Search is Still Higher Than Social When It Comes to Purchase Intent

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by Robert Madison on December 23, 2011

File this under the “I told you so!” category.

For those of you who’ve had the immense pleasure and good fortune to sit through a Spiral16 product demonstration with yours truly (please, no more fan mail, we’re running out of room to store it all), you will recall that at some point during the demo I said something to the effect of, “We do it* this way because people don’t get to your product/service from going to Facebook or Twitter first … they get there by going to Google.” Remember me saying that? Here’s why: Search (and therefore, SEO) are still, empirically, demonstrably important, as are the pages they land on that point them (link them) to you.

So imagine the pleasure – no, extreme, jubilant joy – I felt in the “I told you so” portion of my brain when I stumbled across these totally kick-ass posts (and related content) from Joann DeLanoy of Beyond (@JoannDeLanoy)

The Science of Sharing: An Inside Look at the Social Consumer – Part 1

The Science of Sharing: An Inside Look at the Social Consumer – Part 2

The Science of Sharing: An Inside Look at the Social Consumer – White Paper (PDF)

The Science of Sharing: An Inside Look at the Social Consumer – SlideShare (PowerPoint)

From the white paper:

The “Science of Sharing” study was designed to understand consumers’ online interaction with brands through several online channels, including social media, and to illuminate the types of action consumers take after interacting with the brand through said channels. In addition, the study aims to understand the modern version of the sales funnel: how do consumers move to the stage of awareness? What is the consumer’s active evaluation process when making purchase decisions? Next, the study aims to understand what happens after the purchase: how do people share their experiences with the product, do they recommend the brand, and do they bond with it thereby creating a self-reinforcing loyalty loop?

I imagine that paragraph having an effect on the reader similar to that of someone tapping the side of their wine glass during dinner.

However, if you don’t want to read the paper, here’s a short overview: The decision paths people make regarding various products depend on both the type of product (defined as “high and low involvement”, with automobiles being a “high involvement” product, and music being a “low involvement” product) and the type of person (“high and low sharer”, which is fairly self explanatory.)

What the data revealed is that for high-involvement products, people do NOT go to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. They go to Google and search for ratings, reviews, news articles, corporate (brand) pages, etc. This is why Spiral16 monitors the web as a whole, and not just social media. We can show you what the portion of the web that is specifically relevant to your brand looks like and tell you what is most important.

Search channels trumped both “owned” and “earned” channels.

In fact, search dominates just about every online channel, for every type of product.

From the paper:

“To maximize ones impact across multiple channels, it is imperative for brands to understand the path that their customers are most likely to take before designing a social strategy.”

The black line going across the top is "Search", FAR above Facebook & Twitter

From the paper:

“Becoming aware of the path your consumer will take to make a decision when researching online will greatly influence a positive ROI.”

And

“When a consumer turns to search, brand websites and review sites, purchase intent is more likely to be present. Conversely, when consumers use social networks, he or she is not acting with the intent to purchase; rather, he or she is seeking entertainment, information or social interaction.”

Search, ladies & gentlemen, is how people find you.

So let’s go back to the asterisk I referenced earlier in the post when I said, “We do it* this way because people don’t get to your product/service from going to Facebook or Twitter first…they get there by going to Google.”

The “it” that we do is track and show the links between pages. Our influence algorithm is also tied to both a modified version of PageRank (search) as well as inbound/outbound links (search), so the way we calculate influence is per unique web page and ranked like a search engine might rank URLs.

We then show you the pages where people are talking about you online, how they might navigate from those pages to your pages, and where you can help them get the information that you want them to have.

The good news is, at least you're visible. The bad news is, nobody is linking to you...

The image above shows all the active relevant  links for one brand coming from one unique web page. It’s key information to have — to see not what the entire ecosystem looks like, but the specific part that is relevant to your company.

Search results. Brand websites. News articles. Product reviews. They all lead to purchase intent. The web is bigger than social and we’re happy to provide you with that more comprehensive view.

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