The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Products & Services for Social Media Search in 2024

Social media has evolved from a place to connect with friends to a place to discover new products, services, and information. In fact, social media is increasingly being used as a search engine, especially by younger generations.

Consider these statistics:

Platform % of users who use platform for search
Instagram 48%
TikTok 43%
YouTube 57%
Facebook 38%

Source: GWI, 2024 Social Search Survey

As a brand, if you‘re not optimizing your social media presence for search, you‘re missing out on a huge opportunity to get discovered by potential customers. In this ultimate guide, we‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to make your products and services easily findable on social in 2024 and beyond.

Understanding the Social Search Landscape

Before we dive into tactics, let‘s take a closer look at how social search works and why it matters for your business.

How Social Search Differs from Traditional Search

When most people think of search engines, they think of Google. But the search experience on social media is quite different.

On Google, the basic unit of search is a web page. But on social platforms, individual pieces of content—an Instagram post, a TikTok video, a Tweet—are what show up in search results.

Social search algorithms also place a much higher emphasis on recency and engagement signals. A brand new post that‘s getting a lot of likes and comments is more likely to rank highly than an older post, even if that older post has more total engagement.

And of course, social search is inherently more visual. Posts with striking images or videos are more likely to catch a searcher‘s eye and earn their click.

Why Social Search Matters for Brands

So why should brands care about social search? The simple answer is that‘s where their customers are.

In the US, 63% of users aged 18-35 say they use social media as their primary way to discover new products and services. That number jumps to 77% in mobile-first markets like Southeast Asia.

Beyond product discovery, social search also plays a key role in customer research and decision making. 2024 data from Sprout Social shows that:

  • 85% of consumers turn to social when researching a purchase
  • 71% say content they find on social can change their opinion about a brand or product
  • Posts from friends and family are the #1 most influential source of info when making a purchase

In other words, if your brand isn‘t visible in social search results, you‘re not just missing out on potential new customers. You could actually be losing sales, as consumers turn to competitor content to inform their purchase decisions instead.

Top Tactics for Social Search Optimization

Now that we understand the stakes, let‘s look at some specific tactics you can use to optimize your social profiles and content for search.

1. Conduct Keyword Research

Just like with traditional SEO, keyword research should be the foundation of your social search strategy. But the tools and tactics are a bit different.

Rather than relying on Google Keyword Planner, use native analytics within each social platform to see what terms users are searching for to find your brand and content. For example:

  • Instagram: Use the Insights tab in your professional dashboard to see the top keywords driving traffic to your profile and posts
  • TikTok: In the Analytics tab, you can see the top search terms that led users to your videos
  • YouTube: YouTube Studio provides data on top search terms and traffic sources for your channel and videos

You can also use social listening tools like Brandwatch or Sprout Social to analyze broader conversation topics and identify high-volume keywords related to your industry or niche.

Once you have a list of target keywords, incorporate them naturally into your profile information, post captions, hashtags and content topics. But avoid keyword stuffing—only use keywords when they genuinely fit the context.

2. Optimize Your Social Profiles

While individual posts are the main unit of social search, your profile information also impacts search visibility. Here are some key areas to optimize:

Bio/About section: Include relevant, keyword-rich descriptions of your brand and offerings. Keep it concise but informative.

Profile name and handle: Keep these consistent across platforms so customers can easily find your official accounts. Include your brand name and key product/service if space allows.

Profile and cover images: Use high-quality, on-brand visuals that convey what your business is about at a glance.

Contact info: Make sure your website, email and location info is complete and up-to-date.

Verification: Most platforms offer some form of verification (a blue check mark) for established brands. Getting verified can boost your search credibility and visibility.

3. Leverage Hashtags Strategically

Hashtags are essentially keywords for social media. When used strategically, they can significantly boost your search visibility and help you reach new audiences.

Some hashtag best practices to keep in mind:

  • Be specific: Avoid broad, one-word hashtags like #fashion in favor of more targeted tags like #sustainablefashion or #fashiontips
  • Mix it up: Use a combination of branded, product, industry and community hashtags
  • Keep it relevant: Only use a hashtag if it genuinely fits the content topic and format
  • Don‘t overdo it: Using too many hashtags can come across as spammy. Stick to 3-4 super relevant tags per post on most platforms.
  • Capitalize on trends: Participating tastefully in trending hashtags and challenges can skyrocket your reach. Just be sure you fully understand a trend before hopping on.

4. Create Engaging, Search-Friendly Content

Ultimately, the best way to rank in social search is to consistently publish content that your target audience wants to consume and engage with.

From a search perspective, that means creating content that:

  • Answers common questions: Address your audience‘s top pain points, desires and curiosities with informative, valuable content
  • Showcases your offerings: Highlight key product features and benefits that align with search intent
  • Leverages engaging formats: Prioritize eye-catching visuals like images, videos, GIFs and memes. Interactive elements like polls and AR filters can also boost engagement.
  • Includes relevant keywords: Incorporate target keywords naturally in post captions, video titles, transcripts and visual text
  • Has descriptive metadata: Add detailed alt text to images and caption social videos for accessibility and bonus keyword opps
  • Follows platform best practices: Use the recommended aspect ratios, lengths and features for each platform‘s feed and search experience

Remember, social media favors content that sparks conversation and community. Craft compelling CTAs and use comments and DMs to engage in 1:1 dialogue with your audience.

