“Search won’t scale, and social won’t work.” Now what?

by | May 8, 2024

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Does the title of this blog speak directly to your experience? You’re in good company; many is the brand that’s come to Playbook Media facing this exact scenario.

I have good news: it’s very likely you don’t need to spend more to overcome this challenge. But you probably have to spend differently—and change your measurement approach as well.

What do I mean?

So Much Search, So Little Social

Very often, brands in a position of “search won’t scale, social won’t work” are spending too much of their budget on search (particularly brand search) and not enough on social. They’re in that position because they’re using last-click attribution, a model that disproportionately favors lower-funnel, direct-response-focused channels—like search.

If you have a fixed budget, every dollar you spend on capturing the very bottom-of-funnel is a dollar you’re not spending to generate demand. This strategy might work for a while, but in the long run, the demand and interest will start drying up, leaving your search campaigns to scratch and claw to capture the little that’s left. A natural response to this would be running conversion campaigns on your social channels to bring new people into the funnel, but how do you prove they work despite the lower last-click ROAS?

Where Should You Start?

Start by running some conversion lift tests on your active social channels—Meta has some good, easy-to-implement tests that will show the incremental impact of your campaigns on your revenue. You will learn what percentage of total conversions that happened during the study would not have happened if not for your Meta ads—regardless of what channel is credited by last-click attribution.

To set expectations, note that the nature of this initiative is holdout testing that will temporarily decrease your reach by 10-20%, making it a little more expensive to advertise. To offset that, consider working with a performance marketing agency that can hook you up with ad credit.

Pro Tip

If the study does prove that social is directly responsible for a higher percentage of conversions than your last-click source of truth tells you, consider shifting some of your brand SEM budget into social. A moderate cut there will likely be picked up by organic SERP for your brand.

But back to the lift test! That’s a good, straightforward way to start measuring the actual impact of your social campaigns. But it only studies one channel at a time, and it isn’t that prescriptive about how to spend your budget. For a more complete picture with budgeting recommendations, we love implementing MMM (media mix modeling), which has produced transformative results for lots of clients who came to us in the scenario I laid out at the beginning of this post.

There are a lot of steps to take to move from last-click attribution to MMM, but the payoff is worth it. Let us know if you’re on the lookout for a partner to get you out of your last-click rut and into a future of efficient multi-channel scale—no budget increases required.

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