Search, Share and Serendipity in Discovery Marketing

How many ways are there to discover content, or see ads for that matter? I’d argue that the act of discovering content, seeing it for the first time, boils down to three methods:  search, share and serendipity.

Discovery Marketing

Search is the most active and self-directed form of discovery. It is often viewed as “bottom of the funnel,” “last click before conversion,” the output of the “algorithm of intent.” Although in a more nuanced analysis, the “long tail” or generic phrases potential customers use to search for information about your product or brand might actually be considered to be more “top of the funnel” awareness and reach drivers.

Trunk and comparison phrases are considered to be interest, decision and/or depth drivers, while brand and price-related terms and phrases are decision, action and/or engagement elements. All of these still lead to further and deeper discovery marketing.

Most people mean Google when they say “search” – especially in the context of marketing, but search is actually far broader. It encompasses searches for shows and movies on televisions and DVRs, searches in app stores and music players, searches on GPS devices, searches in ecommerce stores like Amazon and eBay, and searches in personal address books and online professional networks.

There are many kinds of searches for many types of content, but these are generally initiated by the searchers themselves with a specific intent and end action in mind. Natural search or search engine optimization (SEO), as well as paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, are both critical parts of search – not just on Google, but for any kind of engine where consumers declare what they are searching for.

Share is a semi-active, semi-passive form of discovery. Sharing is often associated with the middle parts of the Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action (AIDA) funnel – specifically the interest and decision parts. When people share a product description, an image, a video, a coupon or an article, they’re saying “I think you might like this,” and they are helping you discover a new piece of content.

These “shares” may take the form of sharing something on your Facebook or Twitter page. It may take the form of sharing your thoughts through product/service ratings and reviews in places like Amazon or Yelp. It may also take place through “dark social” word-of-mouth marketing, including email, text and instant messaging. “Likes,” “Pins,” and “+1s” are all forms of sharing as well, and even Near Field Communication taps and other new forms of sharing are being invented daily.

Serendipity is another way of saying paid advertising, where content in the form of print ads, TV spots, or other paid media are placed in front of you, almost by chance. Discovery by serendipity is basically lean-back, passive, interrupt-driven discovery. A television commercial interrupts your programming to introduce a new product. An online banner ad pops up above an article you’ve selected to read.

You weren’t searching for any of this content or these ads. They weren’t shared with you by a friend or trusted colleague. Rather, advertisers serendipitously placed their ads or content in front of you, like it or not. You “discovered” these ads and content, but not necessarily by choice.

This brings me to the concept of what I call “smarter content,” be it paid or earned, which helps content created by marketers be found, friended, followed and forwarded. I’ve been expounding on this notion a lot lately to both our clients and to our global team members.

Savvy ROI-focused Gen X CMOs get it. They’re making the commitment to creating and unleashing smarter content that avoids paying for less targeted, less intended, and less wanted serendipity marketing.

The essence of smarter content is that it places an emphasis on deliberate, relevant and authentic discovery through search and share modes of discovery.