Social Media Is Still A Mystery To Many Businesses

It is no surprise that the high-level Social Media search traffic is focused on advertising and marketing needs. With a combination of a little over three million searches a month, the Marketing/Advertising search traffic is overshadowed by the ten million informational searches that sometimes ask questions, but are mostly vague in nature.

This analysis of AdWords data suggests that business people are really still trying to learn and sort out what Social Media is all about. But when you look specifically at user intent, you can plainly see what aspects are important to them. Consider the intent in following categories of behavior.

Behavioral Highlights

  • There are 24 queries with 66K monthly searches that deal with learning about Social Media. These are not about reading primers – they are about attending educational classes.
  • There are 19 queries with 96K monthly searches concerning How To. These are searches for guides, tips and best practices.
  • There are 14 queries with 67K monthly searches asking questions about the What and Why of social media. Consumers are asking very direct, and easy to answer questions.
  • There are 42K searches each month by consumers asking for a definition of social media.
  • There are 22 queries with 80K monthly searches that are all about research. The interest is studies, reports and trends. These consumers are in serious research mode.
  • There are 16 queries with 49K monthly searches about social media policy and governance.
  • To complement the research category there are 16 queries with 39K monthly searches about finding statistics.
  • There are 22 queries with 94K searches about managing and monitoring requirements for communities.
  • There are 47 queries with 148K monthly searches about social media strategy and planning.
  • There are 14 queries with 59K searches that are about optimizing (SEO) for social media.

Most of this behavior suggests that business people are still struggling with the concept of social media. They don’t fully understand it, and they are trying to sort it out by asking educational questions in a dozen different ways.

When you look at the ROI (14.5K searches) and Branded (56.6K) search categories we see two things. First, there is not much interest in ROI yet, I think this reflects that most businesses are still trying to get their head around what social media is all about.

Secondly, the light numbers associated with brand-related searches suggests an industry that is still maturing. Consider the contrast in the monthly brand searches in the following market segments.

  1. Family Restaurants – 12.7M brand searches
  2. Restaurant – 1.2M brand searches
  3. Home improvement – 208K brand searches
  4. Self Publishing – 98K brand searches
  5. SEO services – 82K brand searches
  6. Interactive Agencies – 82K brand searches

Self-publishing, SEO and Interactive Agencies are industries that are fairly young, and it’s no surprise that they are not dominated by multi-million-dollar branded conglomerates. Aside from the major social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, most business people could not name a well known social media service provider. This means you have to compete for business on the content front.

Low brand awareness, coupled with the large number of educational-oriented queries provides an information architectural opportunity to develop a robust content strategy to service these searchers needs. Each bullet in the Behavioral Highlights list can be a menu item on any Social Media 101 web page, for example.

High-Level Categories

If you’re interested in looking for opportunity in the following high-level categories, I suggest that you start your research in the Informational, Content and Type areas – there is a lot going on there, but it does require that you spend time reviewing each category within its own context, and reviewing the unique terms that are associated with each category.

Social Media High level categories


In the following list, there are plenty of sub-categories worth exploring. When you look at the top categories you see that Marketing, Advertising and PR top the list – no surprise here.

However, a careful review of the remaining sub-categories shows that there is considerable consumer interest in educational information, specific content types and industry-specific services. There are a lot of content landing page opportunities to experiment with here.

Social media subcategories

Selected Categories In More Detail

When you look at queries by category, you find that consumers are often very consistent with the terms they use to modify the primary Social Media phrase. These provide focus around labeling and copy for web pages. There are many examples in the following categories.

Advertising – 679.3K Queries

Looking further into the data the advertising category is pretty straight forward. Social media is the dominant two-word phrase used in this category, but you do see two variants where the term media is dropped:

  • Social advertising
  • Social network advertising

These two phrases account for 33,000 searches each month.

Brands – 58.2K Queries

There are four themes in this category:

  1. Business people are searching for branded social media news outlets.
  2. They are searching for a brand, but don’t know the name of the brand. You see searches like brands using social media and social media brands.
  3. Users are searching for information and specify either Twitter or Google. Interestingly, there is five times more search traffic for Twitter than Google.
  4. They are searching for a social media company by name, unfortunately these companies cluster at the bottom (by search volume) of the brand category.

Community – 18.2K Queries

When the focus is on community, consumers slightly favor the term community, however they are using the terms group and forums interchangeably. This implies that any content that is about community should have the terms group and forums worked into the web copy narrative.

Company – 68.8K Queries

In this category, business people are searching for an unnamed social media company. By a 50% margin, searchers are using the term firm over the term company. I think there’s some opportunity to be exploited here.

Most companies when writing ad copy will refer to themselves by their brand name – this is pretty normal. In this case it would make sense to occasionally work these two terms into the ad copy narrative. After all, the keyword phrase social media firms accounts for 18,000 searches each and every month.

