Last week, I attended Covario’s annual Inflection Point conference at the lovely Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa in La Jolla, California. It was great flying into sunny, 67 degree weather as I’ve been living through a fairly severe winter this year in Chicago (dubbed locally as both Antarct-Ditka and Chi-beria).

Spirits were up for good reason as Covario was recently named the OMMA Search Agency of The Year for the third year in a row. Clients, partners, and Covario employees hobnobbed during the opening night festivities and then got down to business for two solid days of great content and research.

I spoke on a panel exploring social and search integration with Dan Santos from Computer Associates and Covario’s LuRae Lumpkin and Alex Funk.

Funk’s first question was directed at me, “Why is integrating the search and social channels so important right now for marketers?” I’ve been tracking this issue now for the last few years and I think it comes down to the fact that these two channels will represent 60%+ of total digital marketing budgets for most companies by the end of 2014. We’ve been saying in this industry for years that integrating channels will provide more impact than managing them in silos, yet many marketers struggle with achieving this goal.

However, with more than half of budgets going to these channels as of this year, it makes sense that if marketers are going to finally look to integrate their efforts, elevating search and social to being the first channels on the list.

There’s also some inherent beauty in how these two channels interact with each other in customers’ journeys to purchase. Search is a powerful way to reach consumers while they’re actively looking for information, but it is limited because it’s a pull medium, which requires them to search on engines in order to trigger ads. Social, however, is a wonderful push medium where marketers can now buy audiences at scale with unprecedented targeting capabilities.

That’s a great 1-2 punch!

Throughout the session, we spoke about some of the barriers to integration and segmented them into two buckets.

First, the technology side. Marketers need technology solutions from vendors like Kenshoo to provide the tools which can bring deep cross-channel integration and automation to connect search and social advertising. I mentioned the example of Kenshoo’s Dynamic Driven Campaigns, which can turn successful Product Listing Ads (PLA) on search engines into Facebook display ads.

Secondly, and what Santos helped to illuminate, are the infrastructure limitations. Silos can be useful so that each team has the expertise and focus to master their specific channels. However, this can work against marketing organizations when the reality of conflicting interests is at play. Santos mentioned that content teams could benefit from understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) better to make sure that the documents they create can be best ingested by search engines.

The infrastructure limitations can go even deeper. For example, if a channel manager is tasked with generating sales (and those results are measured by a “Last Click” methodology) it’s hard to justify why he or she would focus top level awareness when other channels might steal the conversion credit away from his or her efforts. So, this manager focuses on bottom-funnel efforts only. In essence, a marketing channel may actually be best used for top- and mid-funnel activities and drive more total sales for an organization, but those managers feel pressured to remain myopic to meet their goals.

Ultimately, the panel agreed that these barriers must be overcome for marketing organizations to win in the next – very competitive – era of digital marketing. One of the best first steps to overcoming these challenges is simply for marketers to start spreading the word with their teams and managers about how important channel integration is to the future of their business. By emphasizing this importance, the entire organization will start to change its point-of-view in small ways (such as sharing articles on channel integration with each other) that will lead to the big solutions.

Integrating search and social just has too much potential energy for marketers to ignore.