Thursday, August 6th, 2015 | 11 min read
So far, 2015 has been a big year for paid social media.
After years of careful testing and tweaking, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat are rolling out exciting new advertising products, largely with a focus on enhancing the mobile experience. Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn released new ad types and targeting options. With paid social evolving so quickly, which trends should brands pay attention to? Which ones can have the greatest impact on advertisers’ bottom lines?
Here are the four trends marketers who work with paid advertising won’t want to miss.
Paid social is no longer dominated solely by Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The past seven months have ushered in a wide range of innovative advertising options across Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Pinterest, which has long been a major driver of site traffic, launched Promoted Pins on January 1st, and in May it added Cinematic Pins, its first animated ads. Then, in June, it released its ads API, which allows brands to use social media management platforms to manage their Promoted Pins alongside their other social campaigns.
Instagram recently overhauled its advertising options, adding call-to-action buttons and in-app experiences such as shopping or viewing long-form videos. And earlier this week it switched on its advertising API, meaning that marketers can now buy Instagram ads and plan their Instagram marketing alongside their other paid social campaigns.
Meanwhile, Snapchat has spent the last few years proving that it’s more than simply an app for exchanging salacious images, and all that hard work has paid off. It now has 200 million monthly active users who share 8,796 photos every second.
While Snapchat is one of the youngest social platforms on the scene, it has been quick to build out its advertising options. The app introduced Discover, its content discovery section, in January, which was followed by 10-second video ads (3V advertising) and sponsored channels.
Facebook gave us Product Ads in February, bringing social shopping to the News Feed. And while their video ads were launched back in 2014, they’ve really taken off this year, representing 22% of total ad spend on the platform in June.
Twitter launched Event Targeting, which allows brands to target real time events with a single click. It also introduced autoplay video ads and new audience insights.
This all adds up to an incredibly diverse choice of advertising options; there’s something for every kind of product, brand, medium, and advertising objective.
What does this mean for advertisers? Platforms will have to work harder to keep advertisers happy.
In any marketplace, competition helps keep prices low and improves the quality of available products. Also, the release of new advertising APIs means that brands will be able to manage additional cross-platform campaigns from their preferred social media management software (rather than having to log into separate, single point solutions).
Mercedes-Benz has already shown that marketing to users across Facebook and Instagram at the same time can be 54% more effective. Brands will need to experiment to find the most effective cross-platform combinations, work out where brand messaging works best, and determine what leads to conversions.
Over the last two years, video has become omnipresent on social media. YouTube isn’t the only platform serving up everyone’s favorite medium; brands now upload more videos to Facebook than YouTube.
I ran a quick, unscientific review of a selection of the top brand Pages on Facebook in order to gain deeper insight into the popularity of video.
A glance at Coca-Cola’s Facebook page in 2010 shows that around 40-50% of its posts were text-based status updates, while the rest were either photos or links with photos. By 2014, its posts were almost exclusively images and video.
Facebook posts by a random selection of Brand Finance’s top 50 most valuable brands tell a similar story. None of these brands posted a text-based status update in their first 25 posts of 2014. Overall, 18% of posts were video, and 82% were photos or links with photos. For the past 25 posts published in 2015 by each brand, 28% are video, and 72% are photos or links with photos.
Meanwhile, Socialbakers reports that 27% of all video posts are promoted, compared to 17% of all photo posts, which is further evidence that video posts perform better than images (as brands usually promote their best-performing organic posts).
What does this mean for advertisers?
Video is quickly becoming a top medium for both organic and paid content, but it probably won’t overtake images anytime soon. After all, video is more expensive and time-consuming to produce, and stock video isn’t as easy to pull off as stock images.
Brands that have existing video content that can be repurposed – and the budget to produce original content for social – are at an advantage. Brands like Samsung Mobile – which now almost exclusively posts video on Facebook – are in a great position to distribute this content at relatively little cost and then promote the best performers with paid.
If you’re looking for more information on how to create video content for social, check out Facebook’s guide here.
Demographic and sociographic data collected from user profiles, as well as behavioral data about users’ online activity, allow brands to build detailed customer persona profiles based on interests, favorite brands, hobbies, and what kind of content they respond to.
Lexus ran a Facebook video ad campaign earlier this year that consisted of 1,000 different personalized videos designed to appeal to the specific hobbies and interests of the company’s target market.
The example below features handbags and chairs, so it would likely be delivered to users who have shown an interest in those items. The campaign aimed to show that the Lexus NX Turbo is the pinnacle of utility and luxury – a designer handbag trumps a basic carry all bag, but the car is “beyond utility.”
Other spots feature men’s luggage and coats, shoes, and street signs (presumably targeted at globetrotters).
What does this mean for advertisers?
This kind of personalized video advertising has been technically possible for a while, but, until now, it has been time consuming and tedious to execute. It’s now much easier to collect data, segment audiences, and target them with personalized content on social channels. Enterprise social media management software also simplifies the execution and optimization of complex, personalized campaigns, allowing for countless creative and targeting variations.
It’s nearly impossible for major brands and agencies to run large-scale campaigns manually and expect to maximize performance. That’s where automation comes in, and advertisers have pushed the boundaries of automation throughout the first half of 2015.
Here are the most common uses of automation in paid advertising:
1. Programmatic Ad Buying: Programmatic ad buying is basically a fancy way of saying automated ad buying. Rather than choosing ad inventory based on research or hunches, programmatic uses AI and algorithms to find the best placements for your campaign based on real-time performance, targeting, and price.
2. Listening: Always-on listening helps you keep track of what your audience is saying at any given moment and react to trends on social. It can also be used to automatically trigger campaigns.
Instead of waiting for trends to happen and then scrambling to come up with the right reply, social media management software can be used to set up responsive campaigns triggered by certain events.
For instance, if a travel agent knows that bookings increase when it’s raining, it could set up a campaign that monitors locations where “rain” is trending and automatically targets ads to that location.
3. Campaign Optimization: Rather than having an ad operations team watch your social campaigns 24 hours a day, basic campaign management can (and should) be delegated to software. This way, your team can focus on creative tasks that require a human touch. Promoting an organic post when it reaches a certain level of engagement or performance, pausing underperforming placements, or adjusting ad spend based on certain conditions can all be automated.
4. Processes: Social media management software can also make everyone’s lives easier by automating any number of time consuming manual tasks. For example, social media managers can automatically generate and distribute regular reports to executives, clients, or agencies. Another use case is monitoring and responding to conversations sparked by paid social activity across all social channels.
What does this mean for advertisers?
Automation saves time and money and opens up more progressive and responsive marketing techniques that can help enterprise companies stay ahead of the competition. As paid social media proliferates, big brands need a solution that allows them to automate as much as possible.
At the same time, automation shouldn’t be overused, and it doesn’t mean that your campaigns don’t need close monitoring. Automation minimizes time spent on laborious tasks, but it doesn’t allow you to take your eye off the ball completely. It should actually give your ad ops people more time to focus on the important details, analyze performance, and create new strategies.
Arguably, 2015 has been the biggest year so far for paid social media. The market is maturing quickly, and we are settling in to the pay-to-play era of social marketing. The rest of the year looks set to be just as interesting, with Pinterest’s new ads API, the public launch of Instagram ads, and the continued rise of Snapchat advertising.
What do you think the most important trends will be in second half of the year?
About the Author: Jamie O’Brien is part of the Sprinklr content team and is based in Singapore. In a previous life, he was a digital art director in London. He likes to get away from the city as often as is humanly possible to snowboard, dive, or hike.