Word-of-mouth has always been one of the most powerful - and valuable - forms of marketing, and the age of social media has clearly accelerated the pace and efficacy with which word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) campaigns can spread.
Beyond simply liking or following a page, brands are constantly seeking ways to integrate social proof into their marketing efforts. With Facebook controlling much of what goes on in their closed network, Google clearly saw a valuable opportunity to weave social proof into their search results.
By adding social information to search, Google can not only make search more useful to its users, but also make more money out of this utility from advertisers.
The argument is that the more efficient it is for customers to find what they want - including relevant advertising - the better experience they will have. Google makes more money, advertisers have more efficient ads, and users spend less time searching for what they need.
When compared to Google Buzz, Google+ was the first clearly successful attempt by Google at creating a social network that can be integrated with their core search product. Users can follow individuals and companies, "+1" posts, articles and all kinds of content, and interact with this content and network in new ways.
So how can travel companies use this new social avenue to help boost marketing clickthroughs, and ultimately use social strategy to boost marketing efficacy?
Google has released a raft of case studies showing the impact of social in the booking path, showing the success of two travel brands: Visit Greece, which saw an impressive 35% uplift in CTR, and LateRooms.com, which enjoyed a 9% increase in CTR from socially-enabled advertising.
LateRooms has been very successful with their Google+ presence, having been added to the Circles of over 763,000 people. The content is fresh and engaging, the pictures large and inviting, and the general tone is warm and conversational - all of which encourages not only the clickthrough but also the +1 that leads to more effective search advertising.
Visit Greece has also been using rich multi-media content to drive engagement across their social networks.
Such rich and inspiring content has led over 700,000 people to add the national organization to their Circles, sharing and commenting on content. These shares, +1s, and other interactions can then be used by Google, with permission, in related search results and advertising for involved brands.
By providing such great content, more people have added both brands to their Circles, which then allows brands to advertise this fact in any paid search advertising. Users who see paid advertising with social extensions are then more likely to click through on the ads.
To dive further into the Googleplex promo machine, download the case studies: LateRooms, Visit Greece, and hotel.de. Healthy skepticism aside, the pursuit of ROI on social media is one of the medium's key challenges, and these travel brand results could provide the fuel for continued social media investment.
The case studies provided by Google show an obvious vested interst in promotion of their platform, but the results are quite intriguing. For marketers looking at different networks to engage with beyond Facebook and Twitter - two networks that continue to thrive but prove challenging for marketer monetization - Google+ has a very clear differentiator: this content can help increase efficacy of already-existing paid search, thus delivering a rare crystal-clear return on investment.
Other search engines, social networks and companies are also clearly invested in showing the impact of social in search. Bing talks about targeting Twitter through Bing Ads; AdAge points out how blended search/social is the new normal; research shows the importance of social proof is in purchasing decisions; Facebook allows social behavior to determine pretty much all of its on-site advertising.
The clear integration of social and search is no longer a "could be." Successful campaigns, marketers and companies will be considering just how they can leverage old and new social media tools into their overall marketing goals, creating socially-infused campaigns that drive results. This is especially true for travel brands that thrive on word-of-mouth recommendations and envy-inducing social media sharing.
Social is one of the most fundamental building blocks of society - and it's no surprise that it continues to develop into the most foundational aspect of the online world. When's the last time you performed an integrity check of your company's social foundation?
NB: Mouthy geek image courtesy of Shutterstock.