The Synergy Among Search, Social, and Content

Photo credit: Giovanni Gallucci

Having an integrated social-search strategy is essential when you’re building a brand and trying to engage your audience. At SES Chicago, Rob Garner, vice president of strategy at iCrossing, explained how to develop one. He was among the speakers at a session on “Activating the Social-Search Dynamic.” He took some time to speak with Dawn Cavalieri, editor of SES Magazine, before SES about his session and about trends in search and social.

Dawn Cavalieri: On what do you plan to focus during the presentation?

Rob Garner: I’m going to urge content marketers and publishers to integrate social media and search in order to build connected brands. I am surprised to find that many marketers still believe that search and social are tactical considerations for publishing effective content, which could not be further from the truth. I will show marketers how search technologies and research can help them find influencers, understand the content tastes of their audience, and even find their audience in the farthest corners of the web. Content marketers will learn how search is strategic for optimization and for better measurement of content popularity. In addition, they will discover how social networks are critical to content distribution. Overall, I would like to see attendees become practitioners of all three.

DC: Can you tell us more about your role in search and social?

RG: iCrossing is a full-service interactive agency that builds connected brands for CMOs. Every aspect of our business is touched by search and social technologies, including media, web development and design, creative, content marketing, SEO, and social. My job is to help our business and our clients understand and prepare for the future. I typically work as a lead strategist on accounts to help set direction and identify key opportunities for a business; I work with our teams to determine the best course for the account. I also help educate internally, and provide guidance to various service lines on where the industry is headed, particularly from the search and social perspective. I am very proud that iCrossing has transitioned in the last six years from a natural search pure play into a global, full-service agency with multiple service lines. Search and social inform all our work, and we use our natural search legacy to this advantage.

DC: Where do you think the search and social marketing industries are headed?

RG: The biggest shift we will see is in how social networks begin to implement more sophisticated algorithms and technologies to improve the social experience, and how they put on their search hat in more obvious ways. Facebook is constantly tweaking its algorithm, which affects what you see directly in your stream. Overall, Facebook and Twitter will shift away from rewarding “newest first” to the newest and “most relevant first.” I refer to the concept as “social relevancy,” and it will only continue to grow.

From the marketing industry, the SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012 indicated that agencies were combining search and social practices much more than businesses were. Agencies will continue to lead from a marketing perspective for the foreseeable future. Overall, a large segment of search and social practices have become one, and we will see higher expectations on search firms to do social very well, and vice versa.

DC: You’ve published a book, “Search & Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing.” What were the main challenges in writing it? What did you learn about search and social in the process?

RG: The main challenge for me was distilling a complex topic into something that both explains the landscape and provides an actionable roadmap and tactical plan for marketers and publishers. The book synthesizes several complex entities, among them SEO, social media optimization, real-time marketing, and content marketing. These subjects are often discussed individually, but they are interdependent.

I also wanted to write a book that had never been written before, and I believe that I have accomplished this objective. I take many concepts that have been previously discussed at great length, but I show them through the combined search-and-social lens, the content lens, and the real-time lens.

One thing I learned about search and social is that the two have already become one to a certain degree, and that we have a new generation of marketers who need to be educated on the synergies of the two. I think, as an industry, we will be educating new marketers and business owners about these concepts for the next 10 years, just as we have been educating about SEO for the last 15. Many social and content marketers have shunned search altogether, and they will be at a disadvantage if they don’t look at search from a strategic perspective. Taking search from a strategic perspective is the difference between being a good social or content marketer and being a great one.

DC: What can SES attendees expect from your session? What tips or insights will they take away from it?

RG: I want attendees to stop and think, “Search, social, and content synergy is much bigger than I thought, and we need to get in the game.” And the session will show attendees just how to do it.

Attendees will also learn how being “always on” and being a social participant optimizes the impact of search, social, and content marketing. All of the actions that brands undertake – social engagement, writing, creating video, maintaining an app or community – are forms of publishing, but publishing in a different medium with its own unique nuances. Once marketers have determined that yes, they are publishers, they have to decide whether they are going to be good at it.

This article was originally published in SES Magazine – Chicago in November 2012.

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