Back in 2005, when TheFaceBook pitched for a Starbucks DoubleShot advertising opportunity social marketing might easily have been written off as a passing craze. But a decade later with the re-named social network making over $9 billion in ad revenue in a single quarter, social media advertising is now an integral part of the digital marketing landscape says Vanessa Tadier, general manager Europe, Visual IQ
From established players such as Facebook and Twitter to newer arrivals such as Snapchat and Instagram brands are flocking to social networks in a bid to engage audiences. Ad sales in social media grew by almost 50% last year and remains high in 2017.
So what makes social media such a powerful tool for marketers and are they making the most of the opportunities it brings?
The massive reach of social platforms is undoubtedly an attraction for advertisers with the number of global social media users totalling a massive 2.8bn this year, and increasing 21% since 2015. With almost as many mobile users (2.56bn), social media offers marketers a unique opportunity to connect with consumers in any location at any time.
But while reach is significant the most important feature of social advertising is by far the vast amount of information social networks hold about their users. Unique data points provide detailed insights into the user including who they are, how they behave, and what they are interested in. Marketers can use this data to precisely target their ads to specific audience segments. The need to log-in to access social networks means marketers can identify each user and determine whether they are connecting their smartphone on the train or their laptop at home, for example.
This ability to identify users on social networks and target them with relevant, personalised messaging popularised the term people-based marketing. But those familiar with the phrase – which describes an industry-wide shift from targeting cookies to targeting real people across all platforms and channels using a persistent identity – will see there is an element missing; while social media platforms have aggregated data and information on a large number of users most don’t make this data available to the ecosystem. As a result it is difficult to understand consumer behaviour across channels, or measure the impact of social ads as part of the wider marketing mix.
With little insight into the impact of social advertising on conversions, sales and other desired outcomes relative to other channels and tactics, marketers are ploughing their advertising budgets into social advertising without really understanding the true value of the channel.
Fortunately social networks are starting to lift some of their third-party tracking limitations that prevent marketers from accessing their vast stores of data. For instance, Facebook recently announced measurement partnerships with select third-party vendors that enable marketers to quantify the true effectiveness and ROI of their Facebook ad spend. Marketers can now understand how the social platform works in combination with other channels and tactics to drive specific metrics for each type of audience. The ability to measure social advertising in the same way as other digital channels allows marketers to make more informed decisions optimising spend across the entire marketing mix and tailoring messages to meet their customers’ and prospects’ needs.
When brands can identify users and measure performance across all channels and devices – including social – they can gain a more holistic view of the consumer as they move across touchpoints and understand the true value of each experience. Rather than executing marketing and advertising in channel silos they can operate through the lens of the consumer, delivering the perfect message to an interested consumer at the optimum moment in time.
Social media advertising is here to stay and continues to go from strength to strength. To make the most of the people-based marketing opportunities it brings, marketers must take steps to understand the medium’s role in the wider marketing mix. Only then, will they be able to optimise spend and experiences across all channels and achieve success on all platforms.