Consultant – 117.2K Queries

Business people search for a consultant to meet their social media expertise needs by a two to one margin over searches for branded or unknown companies. The most common secondary terms in this category are consultant, consulting and consultancy.

Consumers do however, use a large number of terms interchangeably to specify a consultant. You see consultants referred to as gurus, coaches, professionals, advisers and mavens.

The two most common are:

  • Experts – 13,000 queries
  • Specialist – 6000 queries

Content – 435K Queries

The content category is very rich with six subgroups that reflect very specific informational needs. These categories by traffic in descending order are:

  • Content, non specific request: 111,500 queries
  • Content-graphics: 110,000 queries
  • Content-research: 81,000 queries
  • Content-blogs: 55,000 queries
  • Content-statistics 40,000 queries
  • Content-video: 23,000 queries
  • Content-books: 12,000 queries

A lot of the nonspecific content category is a grab bag of specific content requests, but there’s not enough critical mass to warrant putting them in a category.

For example, you see requests for news, articles, theory, stories, questionnaires, music, presentations and history.

Education – 75.8K Queries

When it comes to social media education consumers use about a half-dozen terms to express their intent. The most common term is training with 21,000 queries. The remaining terms include:

  • Courses: 13,200 queries
  • Workshops: 6,500 queries
  • Seminars: 6,000 queries
  • Webinars: 3,200 queries
  • Classes: 2,900 queries

You would think with the extraordinary explosion in webinars recently that there would be more traffic associated with that term, but it turns out that consumers are expressing their intent using traditional educational terminology such as training, courses and workshops.

Webinar users should take note, I’m willing to bet that this search behavior holds true for other non-social media businesses as well.

How To – 95.8K Queries

This category reflects the consumers desire to obtain educational primers. You see phrases such as social media 101 and other terms such as best practices, checklist and learn. The most common secondary terms are:

  • How to: 47,000 queries
  • Guidelines / Guides: 10,200 queries
  • Tips: 8,800 queries

Informational – 10.9M Queries

As always, the large majority of the informational queries are vague in nature. It’s hard to hone in on any specific intent, other than that consumers are interested in some aspect of social media.

For example, what do the keyword phrases social web, through social media and social networking tell us about the consumer? Not much.

There are a number of informational sub-categories that provide good landing page opportunities for content. These include:

  • Questions: 67,300 queries
  • Policy: 48,600 queries
  • Definitions: 42,500 queries

When it comes down to it, consumers are primarily asking what and why, as in what is social media and why social media. The search for definitions is a perfect companion to the questions category, and it would make sense to provide a definition as part of a “what is social media” landing page.

The search for policy information is somewhat informational, but it’s also tactical. You see terms like ethics, governance, compliance, etiquette and rules of engagement in the search strings. Again, this is a good landing page opportunity where you could work the terms into a landing page title and tagline.

For example, “Social Media Policy: your guide to ethics, etiquette, governance, compliance and rules of engagement.” With this simple title and tagline you can cover all the queries in the policy category.

Location – 38.6K Queries

While 38,000 searches a month may seem like a lot, but it’s not really. When you look at the searches that include a city name, you never see more than a couple of thousand queries a month in the largest cities like New York and Chicago, and the traffic falls off dramatically as the cities get demographically smaller.

If you’re an agency in Chicago you’re going to view those 2,400 monthly queries as very important- but so will the other 500 social media agencies doing business in Chicago. Bummer.

Management – 94.1K Queries

This category, of course, is all about managing a community. The most common term in this category is monitoring, and is closely followed by the term management. You do see a few other terms that could be worked into the page copy narrative – these are coordinator, relations, and support.

Marketing – 2.4M Queries

In this category the term marketing appears in every keyword phrase. With 2.4 million queries you would think that there would be a number of well developed sub-categories, but this is not the case. What you do see is a wide variety of terms that describe various aspects of what they’re looking for in marketing. This includes consultants, an agency, books, software, strategy, education, content and statistics.

There is just not a lot of critical mass around any of these terms to create sub-categories in marketing. One anomaly though, is the two word phrase social marketing – it appears in 25% of the search traffic. I think this phrase has caught the imagination of Marketers.

Public Relations – 260K Queries

Business people prefer using the term PR over public relations when they are searching for services by a three to one margin. You do see the term communications used over 13,000 times a month as a synonym for PR, and you see the term release used about 17,000 times a month – as in social media release.

The important thing here is that if you’re positioning yourself as a social media PR firm you have just four terms that you have to concentrate on when developing webpage copy or PPC ads.

Quality – 37.6K Queries

It’s always interesting to look at the adjectives that are being used in search queries. In this case the adjectives are quality indicators. When consumers specify a quality or a value in their searches they are fairly focused in the terminology they use, and that is the case here. They are using just two terms and those are top and best.

