Search and display advertising aren’t the only parts of the marketing landscape that have changed over the past three years. As various social platforms have waxed and waned and mechanics and dynamics have shifted, brands are making new choices about where to invest and what to expect from those investments.
“Facebook and Instagram [Reels] are still some of the top advertising channels with high conversion that we recommend to nearly everyone” says Taylor Carpenter, VP of Advertising at Blue Wheel, an agency that reports driving more than $1 billion in e-commerce revenue across Amazon
Social platforms are useful for targeting based on interests and behavior, rather than on search terms alone. But Julianne Fraser, Founder of Dialogue NYC, a digital brand marketing consultancy that lists Daily Harvest and Olipop as clients, has observed, “Due to shifts in algorithms and user privacy restrictions, brands are struggling to receive the same returns with social media advertising as once before. As a result, a great emphasis has been placed on influencer marketing as a way to break through the saturated landscape and avoid algorithm restrictions.”
Ricci Masero, Marketing Manager at Intellek, a learning technology brand, speaks to certain shifts that are specific to Facebook’s ad platform: “Over the past few years, it’s become more competitive and expensive due to several factors. First, the platform has become increasingly popular among businesses, which has led to a surge in demand for ad inventory. Additionally, Facebook’s algorithm changes have prioritized content from friends and family, making it more difficult for brands to get their ads in front of their target audience. Finally, there’s been a decrease in the amount of organic reach that brands can achieve, which has led to increased competition for ad space. To combat this, brands are experimenting with newer ad formats and targeting options, such as [those within] Stories and Messenger Ads, to stand out and drive conversions.”
Despite the price increases on Facebook ads and the iOS14.5-induced shortening of attribution windows as data collection was limited, Craig Brown, SVP of Strategy and Incubeta US, which works with McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson
Reflecting on the reduction of available data, Brown says, “Building full-funnel campaigns that focus on video views, comments, and likes allow us to build audiences that have engaged on Meta. While they aren’t as qualified as those who have been on-site, being able to supplement the on-site lists with these on-Meta audiences has helped reduce [the costs of customer acquisition and impressions].”
David Bates, CEO and Creative Director at Bokeh Agency, with clients including Visa and Airbnb, notices, “We’re seeing a transition away from a full 360-degree approach to campaigns and media buying toward a greater awareness for where consumers actually live and a focus on the 15 percent that actually matter [behaviorally].”
Once on a platform, Aaron Edwards, Co-founder and CEO of The Charles NYC, a digital creative agency that works with Cartier and IBM
“It was about people, not placement,” agrees Matt Ferrel, VP and Head of Growth at TickPick, the events ticket seller, when reflecting on the landscape three years ago relative to that of today. He adds, “Because we know less and less about the people, our dependency on the platforms become greater. We have fewer levers to pull – budget, creative – and they’re more important. We’re creating more content than ever before and more of it’s niche to allow each platform to optimize to the right audiences.”
“Driving engagement and revenue from social media advertising heavily depends on content,” concurs Fraser. She continues in another direction, “Influencers are the pioneers of content creation and understand the messages and formats that best resonate with their audiences. They can help guide brands in creating advertising content that will perform best.” This is where TikTok may come in and where, Carpenter advises, “Brands should first invest in their organic presence.” Then, he recommends leveraging Spark Ads, which rolled out in 2022 and “sparked a revolution in advertising” by enabling brands to boost what any creator shared in native ways and without additional tools. “Given the reduction of transparency in ad performance, we’ve made the ad creative feel more human and testimonial-like rather than being in your face about the deal,” adds Ferrel. Plofker points out that Smart Performance Campaigns, “TikTok’s answer to Facebook’s Advantage+, “are doing amazingly well.”
Rudy Mawer, CEO of Mawer Capital, a growth firm and media buyer, says, “The move towards authenticity in advertising has had a significant impact on ad-buying strategies. Advertisers are now prioritizing influencer partnerships with those who align with their brand values by featuring more user-generated content which, in turn, demands more transparency in programmatic advertising.” Adds Bates, “Influencers become a natural landing spot because consumers tend to trust the word of a human before a brand.”
In determining content, Michelle Songy, Founder and CEO of Press Hook, a public relations firm, finds artificial intelligence helpful. “AI can provide more targeted and optimized content generation. It can also help brands generate new content ideas tailored specifically to the interests of your target audience and… having the right tone in communications to better emotionally connect with customers in marketing interactions, using sentiment analysis.”
As it relates to other platforms, “Twitter and Pinterest have made improvements to their ad platforms to offer better targeting options and ad formats,” says Masero. He offers examples, such as Twitter’s Video Ads with Website Buttons with improved targeting options that include specific events and TV shows, and Pinterest’s Idea Ads with new targeting capabilities such as interests and keywords. “These improvements have made Twitter and Pinterest more attractive to advertisers and have resulted in increased competition for ad space,” says Masero.
Another proponent of Twitter ads is Plofker, via his own Twitter account and newsletter, in which he discusses their effectiveness for Jones Road Beauty. “If you told me six months ago that I’d be running Twitter ads and it was our most efficient channel, I would have had a good laugh. However, that’s exactly the case right now,” writes Plofker in the most recent edition of his newsletter. He goes on to explain that drop-shipping businesses and direct-to-consumer brands alike are having success on the platform, where broad targeting is working, upper-funnel traffic is relatively inexpensive, and average order value is high compared with other social ads.
Video ads have become increasingly popular on display platforms and social media. According to a study by Wyzowl shared by Masero, 84% of consumers have been convinced to buy a product or service after watching a brand’s video. Additionally, video ads on social media have been shown to have higher engagement rates than traditional display ads.
“Social advertising is still largely about awareness and for consumers looking for inspiration or a solution to a problem. We’re not going to try to drive the most conversions there,” Carpenter says. But he does notice some correlation with price point, where Meta and Google are better at selling more expensive items while Snapchat and its valuable Spotlight Ads convert at lower prices.
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