Topline Findings: The Interplay of Search and Social

I was sitting with some colleagues the other night and someone asked the group what we think best captures the true intent of people online, search or social? A great question and one that certainly sparked some debate. Do we think running a search program is the best channel to attract our audience simply because this audience is typing and searching for their true intent of what they want to find online? Or do we think that creating a fan page is most effective because people will be in a community setting among their peers, and that tends to be the best environment that represents true user intentions.

Well, we all came to the general conclusion that both search and social are critically linked to each other. And the successful application of both these activities greatly impacts the other, and in turn the success of the brand online.

Back in February, my company with the collaboration of comScore conducted a study in the U.S. that attempted to address the relationship of search and social in the purchase pathway. If everything has a clearly defined beginning to reach a natural conclusion, then something had to come first right? Below is a summary of the findings and, as this was a U.S.-driven study, many of the findings can certainly relate to what’s happening in Asia.

  • Overall CTR (click-through rate) for search went up to 94 percent when consumers were exposed to both search and social media in the purchase pathway.
  • In nearly 60 percent of all consumer journeys that end in a purchase online, the starting point is through search (both organic and paid search).
  • Forty-eight percent of consumers who convert on a site – be it sales, leads, etc. – use a combination of search and social to get there. And only 1 percent of consumer “converters” use social media without search to get to the purchase point.
  • Only 24 percent of consumers start their online search with a brand site, while 76 percent start with either traditional search or social media, signifying their intent to explore and potentially buy without a commitment to a brand at the outset.
  • When consumers were asked how search and social media are useful to them, respondents say social media helps in two key areas: awareness of new brands and products and eliminating brands from consideration, where search helped them price the competition.
  • According to the study, the greatest motivator for social media engagement is to gather the opinions of others. This can clearly be seen in the Nielsen study shown right where they graph the reach generated by the Yahoo Q&A service showing Japan in top position with 43 percent reach.
  • Nearly 70 percent of respondents in this survey state that using both the search and social channels make them feel more confident about their purchase decisions online.
  • Once that decision to purchase is made, consumers have a high desire to stay connected with the brand. Sixty-four percent of consumers say they are likely to follow a brand via social media after their initial purchase was made.
  • Forty percent of respondents say search leads to increased usage of social media, while 46 percent say social media leads them to conduct more searches.

The study concludes that while search appears to be the definitive starting point in the consumer decision-making process, the casual circle between search and social presents an important opportunity for brands to capture and drive customers to conversion.

I think brands in Asia can learn a great deal from the interplay between search and social. Clearly some brands in this region are a bit more progressive in this space than others, but as media becomes more fragmented and brands start to invest more online, having a strategy in both search and social will be of great value.

If interested, the complete study can be found here.

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