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The Shift from Search to Social – Translating Intent, Engagement, and Messaging

Published: May 16, 2013

Author: Molly Shotwell

Today’s post is by Alicia Antoniolli , Account Manager at PPC Associates.
I have had the unique opportunity to transition from the paid search side of the industry to the paid social side. (How does this happen? Well, being thrust into service as a client’s main LinkedIn account manager.) I can’t say that it wasn’t an initial struggle; there’s definitely some overlap in techniques and data analysis, but I had to learn to approach audiences – and campaigns – in a whole new way, keeping in mind the very different perspective of each channel’s users.
This post will help break down intent, engagement, and messaging – three factors important to both paid and social that require very different mindsets to master on each platform.


Search users are, drumroll, “searching” for something specific; they are trying to find something that will suit their needs, whether it be a product, service, or information. Search lives at the bottom of the conversion funnel, and it’s all about intent; someone signals intent with a query, and the SEMs pounce with targeted ads/landing pages.
People engaging in social media often don’t have a clear purpose, so advertising on social media involves attempting to fit a need/demand someone may not know they have. Sometimes you have to create their need, and other times, as with the Facebook Exchange, you can use remarketing to fulfill their previously declared need.
Because of this shift, you have to think of your advertising differently: use messaging, images, and targeting that will create their need (or, lower down the funnel, remind them of a need they’ve previously expressed):
demand creation ad


Social media relies heavily on engagement (think likes, retweets, +1s) to give advertisers a sense of how our chosen targets will perform.
Clicks on your ad, in any channel, tells you that your audience engaged with and is, in some way, interested in what you have to offer. With social media, the definition of engagement is much larger and is an important indicator of ad performance. It’s not as direct an indicator as a click on a paid search ad, but it signifies that the user is interested in joining the conversation you’ve started. Once users are engaged, they become part of your audience, and you can tailor messaging from there.
Here’s an ad that encourages engagement (a click and a like, perhaps?):
use content for engagement


There is proof that paid search ads work, even though many believe that “no one clicks on those sponsored ads at the top of Google!” There is also proof that social ads work. Obviously, it isn’t an ideal channel for all companies. With social media, it’s vital to have a social network built and in place before you can count on significant increase in bottom-of-the-funnel metrics like conversion. Well, you can specifically create campaigns to do just that.
The messaging for these campaigns tends to be more of a branding play, to garner interest (also referred to as demand) in your brand or product. This helps build a larger audience to target and gives you insights into your target demographics, which helps with messaging. From there, you move onto promoting content those interested users will engage with, thus leading to an even larger audience.
The key, in a word: CONTENT. Providing relevant and engaging content helps you achieve all of this. Lower-funnel actions take place once you can gather the interest. That’s when you start tailoring your messaging even more to get users to convert! Social media messaging should speak to your specific audience, so the messaging needs to be crafted in that regard. This ad has a particular audience in mind (young, stylish, budget-conscious):
demographic targeting facebook
Social media changes on a daily basis; with Facebook and Twitter rapidly evolving to fit into the ecommerce game, there is most definitely more to come! I am excited to see how this evolution takes place and fits into the overall marketing plays for advertisers.
– Alicia Antoniolli

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