My how times have changed. The social media phenomenon is reshaping the online media mix and influencing everything from how we develop and manage paid search campaigns, to how we develop creative messaging for display campaigns and website content. As marketers and advertisers, we have come to realize that consumers are fundamentally in the driver's seat and at this point have much more influence over brands that are chosen than we have with our advertising messages—no matter how clever. How we adapt ourselves to leverage this reality will determine how successful we are at maximizing an advertiser's marketing investment. Nowhere is this clearer than in the on-line world. We have seen time and again that by leveraging the strengths of social, search and creative together, we get dramatically higher response rates and an overall better return on our investment.

In the past, keywords and creative messaging for paid search were driven primarily by online keyword research around consumer search behavior coupled with brand goals and objectives. With the rise of social media, how consumers talk about a brand, service or company, influences paid search keywords and creative. By reviewing the social media conversations that are happening online, we can ensure that we are using consumer language and leveraging any emerging issue or opportunity for advertisers. An example of this is when the government passed new government automobile fuel emission policies. We monitored the conversation around this topic for one of our auto clients, and as a result were able to modify our online strategy to reach consumers in a way that leveraged this event.

In this example, we actively monitored online conversation and tracked consumer sentiment on the new policy. We were then able to take these insights and adjust paid search keywords and creative messaging utilizing consumer language and perception to increase traffic and engagement with our advertising for our client's benefit. We also identified additional content that was important to quickly develop, optimize for organic search, and place on the branded website. In addition, by identifying key authors who were speaking most prominently on this topic, we were able to reach out to them as 'evangelists' requesting their support in weaving our client into positive topical discussions in relation to the new policy.

As a rule, consumer online reviews and opinions as stated on blogs or on the consumer review section of a brand or e-commerce website are trusted more than an advertiser's message about their product or service. According to an eMarketer study, nearly 70% of consumers surveyed thought that information from peers was credible and believable even if the peers were not experts. Consumers trust what others say about a brand more than what the advertiser says about themselves. Knowing this fact, we can monitor consumer conversation and influence our marketing strategies to counter or support this conversation.

With social media, the consumer has more control and can directly influence brand perception and purchase behavior. Consumer generated content is creating a paradigm shift in online marketing strategy development, execution and management. In the end, companies who learn how to successfully integrate all media disciplines together, leveraging the strength of each, will achieve the greatest results.

LuRae Lumpkin is Director of Search Marketing, MediaCom. She can be reached at LuRae.Lumpkin@MediaCom.com