Marketing Briefing: Marketers focus on search, discoverability as social media use evolves

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Social search is becoming a hotter topic for marketers and agency execs who say that it has become more important to identify ways to stand out this year as younger generations are turning to platforms for search more and more. One signal of how the usual of social search is becoming more prominent for everyday use: Google data from summer 2022 showed that 40% Gen Z use of TikTok and Instagram when searching for lunch recommendations.

TikTok’s new search toggle and growing use as a search platform is accelerating this push, as previously reported by Digiday, with marketers putting more into their organic efforts on the platform. However, marketers and agency execs aren’t trying to master social search on just TikTok but across platforms, creating content after keyword trends and other strategies as the way people use social platforms for search continues to evolve. 

“It’s been top of mind for marketers,” said Christina Miller, head of social media at VMLY&R London. “You’re starting to see brands, agencies, creators starting to talk more about social search and social discoverability.”

VMLY&R is training its social and search experts, for example, to develop a more strategic approach to social search within the shop’s connections department, according to the agency. Deloitte Digital is also “piloting and pushing the notion of social search engine optimization,” explained Kenny Gold, managing director and head of social, content and influencer at Deloitte Digital.

“How are we tying together your approach to search with your approach to social?” said Gold of the effort. “The consumer experience is really one and the same. Making sure you’re using the appropriate keywords, making sure that when your target audience goes into that search bar and searches for your brand or a product, that you have the appropriate content that rises to the top. It feels like a natural evolution.”  

Gold continued: “If social media to date was about driving engagement and safe community growth, the next evolution of social media will be a balance of engagement and discoverability and the cycle those two things create when they work well together.”

As social search becomes more of a priority, marketers are looking at keywords, search behavior, search intent on social and on Google to help inform content strategies to make sure that organic content is as visible as possible on social channels, explained VMLY&R’s Miller. “A piece of content we just did for a client a couple of weeks ago in a similar model [helped] the organic content show up within the Discovery feed on Instagram,” said Miller. “It was a pretty massive jump in impressions and engagement compared to what our regular organic content would be.” Miller declined to share specific stats or details.

“If a brand is not thinking about their organic social strategy, they should be and should’ve been. It’s just another touchpoint in what should be a cohesive brand experience,” said Maria Van Buskirk, head of strategy at Media by Mother, adding that the increased focus on social search goes back to the basics of strategy. “Brands have to be more intentional about defining the right keyword strategy across platforms that accounts for the culture of that platform and how someone navigates that environment.”

3 Questions with Diane Lewis, vp of marketing at period care brand August

August is a direct-to-consumer brand but has expanded into Target as a retailer. What’s the goal? 

As we all know, the rising costs of acquisition online is something that, if we really want to be able to scale the business and be sustainable, we really have to find different revenue channels. That’s one of the main reasons why it’s so important to be at Target. One of the ways we can scale is getting people to be educated that we’re in Target first of all, but then also, finding more traditional ways to target consumers around our Target locations. Sampling and getting people to have a trial is also a very important aspect for us. As we leverage our community, have more community events and reach out to them, there’s also a reason to try August and bring them back as a customer in-store.

How is August managing the changing social media landscape?

Threads is something that we’ve activated. [Our CEO] has been all over that in getting that up and going with our team. On TikTok, we already have a really great presence. It’s changing in the sense [of] why people are going to social media is relatively the same. One of the things we’re doing too, even with acquisition costs rising, we’re finding ways to leverage our community to come back and to shop. If they’ve come to us, how can we retarget them? How can we drive loyalty? How can we get our community base to be our brand advocates? That’s really what we’re thinking about next in where we want to take the following that we’ve raised on social.

With rising acquisition costs, what’s the plan to work around those?

Having [ads that are] a little bit more awareness-based, even though it’s expensive and doesn’t necessarily lead to acquisition, helps bring down our overall costs of acquisition. Now, we’re using things like Google display, more of the YouTube channel as we go into there and help reduce total acquisition costs down versus purely bottom of the funnel, trying to get conversions on Meta. I don’t think that really works anymore. It really needs to be a multi-tiered strategy, as well as the offline strategy. Having things like direct mail is another layer as part of our marketing program. We can leverage our email data base then, find a different way to target them to help bring our overall costs down. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

After a string of so-called anti-woke backlash earlier this year, purpose-driven marketing seems to something the industry is reconsidering. However, some consumers are more willing to support brands that take LGBTQ marketing efforts, according to new research from the Cultural Inclusion Accelerator (CIA) for Association of National Advertisers’s AIMM, the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing. See more from the report below:

  • 4 in 10 consumers show greater motivation to support brands that take LGBTQ marketing efforts, and about 3 in 10 remain neutral. 
  • Women are 40% more likely than men to withdraw support against a brand that backs down from LGBTQ advertising efforts due to criticism.
  • 50% of non-LGBTQ self-identified allies would withdraw support from brands that back down from LGBTQ advertising efforts due to criticism. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“It’s hard to do taxes as a content creator because it’s not like a normal job. It’s hard to figure out what you can and can’t deduct. If you can’t find a lot of good deductions you are hit with a lot of money to pay back at the end of the year.”

— Drew Baker, a creator with 1.56 million TikTok followers and 124,000 Instagram followers, on the difficulty of managing taxes as a creator

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