Does Paid Social Enhance Your Paid Search Success?

With an industry understanding of the impact higher-funnel digital channels like display can have on search (both organic and paid), we as digital marketers are always looking at what tactics drive results. However, sometimes there are tactics that can complement and enhance the performance potential of another.

One channel that’s seen astounding growth over the last several years is paid social. With almost $24 billion spent in 2015 worldwide, paid social (Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc.) has secured itself a seat at the table alongside paid search and display as a core component to the digital media mix. And while each platform features varying levels of effectiveness, depending on goal, KPI and audience considerations, can paid social be viewed as a similar influencer on search behavior/performance as display? Also, what about mobile specifically? Let’s take a look. 

Please note: I’m treating “paid social” as a singular paid media channel, however note that each social platform should be treated individually when it comes to the application of a specific strategy and execution.

Facebook Mobile Paid Media Impacts Paid Search, Apparently.

Facebook IQ recently released a study that examined this exact topic, concluding that Facebook paid media drives consumer intent and subsequent search behavior, providing a notable lift in paid search traffic and performance. Facebook’s meta-analysis looked at 23 campaigns that represented a plethora of advertisers (E-commerce, Financial Services, Education, etc.) that ran the course of this past summer. The focus of the analysis was from a device perspective, where users were targeted heavily on mobile. So the desired outcome of the test was to prove the statistically significant lift Facebook mobile paid media provides mobile paid search.

Here’s a visual that illustrates the structure of their testing methodology: 

facebook-search test

The Results (from them and NHI)

Some more qualitative conclusions from Facebook’s Marketing Science team with a little added context from Nina Hale, Inc.:

We saw that roughly a quarter of the campaigns showed a statistically significant lift in search referral traffic. In addition to higher volume and more efficient traffic, we also saw an increase in lower-funnel conversions. Campaigns from small businesses had the greatest variance in lift, which may be due to their relatively low volume of natural conversions.

So, Facebook paid media drives not only a higher volume of traffic, per the overall increase, but also impacts efficiency as that traffic was more likely to convert. That’s good!

Further, we saw search efficiencies arise from a significant shift in search behavior. People exposed to Facebook ads were significantly more likely to search for more cost-effective branded keywords and, in some cases, less likely to search for more expensive unbranded keywords. 

This one is interesting because it gives direct insight into paid search strategy and optimization. After seeing this Facebook performance data, hopefully these advertisers are aligning their bidding and investment approach for branded keywords to be more aggressive when Facebook media is in market; ensuring a maximum impression share, etc.

Through a deeper custom campaign analysis of a smaller set of advertisers within the Automotive (3), Financial Services (1) and Retail (2) verticals, we found that Facebook paid media caused statistically significant lift in the lower-funnel KPIs important to these advertisers, including online sales. Within the Retail case studies a majority of the sales lift came from increased basket size. It seems people were comfortable spending more when also exposed to Facebook paid media.

So we covered traffic volume and efficiency, but what about conversions/sales? It appears Facebook paid media featured a positive impact here, as well. Specifically with E-commerce advertisers whose consumers bought more stuff. And that bolded bit at the end there is a nice, high-level articulation of the benefit Facebook paid media had on paid search traffic.

Some good insight going into 2016

While a lot of agencies and brands’ budgets are set for the year, there should always be room for re-allocation! This correlation study should pique your interest to do your own internal test/analysis to see if the impact of Facebook mobile paid media is consistent with your paid search campaigns, per a couple additional, relevant factors:

  1. 2016 is going to be expensive! With the election and the Olympics, CPCs and CPMs are going to force marketers to spend more intelligently and strategically, so aligning your paid media mix to amplify performance across channels will be invaluable. 
  2. People have become and are continuing to become mobile-first users on both Google and Facebook, so from a advertising consumption and user behavior perspective, these channels align nicely.

Happy New Year!

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