of all those people who have indicated they are buying mattresses as they surf around the Web! Combine your search and network display!

  • Encouraging social sharing in the banner. So, you have something interesting in a banner like a video or white paper. Why not let people download it, watch it, and share it from the banner? Make sure you bring the functionality of your conversion and sharing-enabled landing pages right into your rich media banners!


These are just four tactics that blend social, search, and display - there are of course many more. Got a good one? Leave a comment!

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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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