By Kelli Diveley, Senior Search Manager
Facebook recently put on a big show to announce its new pages and media placements for brands. Brands now have more opportunities to connect with customers on the social network. But how can brand websites, owned social media properties and search work together to engage consumers?
Having the ability to drive consumers to a website and a social presence, such as a Facebook page, can ultimately enhance your search marketing campaign. Giving consumers the ability to choose where they access brand content leads to the best user experience and ultimately ensures all efforts are contributing to the brand’s business objectives.
Social vs. Search in brand relationships
While Google still ranks as the most visited site in the United States, Facebook is second in terms of frequency but first when it comes to time spent on site. According to Nielsen, in November 2011 Americans spent almost 7 hours a month on Facebook, more than three times higher than the amount of time spent on Google or YouTube.
Google, Yahoo and other search engines are the first place people turn to when looking for more information. Facebook on the other hand is a true destination, whose success has been driven by its ability to build a digital community where people go to share links, pictures, and connections with brands for which they have an affinity.
Consumers’ expectations of a brand on Facebook are much different than expectations of a brand’s website. A study published in December 2011 by CMO Council found that 67% of consumers “like” a brand for exclusive offers, 60% are looking to share their experience, and 57% are looking to find other “unique” experiences. In contrast, consumers visit a brand’s website because they believe it is a reliable source for product and service information. A Nielsen and NM Incite study recently found that only 15% of consumers prefer getting product information from a brand’s Facebook page, while 50% prefer to get this information from the brand’s website.
Getting your plan together
Search marketing can play a role in the promotion of a brand’s social presence by promoting a Facebook initiative within the paid search landscape. Before allocating a portion of a search marketing budget towards promoting a Facebook presence, it is recommended that two preliminary steps are taken.
First, a social listening program should be executed to understand what consumers are saying about the brand and the category to determine the type of content the target audience would be interested in on Facebook.
Secondly, to fully understand the value of a brand presence on Facebook a measurement plan should be put in place to define the value of interactions such as likes, shares and comments. According to a report released by eVoc found that 47% of consumers who have “liked” a brand say this action has had no influence on their intent to purchase.
How to make it work
With a measurement plan and consumer insights from the social listening campaign in place, a strong search strategy to support Facebook efforts can be put into motion. There are two recommended solutions that brands can use to bolster Facebook efforts through paid search.
The first option is to provide a site link directing searchers to “like” the brand on Facebook. Site links are shown on the majority of branded searches and on average between 10-40% of searches for non-branded terms. This is a great way to integrate Facebook alongside other calls to action and it can be funded from existing paid search budgets.
Another option is showing a completely separate ad for Facebook in search results. Below is a mocked up example for Neutrogena, which shows the main ad for Neutrogena.com and an additional ad promoting their Facebook page in the paid search results on the right. While this strategy would likely result in incremental cost, it would increase a brand’s ownership of the search results page.
Keep your customers’ needs top of mind
An approach that gives the consumers the ability to choose where they access a brand’s content is optimal. Forgoing a website in favor of a Facebook-only approach may result in a less than optimal experience for a consumer, and an even poorer result for a brand.
This strategy assumes that a majority of a brand’s target audience utilizes Facebook for product or shopping research purposes. Additionally, Facebook does not provide brand marketers the ability to accurately track the effect of third party media, making it difficult to determine if efforts are successful, whereas all actions taken on a brand’s website can be tracked.
It is best to utilize Facebook to augment a consumer’s brand experience, not replace existing channels such as a brand website. While there is a lot of potential upside in executing a successful Facebook strategy, a strategic framework needs to be in place to help ensure all efforts are contributing to the brand’s business objectives. At the end of the day, search’s role within the digital ecosystem is to provide consumers with easy access to the right brand content, whenever and wherever they are looking for it.