  • Top: 20,500 queries
  • Best: 17,100 queries

Note: Adjectives account for just 7% of terms in search queries, which make them rare, and sometimes more valuable during relevancy calculations.

SEO – 44.4K Queries

Searchers use the word optimization over SEO when searching for social media optimization services by a two to one margin. This is the same behavior we saw in the SEO search behavior model that was published a couple months ago. SEO is a great acronym, but you have to make sure when you are using an acronym that it is the preferred way for business people to search for services – in this case it’s not.

Software – 150.6K Queries

The search for software tools is divided into three distinct categories.

  • The search for social platforms (93.8K queries).
  • The search for social apps (43.9K queries).
  • The search for social reporting tools (12.8K queries).

The most common terms used in the search for social platform software are tools, followed by platforms and then solutions. The term “tools” is the preferred word of choice in the software category.

Social media apps are the one trick ponies of this software category. The searches are looking for buttons, widgets and share (buttons). There are others but these three dominate the category.

The two most common terms in the reporting category are analytics and tracking. This can be a complicated area because reporting tools can be obtained in three different ways, depending upon your needs.

For example:

  1. Reporting tools are part of any white-label social media platform that you can license.
  2. Companies mostly have web analytics tools installed for their website, and want to use these to track their social media campaigns (e.g., Coremetrics and Webtrends).
  3. Over the past couple of years there have been a number of one-off tools come to market that track activity around a single platform – such as Twitter.

Given the variability of how many reporting tool options business people have, the content opportunity here is to provide a white paper that helps people navigate the reporting tools landscape.

Strategy – 169.3K Queries

The strategy category is an excellent landing page opportunity where you can create content and services across several dimensions. At the highest level these business people are clearly looking for a social media strategy, and they are expressing it in a number of different ways using terms such as tactics, campaigns, programs and playbooks. These searches are somewhat generalized.

The second dimension is more focused, and it’s about planning social media campaigns. The third dimension is about templates – they are looking for a fill-in-the-blanks approach to developing their social media strategy.

  • Strategy: 110,000 queries
  • Strategic planning: 29,300 queries
  • Strategy-templates: 8,900 queries

A “How To” white paper for developing a social media strategy would make a good link bait opportunity.

Type – 357K Queries

In the type category, business people are looking for social media services by the type of industry, department, organization or market segment. You see this expressed as a green social media, social media HR, automotive social media and social media nonprofits. There is not a lot of critical mass around any of these search queries, but they are valuable long-tail opportunities.

There is critical mass in at least six types, and I expect this number to grow over time as social media becomes more ubiquitous in the business community. The following types have enough traffic to be of interest to a social media agency.

  • Company: 247,000 queries
  • Type-general: 38,800 queries
  • Healthcare: 20,700 queries
  • Education: 18,100 queries
  • B2B: 70,500 queries
  • Hospitality: 9,200 queries
  • Banking: 5,300 queries

All these sub-categories are straightforward with the exception of the company category. Here, the industry is not specified. What you have are people searching, in very large numbers, for social media for businesses.

You do see some variations in these queries where searchers are substituting the word business with the terms corporate, company, and workplace.

Where Does Insight Come From?

Let’s take a look at the data in the Type-Company category in more detail (the table below). When you look at the queries you see that the term Business has critical mass. The second thing you notice right away is the use of the terms for and small. Are these important? Potentially, and here is why.

The term for is a stop-word and has no weighting or relevancy value. However, it does have value in an exact match calculation. Statistically, consumers favor the term for over the term in when constructing queries. The term is therefore important when writing webpage copy (for an exact match), even though it has no relevancy value.

If you are looking at this table from a statistical point of view what would the most important keyword phrases be? My choices would be:

  1. Social Media for Business
  2. Social Media for Small Business


  1. You are picking up the search terms that appear in 90% of the traffic for this category.
  2. There is the proximity calculation used by search engines.

In the second keyword phrase the terms Social media and business are separated by the two-word phrase for small, which means that social media and business are in close proximity to each other.

Search Engine Proximity


The implication is that if a consumer does a search using the phrase Social Media Business, both of the above phrases can theoretically appear in the search results because the terms appear in both the phrases, and are in close proximity.

Finally, there is critical mass around the term small. This term provides an excellent long-tail opportunity worth exploring. It would also make a good candidate for use in a secondary tagline.

Social Media Company keyword phrases


If you want to understand consumer intent, there is no substitute for doing exhaustive keyword research as I’ve shown in the previous example. When you aggregate keyword phrases by subject, source or type you often find interesting, and very consistent use of terminology.

For example, the Marketing category has a lot of complexity, and can provide more insight – you simply have to spend the time with the spreadsheet data.

Review the observations in the Behavioral Highlights at the beginning of this article – there are a dozen content / landing page opportunities worth exploring. Business people don’t understand social media very well, and are groping for information and answers – if you don’t provide this information someone else will.

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