Today’s guest expert in our intersections series is Rob Garner, Chief Strategy Officer of the Advice Interactive Group, and widely respected authority on search engine marketing, social media, and content marketing. Rob regularly speaks at a number of industry conferences across the globe including ad:tech, SXSW, SES, and others. His column in MediaPost’s Search Insider provides insight into search campaign management experience and best practices. Rob is the Vice President of international search marketing industry group, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO).

Rob is a perfect first guest of this expert blog series as he is the author of Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing (Wiley/Sybex 2012).

Tell us about your experience with Search and Social.

Garner: I’ve been at this Internet thing for about 18 years now and studied its progression almost daily ever since. I started off just fascinated by the Internet, and found that I had a pretty intense hunger for learning about it. It was like one day, this new frontier opened up to explore and create, and in many ways help to define little pieces of it here and there.

After some time, I realized I had enough knowledge to start working professionally, and jumped at several key opportunities. The first was going to work for a multi-channel retailer that was just kicking off its ecommerce department, and I did the $.01 bid thing with Goto, SEO, and a variety of other digital marketing activities. Back then, we didn’t have bid platforms, and I used what was probably the first bidding program in existence, called Bidrank. Then I decided I wanted to work with big brands, and landed an entry level job at itraffic/ My skills were in demand there, so I quickly navigated around various parts of that business. I then went over to iCrossing in 2006, and eventually became an executive strategist there.

During this time, search and social were running somewhat parallel.  I define social in the broad sense, which goes beyond Facebook and others, and includes user-generated content and generally any technology that has lowered the barrier for non-technical users to participate in networks. In the last 5-7 years, search engines have started to behave like social networks, and vice versa.

“Search and social is inherently real-time, and what really needs to happen is for marketers to realize that they are already real-time content marketers, whether they are aware of it or not.”


You’ve actually “written the book” on this topic. Tell me about that and what readers will find inside?

Readers will learn about the convergence of search and social into its own discipline. From the earned media side, it requires a solid content strategy, as well as a real-time and human approach to social outreach, and also for dealing on the cutting edge of real-time search principles as well.

search and social book - garnerAlso throughout the book, I focus exactly where search and social overlap, from the perspective of content, distribution, linguistics, real-time technology, among other elements. This is one of the unique defining features of my book, and had not been written about prior to its release.

I have gone to great lengths to show both the theory behind “search and social,” and to also show how to put it into practice in one’s marketing efforts. I am very proud to say that many universities are using the book as a text, and many agencies and marketers are using it as their playbook for online marketing.

Why is connecting search and social a top priority versus other channel integrations?

Search and social dominate the Internet landscape, and understanding how they work together can create a significant lift in a company’s marketing efforts, as opposed to just doing each one in a silo. It is also critical due to the growth of content marketing as a channel. The bottom line is this: Without content, search engines and social networks do not exist. Therefore, content marketing is top of the chain in earned digital marketing efforts. And the indisputable fact here is that being successful at content marketing requires a commanding knowledge and execution of content in search and social channels.

What are the challenges to integrating these two to take advantage of the potential synergy?

The common challenges are that search, social, content, and media are often siloed. If these stakeholders do not recognize the value of their overlapping principles, then they won’t know how to plan or properly execute, or even ask the right questions.

You recently had a conversation with Silicon Valley heavyweight, Regis McKenna, about real-time marketing. What did you learn?

What McKenna really sets straight is that what I promote is “real time content marketing” not “real time marketing.” With the success of the serendipitous Oreo ad during the 2012 Super Bowl, a lot of marketers have tagged that as “real time marketing,” and this couldn’t be further from the truth. True real time marketing affects all aspects of a business, from production, delivery, messaging, etc. McKenna has the authoritative definition, and he did it back in 1995, which is amazing when you think about what the Yahoo! Homepage looked like at that time.

Does Search and Social need to go real-time?

Search and social is inherently real-time, and what really needs to happen is for marketers to realize that they are already real-time content marketers, whether they are aware of it or not. When consumer expectations are this fast, marketers and businesses much catch up to stay on the cutting edge.

What is your best piece of advice for marketers who want to shift their organization and place an emphasis on integrating these two channels?

Educating executive and team level members on the value of integrated search and social is a must. When leadership understands that they can get more juice out of the squeeze by combining efforts, then other elements often fall in to place. Also, better integrate search and social teams on both the paid side, and the earned side. Sharing search and social data between teams is also imperative.