As an SEO, I’m clearly already very much bought into the role of search in generating sales, enquiries or building an audience. I once heard someone say (and I so wish that I could remember who it was) that selling to people through SEO is like selling to people already walking through the shopping centre. While social media is like trying to sell to people while they’re standing at the bar.
And I get that sentiment. If someone is actively looking for a product or service in search, then winning that visit is winning a visit from someone already in buying mode, right? It’s probably also fair to say that if someone is browsing cat videos on Facebook and ends up accidentally clicking an ad for something and landing on your site, then the sale might be somewhat less likely.
Recent statistics back up the fact that search engines probably warrant priority in your marketing if you’re measuring it on sales. People are twice as likely to use search engines when looking for a new product or service than they are to use social media.
But that’s not to say social doesn’t have a place in the buying journey. Here’s why it needs taking seriously alongside search.
1. Younger people are using social more
The same data showed that while, on the whole, people are twice as likely to use search than social when shopping online, it’s not the same across all age ranges.
26% of those aged 16 to 24 said they use search engines in the shopping process (still making search engines the most used channel). But at 25%, social is neck and neck.
In other words, the younger demographics are as likely to look for product and service recommendations on social media as they are on search. And even if you’re say that, right now, your audience isn’t 16 to 24, this group of people will be 26 to 34 in a decade and potentially still shopping in similar ways.
2. Social Influences Search
Something going viral on social will lead to people heading to search to look for it. In other words, social can increase search demand.
Take a look at HiSmile products, weighted hula hoops and airfryers as prime examples of products whose demand is up (according to Google Trends) as users create viral content on Tiktok using the products.
If you’ve got a relevant product, a compelling social strategy can influence the demand for that product in search.
3. Social ads convert
The spend on social media ads will exceed $173 billion this year. And while it’ll probably always be harder to sell some products on social more than others, social ads work effectively for many when managed properly. Creative ad copy, imagery or video coupled with the immense laser focussed targeting capabilities of social platforms is a powerful ad tool both for sales and generating brand search too.
4. Social can influence the final buying decision
Your online reputation could make someone hit the checkout button or bail on the purchase altogether. Online shoppers are a savvier bunch than ever before and looking up online reviews across a multitude of platforms is a step many will take.
So if your social channels are filled with recommendations from happy customers and content that shows your product or service off in a great light, then you might just reassure someone who’s already almost there in the decision making to part with their cash. If your social media channels are filled with angry customers demanding their money back, it might well be enough to turn a prospective buyer off.
So maintaining authentic social channels with great content and embracing public online conversation with your customers can be a really effective way to help people trust you.
Search and Social
To me, it’s not about which is more important. Search and social work in conjunction to help increase demand, generate sales and convince prospective customers of your reputation.