When it comes to running paid digital marketing campaigns, online search and social media have become popular places for marketers to focus their budgetary spending. Everyone's familiar with the possibilities and benefits of SEM, which leverages the massive data troves of search engines to target relevant consumers based on keywords and intent.
Social media, meanwhile, has quickly flexed its own muscles. While it's a great organic channel, many marketers are happy with the ROI they can drive from paid advertising through a number of social networks, most notably Facebook.
But if you're a marketer choosing between these two campaigns while sorting out your budget, you may want to rethink that strategy. Although each channel has value on its own, paid SEM and social campaigns become even more formidable when paired together. This has to do with their different strengths and targeting options, as well as their shared goal of driving engagement, traffic and conversions.
Different But Complimentary
The benefits of SEM and social marketing are very clear, but they're also very different from one another. Each targets a different stage of the consumer's path to purchase. SEM, for example, targets an earlier part of the sales funnel, where consumers are doing research but haven't yet honed in on the type of product or service they want. Social is more effective at targeting consumers who are closer to the point of conversion: It can be used to suggest specific brands or products, alerting consumers to exactly the purchases they may be ready to make.
There's also the obvious difference as to where these channels operate: SEM takes place on search engines like Google and Bing, while social is focused on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. The benefit of targeting both is the same as the reason you don't want to go all in on any one campaign: By spreading out and covering more digital real estate, you can reach your target audience in a greater number of ways.
Two Approaches to Targeting
Not only do they use different platforms and represent different stages of the buyer's journey, but SEM and social even use different data-driven approaches in identifying an audience.
Search is an intent-focused channel, and it relies heavily on a keyword strategy designed to reflect intent-minded consumers, according to Marketing Land. Social media doesn't have the same sort of intent-focused targeting strategy. Instead, it uses demographics and behavior — age, location, interests, social accounts followed, etc. — to build a profile of what a probable consumer might look like.
Marketers can set and adjust these parameters to test how their targeting is working, and they can continue tweaking both their social and SEM strategies to continually optimize their campaigns over time.
Why They Go Together
Beyond the benefits of running a diversified paid marketing strategy, there's evidence that the combination of SEM and social is greater than the sum of its parts. Our own research found that campaigns combining paid search with paid social saw an average click-through rate increase of 35 percent. That's a huge gain in performance, and it corresponds to stronger ROI for your campaigns. If you aren't using these two paid strategies together, it may be time to reconsider.