5 Reasons PPC Search Beats PPC Social

PPC social media is oh so hot and sexy, and growing like a weed. And yes, PPC Facebook and LinkedIn ads have their place in a marketing, advertising, and media plans. But before you get too caught up by “shiny object syndrome” and start moving search budgets to social PPC (instead of carving out new PPC social media budgets), it’s appropriate to outline five reasons PPC search beats social media PPC advertising.

  1. “Social media fatigue.” Recent research from the Gartner demonstrated that “users in certain segments are showing ‘social media fatigue.'” “The trend shows some social media fatigue among early adopters, and the fact that 31 percent of Aspirers [younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers] indicated that they were getting bored with their social network is a situation that social media providers should monitor, as they will need to innovate and diversify to keep consumer attention,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner. The Gartner study referenced and measured users’ enthusiasm for social media, but the more pressing “fatigue” issue for PPC marketers is ad burnout. Because social media ads are targeted based on profile, not behavior (searching or contextual surfing), there is a high likelihood that your target audience will see advertising from you many times. This causes banner burnout on top of dismally low click-through rates, dragging those rates further down and causing social media publishers to run your ads less often (unless those ads are freshened up and rotated regularly). Is all of this extra work really worth it? You’ll have to answer that question while you watch your optimized search creative bring in customers day-after-day. Why? Because there’s no such thing as “search fatigue.”
  2. Harvesting demand is easier than creating or influencing demand. Search engine marketing can influence demand and build brand awareness as searchers make decisions about the brands, stores, and service providers they want. Lift in awareness and influence within the buying cycle is generally considered to be a byproduct of PPC search campaigns. However, PPC search is unparalleled at intercepting the user right at that point in time just before they are ready to transact, register, or make a phone call. With PPC search, you can be assured of hitting your direct response objective while simultaneously delivering influence, awareness, and recall among all the searchers – both those who convert proximally to the click, plus those who simply arrive at your site and engage with your brand.
  3. Profiles are underpopulated. Many profiles in Facebook (and even in LinkedIn) are incomplete and underpopulated with the kind of information that might give advertisers a fighting chance of properly targeting our advertising toward someone who gives a damn and might actually have an interest in what we have to offer. The social networks have each embarked on strategies to get users – particularly active users that generate the lion’s share of impression volume and click volume – to fill out important profile information that we, as advertisers, want.
  4. Profiles lie! Well, actually profiles don’t lie – people do. By many estimates, millions of profiles on social media sites are either entirely fake or there are significant untruths and embellishments made within them. What are we to do as marketers when all we have to target on is profile data and the profile data is often wrong? That means our ads are being shown to the wrong people. At least we are generally paying on a CPC basis and so the presumption is that those who click are in fact interested…I certainly hope this is the case.
  5. “Likes” are terrible success metrics. The most exciting thing about a page in a social media site is rarely the ad; it’s the content going on in your social network. In those rare cases when, due to some combination of targeting, great ad creative, and sheer luck, the ad finally breaks through the clutter, the only thing marketers will often get out of it is a “Like.” It’s unclear how a “Like” will accrue benefits to marketers in the future. A “Like” doesn’t guarantee that our updates show up in a feed, and if the profile user is inactive (or barely active), they won’t see our communications, even if we have been so lucky (and skilled in understanding edge-rank) as to make it into their feed.

To summarize, social media advertising shows a lot of potential for brand advertisers looking for ways to influence demand and build awareness. It has some potential as a direct response medium (particularly when it is used within a media mix model framework where the influence can be properly attributed). This potential particularly applies to large spenders where this impact can be measured. If your paid search inventory is hyper-expensive and clicks from social media are cheap enough, then sure, buy social media ad clicks as needed, along with display and contextually-targeted clicks.

Now click your mouse three times and repeat: “There’s no place like Search! There’s no place like Search! There’s no place like Search!”

Kevin is off today. This column was originally published on August 19, 2011 on ClickZ.

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