Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Search Insider: Using Keyword Analysis and Social Media to Inform Creative And Engage Your Audience

Using Keyword Analysis and Social Media to Inform Creative And Engage Your Audience

I recently created a research strategy incorporating both social media and keyword analysis for a well-known corporation with a popular offline ad campaign. The focus of the research was to discover how people search for important life experiences online (as opposed to taking an ROI and transactional approach), and the findings were utilized by the client in a national TV and print campaign earlier this spring. We recently produced a case study with the client on this research, but today I will share a high-level view of this applied approach to social media and search research, as well as a few key takeaways on how these findings can expand our view of search and social media at the enterprise level. Pease keep in mind that some of the findings are very general about using search and social to inform creative and content, and others were more specific to the research itself.

Listening to what the people say

The basis of the campaign was to discover seed keyword concepts in social networks by listening to what the users were saying. This data would be extended to find specific keyword searches and overall search popularity around the themes, and the findings would be used to inform offline and online creative, and/or content development and page optimization. We selected a niche social network whose content and audience demographic data closely matched (and sometimes exceeded) the target. Key conversations related to the company's specific campaign goals were identified and analyzed.

The social network analysis revealed that there were clear patterns and trends in the way users were speaking about specific themes. We chose to explore one of these themes further through keyword and market research. In this particular niche, we discovered a single theme that resonated through the observed search and social media data. The client chose to make this finding a part of the national TV and print campaign.

Here are a few takeaways that were reinforced by the research:

"Listening" and researching are great ways to begin enterprise involvement in social media.
Most enterprise marketers want to become involved in social networks and media, but many are apprehensive about engaging and conversing directly in social networks. Simply listening, rather than reacting to what people are saying in search and social media, is one way of giving your target what they want, based on what they say and what they do. Listening can help inform online and offline creative, product naming and development, brand messaging and identity, improve brand perception and more.

Using social media and networks can provide different views of search intent around specific queries. We found that by seeding concepts from social media, we could add a different skew on the way people search. Search can be very personal, and not just a means to make a purchase or take a specific action at every turn. While some queries are commonly perceived to be transactional in nature, it was clear that part of the intention of many searches were aspirational, for personal fulfillment and development, or were life-goal oriented -- searches that may be previously perceived by a direct marketer as driven purely by ROI.

Search and social can provide excellent directional data on how to engage your target through content development. Considering that personalization algorithms are becoming more prominent in the way search results are served, there is a new need to be more engaging with your target in order to benefit in natural search across multiple digital asset types. Again, future success for enterprise marketers in paid and natural search will hinge on expanding our thinking about search beyond a transactional channel, and focus more on how people use it in their everyday lives (again, think branding and engagement). Listening to and identifying social networks is a great way to start a seed concept that leads to truly engaging content strategies, and it will ultimately generate natural benefits in a personalized and universal search world.

There are many other relevant social networks beyond the majors. While Facebook and MySpace tend to be top-of-mind for many people when the phrase "social network" is mentioned, the reality is that social networks exist in many forms including forums, blogs, and smaller and more targeted social networks. What qualifies as  "social" is basically any place where a targeted conversation is occurring, and the potential for a collective opinion or consensus may arise.

Marketers should align with the right social network that suits their goals. Going beyond Facebook, LinkedIn, and others means looking hard for where conversations are occurring about what matters to your brand and objectives. Don't just engage in a Facebook campaign for its own sake. If a smaller but more influential network exists in a forum, blog or other network, then use it (or at least observe and test it).

These are just a few points from a successful TV and print campaign that used search and social to directly inform the main creative theme. It is also one more example of how we can begin to expand our perceptions away from search as a purely direct response medium.

Rob Garner is strategy director for digital marketing company iCrossing and writes for Great Finds, the iCrossing blog. Contact him via email at

Search Insider for Wednesday, October 22, 2008:

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