Write the following down and tape it next to your desk:
Search = DO
Social = BROWSE
Are there points for crossover? Absolutely. But it’s not a 1:1 complete intersection at this juncture.
What I’m calling attention to here is pure user intent and the customer journey. Too often I see content strategies distill into a blurred intersection of tactics that detach from the fundamental user behaviors that define search versus social. Think about your own behavior. When you take time in your day to hop on Twitter, browse Facebook or poke around on Pinterest, you’re usually doing so under a “browse” mentality. Sure, you may have arrived there from someone sharing a link but in all likelihood, a scan of your social channels is prompted by an innate tick to keep up on the latest with your friends and family.
On the contrary, we start a search with some degree of intent (be it navigational, informational, commercial or transactional). When you visit Google, you have some purpose for your search and you are looking for the fastest way to access the most credible or reliable resource possible. As marketers, we inherently know this but we still struggle to define the right balance. Where do we hedge our bets to engage a target audience with the most impact possible? My advice is to revisit your customer journey.
General Awareness | Piqued Interest | Active Consideration | Loyalty
Generally speaking, you’re likely trying to develop a content strategy that captures your audience’s attention in one of these three phases with the intent of attracting, engaging or trying to convert an action. Are you trying to introduce your brand or product and build a relationship through frequent content touchpoints or does your audience just need the hard-hitting facts and information as quickly as possible to make a decision? It is likely some combination of both but ultimately a clear assessment will ensure that you’re positioning the right content, in the right channel at the right time to drive the biggest impact and move a target along the journey.
Keep in mind that most social users are not primarily intending to seek out a solution or make a purchase — and rarely intending to seek out the latest on what your brand has going on. Most brands will continue to ignore that reality and aim to interrupt user intent as much as possible (particularly as social channels continue to evolve on the advertising front) without recognizing the prominent role of social as a core channel for community and long-term relationship building. Smart brands will continue to tailor strategies to appropriately map to core channel purpose across search and social, recognizing that both have different but equally important roles in the customer journey.