social“In many respects, social media and paid search are ideal partners”, eMarketer states in its new report “Search and Social Platforms: How Facebook and Others Can Steal Dollars from Search”. One facilitates branding and engagement, while the other helps seal the deal by driving traffic, leads and sales. But this cozy pairing doesn’t end there, the research provider emphasizes.

social1When Facebook began selling advertising, it did so through an auction-based ad marketplace that used interest- and demographic-based targeting, which was purposely analogous to the keyword-driven auction marketplace that Google and other search engines offer. That similarity helped Facebook build an enormous advertising business by making it easy for companies to streamline the mechanics of social ad buying.

But the close partnership of search and social (at least in advertisers’ minds—Google and Facebook, the primary companies in each of those channels, have never been friends) is about to be tested.

In the past year, Google and Facebook have introduced ad products that borrow from each other’s playbook, and both are making mobile the centerpiece of their ad business. In another corner, Pinterest is targeting search advertisers in a bid to expand its revenue base beyond social media budgets.

social2And on the usage side, there is mounting evidence that consumers are using social platforms for research and discovery. While this activity by no means takes the place of search, it represents a new wrinkle for marketers to consider.

There is no question that search is a powerful signal of intent, and typical social media interactions provide far fewer of these signals, but there are signs that social is playing a somewhat larger role in product research and information-gathering than before.

For example, research has found that younger internet users are more likely than older generations to turn to social media interactions with brands when researching a product before purchase. According to a May 2016 survey of US internet users by Salesforce, millennial respondents were five times more likely to tap into their brand connections than were baby boomers (25% vs. 5%). However, only 14% of total respondents said they used social media as a research source, so this is not a major shift in behavior.

eMarketer PRO customers can view the full report here.