GroupM Search and Web researcher comScore have released the results of a study by comScore looking at the relationship between social media exposure and search behaviors.

Conducted in tandem with social media agency M80, the study is titled, “The Influenced: Social Media, Search and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption.” A white paper exploring the results and implications of the study is available on the GroupM Search blog, SearchFuel.

GroupM Search is the search marketing division of GroupM, the media buying and planning arm of WPP.

“Every day consumers express their intent via search. Now, we better understand how that intent is established via social media and the interplay between the channels,” said Chris Copeland, chief executive officer of GroupM Search.

The research explored the correlation between social media exposure and search behavior over a three month period across different verticals, including automotive, consumer packaged goods, and telecommunications. In addition to looking at total internet users, consumers were divided into three segments:

  • Consumers exposed only to a brand’s paid search 
  • Consumers exposed to social media relevant to a brand’s category  

o    A blog, message board/forum, user review, social networking site (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn), Twitter/micro-blogging, or video-sharing site (e.g., YouTube, Google Video), as well as a brand’s social marketing program’s “target” sites, or sites which have the most natural potential to hold content about a brand

  • Consumers exposed to influenced social media specific to a brand  

o    Identified sites containing distributed social marketing content of a brand’s social media program

Search behavior was broken into segments based on where queries fell among stages of the purchase funnel. This included upper-funnel terms expressing awareness and consideration (industry relevant terms, general product attributes) to lower-funnel terms expressing action and loyalty (campaign brand terms, brand product terms). 

The study showed searchers who engage with social media, especially those exposed to a brand’s influenced social media, are far more likely to search for lower-funnel terms compared to consumers who do not engage with social media. Further, consumers exposed to a brand’s influenced social media and paid search programs are 2.8x more likely to search for that brand’s products compared to users who only saw paid search. 

The study also showed a 50% CTR (click-through-rates) increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search. This revealed consumers exposed to social media are more likely to click on a brand’s paid search ad compared to those exposed to the brand’s paid search alone.  

Among searchers using a brand’s product name in the query, the CTR increased from 4.5% to 11.8% when users were exposed to both influenced social media and paid search around a brand.

In organic search, consumers searching on brand product terms who have been exposed to a brand’s social marketing campaign are 2.4x more likely to click on organic links leading to the advertiser’s site than the average user seeing a brand’s paid search ad alone.

“Social media-exposed consumers are far more likely to search for brand and product-related terms, and click on a brand’s paid search ad,” said Graham Mudd, vice president of comScore, Inc. “This finding provides strong evidence that investing in social media marketing can both increase initial brand consideration and drive higher conversion rates once the consumer has decided to purchase.”

Surveying the intention of these segments, searchers who use social media are more engaged overall and more likely to be looking for places to buy and brands to consider. Consumers using social media are 1.7x more likely to search with the intention of making a list of brands or products to consider purchasing compared to those who do not use social media.

“Advertisers need to explore their social media initiatives and how they impact user engagement and performance in other channels. This data suggest that social media marketing does positively affect consumer purchase consideration, specifically through the search channel,” said Todd Steinman, chief operating offer at M80.

According to comScore, the findings introduce several implications for the search marketing and social marketing industries.

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About Rakesh Raman

Have extensive editorial, content management, and integrated communications experience and have worked as a senior tech journalist, analyst, and columnist with different newspapers, magazines, and Web/online properties in India.

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