The importance of Social Media has continued to grow. Recently Google, Bing, and Yahoo increased the influence of Social Media in their search results. At the same time the Search Engines have started to blend their Social Search results with some of the new Local Search features. Initially, large corporations proved social media a very effective marketing tool, especially when it comes to brand awareness and customer engagement (businesses connecting with customers).

So, just how effective has Social Media become when it comes to customer acquisition (ways to locate and secure the business of new customers) for small businesses?

We have found that small businesses are placing increasing emphasis on Social Media marketing to acquire new customers and are placing less emphasis on Search marketing, but they continue to do well in searches. This is due to a recent shift in how Search Engines operate: they now ‘pull’ Social content and pages into their normal Search results! This, combined with the latest capability within Social Media platforms to perform Searches, causes the lines between Search and Social to become blurred.

When it comes to acquiring new customers, it may be an oversight for small businesses to focus solely on Social Media; Search should be a tool in their marketing arsenal too.

Why ‘Search’ as well?

  • Search has increased its focus on local business with a variety of tools to help small business gain visibility

With the recent changes in the Search Engines local business has a distinct  advantage, especially in the rapidly growing mobile market.

  • Search gets businesses in front of prospective customers who aren’t already aware of them

Unlike large corporations, most Small Businesses don’t have the resources to invest in brand awareness campaigns on Social Media, which can take many months to pay off. With new customer acquisition as a primary objective, Search allows Small Businesses to raise awareness of their brand before prospective customers who are in need of their products or services.

While Organic Search takes time, Paid Search allows Small Businesses to get in front of prospective customers immediately with ads that are matched to a Search query. Although a prospective customer may not recognize the name of the company providing the ad, they will recognize the solution the company offers to their immediate need.

  • Searchers are more likely to convert into customers

People traditionally use Search Engines when they want to find something, now they can use Social searches as well.

The fact that searchers are actively seeking products or services makes them much more likely to become a customer than someone who simply ‘Likes’ a Facebook page. While the person who ‘Likes’ a Facebook page may eventually become a customer, chances are they did not ‘Like’ a page because of an intention to buy.

  • Search allows customers to easily find information on the go

Search Engines make it easy to find information. According to Google, 88 percent of people who search for local information with a smartphone take action within a day, such as calling or visiting a local business.

Of smartphone users, 77 percent use their device for searches. If you do not target a local customer base specifically, mobile search provides an excellent opportunity to get in front of prospective customers.

  • Search perceived as more expensive

Some businesses tend to settle on Social Media because they believe it to be easy and inexpensive, while perceiving Search marketing as costly. A planned, well-executed and integrated Social Media campaign is not easy, particularly if the goal is new customer acquisition. The mere posting of unplanned info to Social Media platforms is ineffective.

  • Search is a proven way to get new customers

Whether Organic Search or Paid Search, Search marketing is an effective customer acquisition tool and Mobile Search has only enhanced its effectiveness.

Not only is there is ongoing discussion about the correlation between Social ‘Likes’ and a potential customers intention to buy, but also with Social Media’s overall effectiveness when it comes to customer acquisition. When working with a limited marketing budget it makes sense to utilize a proven customer acquisition method.

The ‘new’ truth is that Search and Social are not mutually exclusive. The most effective and efficient web marketing strategy should engage and integrate both Search and Social to enjoy a maximum benefit. Many Small Businesses may not have the necessary resources to do both effectively. When the primary goal is customer acquisition, businesses should place an emphasis on Search over Social.

Search and Social both have a place in a web marketing plan – Social for brand awareness and customer engagement, and Search for customer acquisition. Use Social to mine for potential customers and Search to advertise to them.

We like to hear from you, so please share any marketing concerns or successes you have had!