5. Promote Your Posts for Extra Reach

Organic reach on social media is increasingly limited, thanks to crowded feeds and ever-changing algorithms. To improve your search visibility (and overall ROI), consider putting some paid promotion behind your best content.

Most social platforms offer a range of advertising options, from boosted posts to immersive Instant Experience ads. When setting up your campaigns, leverage keyword, interest and behavioral targeting to get your content in front of the most relevant searchers.

You can also use retargeting to serve social ads to people who have previously engaged with your profile or website. These warm audiences tend to be more likely to engage with and convert from your content.

Just be sure to balance promotion and value in your overall social strategy. Aim for a ratio of about 1 promotional post for every 3-4 value-adding, organic posts.

6. Participate in the Community

One of the most powerful ways to optimize your social profiles for search is also one of the simplest: be an active participant in your target communities.

Follow relevant hashtags and accounts in your niche. Like, comment and share other users‘ posts. Join Twitter chats and Facebook groups. Collaborate with influencers and complementary brands.

The more you engage with your community, the more your own content will be surfaced to interested users. Plus, you‘ll gain valuable insights into what your audience cares about and searches for over time.

Measuring & Optimizing Your Social Search Performance

As with any digital marketing strategy, tracking and analyzing your performance is key to proving ROI and identifying opportunities for optimization.

Native platform analytics and third-party social media management tools can give you data on key metrics like:

  • Search impressions: How many times your profile or posts showed up in search results
  • Search traffic: How many visitors and leads social search drove to your site or landing pages
  • Top search keywords: Which search terms are driving the most visibility and engagement for your brand
  • Engagement rate: How actively searchers are interacting with your content via likes, shares, and comments

Some tools can even show you your share of voice for target keywords compared to competitors. For example, this chart from Sprout Social shows the top 5 luxury watch brands by Instagram search share:

Brand Instagram Search Share
Rolex 31%
Cartier 25%
Omega 18%
Patek Philippe 14%
Chopard 12%

Source: Sprout Social, Jan 2024

Look for patterns and outliers in your social search data. Are certain types of posts or topics driving the bulk of your search impressions? Do some keywords have a significantly higher engagement rate than others?

Use these insights to continually refine your social search strategy. Double down on what‘s working and don‘t be afraid to pivot away from tactics that aren‘t delivering results.

The Future of Social Search

Looking ahead, I believe social search will only become more important for brands. As younger, digital-native generations gain purchasing power, more product discovery and research will happen on social platforms.

Pie chart showing 45% of Gen Z and Millennial users prefer social search over Google search

At the same time, social platforms are investing heavily in making search a more prominent part of the user experience.

Instagram and TikTok have both significantly expanded their search functionalities in recent months, adding options like keyword search in captions and comments. Instagram even lets users filter their search results by post type, date and more.

I predict we‘ll see social platforms roll out even more advanced search features in the coming years, from personalized results based on user interests to shoppable search filters.

We‘re also likely to see visual search become a much bigger factor. More than 80% of Gen Z and 76% of Millennials say they want to use visual search to discover products. As computer vision AI continues to improve, it‘s not hard to imagine a future where users can instantly shop the items they see in social images and videos.

To prepare for this new era of social search, brands will need to focus even more on creating visual-first, mobile-optimized content. That means investing in high-quality product photography, dabbling in AR and VR experiences, and leveraging machine learning to automatically tag products and package data for visual search.

It‘s an exciting time to be a marketer in the social search space. By staying on top of evolving trends and technologies—and keeping the customer at the center of your strategy—you can future-proof your brand‘s discoverability and drive meaningful business results from social media.

Key Takeaways

Social search presents a huge opportunity for brands to get discovered by new audiences and drive real business impact. But showing up in social search results requires a strategic approach to optimization.

To recap, here are the key steps to optimizing your products and services for social search:

  1. Conduct keyword research to identify the terms your target customers are using to find products and info in your category
  2. Optimize your profile name, bio, images and contact info with relevant keywords and value props
  3. Use a mix of specific, relevant hashtags on your posts to improve search visibility
  4. Create engaging, search-friendly content in a variety of formats that align with common customer questions and needs
  5. Promote your best content with paid ads targeted by keyword and audience demographics
  6. Actively engage in your target communities by liking, sharing and collaborating with other relevant accounts
  7. Track your social search performance over time and use data insights to continually optimize your strategy
  8. Stay on top of emerging social search trends and technologies to future-proof your brand‘s discoverability

Social search isn‘t going anywhere. By following the tactics outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your brand stays visible and top-of-mind as more product discovery shifts to social platforms. The key is to approach social search holistically, always considering what will deliver the most relevant value to your target audience.

Need help developing and executing a winning social media search strategy? Check out our social media marketing services to learn how our team of experts can help you drive more visibility, engagement and revenue from social platforms.