Paid social media is an increasingly-effective strategy for both consumer-focused and B2B brands. Between the established household-name platforms, and the up-and-coming disruptors, staying on the leading edge of social media is no small challenge for marketers. Each platform regularly rolls out algorithmic updates and new ad options.
Last year on this blog, we broke down the paid advertising options across six of the leading social sites. While many of these options are still available, there are many new features to consider in 2016, and your paid social strategy must be responsive to this dynamic environment to ensure you get the most benefit from it.
Paid Social Media Options in 2016
|Facebook||Other than its massive user base, the main attraction of paid social on Facebook is its ability to target incredibly customizable segments of your audience. Its powerful Insights tool lets you get deep into the analytics to see how users are engaging with each piece of content. Facebook is constantly adding new features to the back-end ad management system, specifically aimed at helping marketers customize their strategies to their own business niche.|
Facebook also is cashing in on its acquisition of Instagram and has begun integrating ad options between the two distinct platforms. Marketers can now design campaigns that appear in both channels. One exciting change in 2016 is the option to include a Call to Action button on an Instagram ad – important, since Instagram users can’t open links from within the app. Dynamic Ads are a specific type of ad intended to encourage users to purchase products. Finally, Instagram also recently launched Stories (a clear attempt to compete with SnapChat), allowing users and advertisers alike to create slideshow-like posts. Following Instagram’s Business Blog is the best way to get the latest updates.
|Since last year, Twitter has repackaged the way it presents its paid ad options to advertisers, by putting the end goal front-and-center. Do you want to attract more click-throughs to your website? Build your core Twitter audience? Encourage more engagement with your posts, or downloads of your mobile app? Twitter has a campaign – or in their terminology, a Card – for that. And of course, they still allow you to sponsor individual posts to increase their reach, much like Facebook’s “Boost” option, and sponsor hashtags to inflate their “trending” factor.|
On the back end, Twitter recently launched a new Ads Manager workspace to help advertisers more easily access their campaign data and customize their experience.
|The biggest changes LinkedIn has made since last year are visible in the Campaign Manager, the back-end tool where advertisers access their campaign data. Updates include more options for searching and filtering your campaigns, new insights into your audience demographics, and perhaps the most exciting, the ability to schedule campaigns in the future. Many of the other changes are simply smoothing out the user experience rather than adding new features and tools.|
While many of these paid social changes are additions, LinkedIn actually removed one feature within the past year: its Lead Accelerator tool is no more. Instead, LinkedIn says, the tool’s key capabilities have been merged into the new Campaign Manager.
|Google+||No news here! With so many other ad options, like AdWords and YouTube, Google doesn’t appear to be attempting to expand its paid social options on Plus. There is still just one paid ad option, which they call +Post. This turns a Google+ update into a display ad of sorts, which then integrates across Google’s many products and properties, including YouTube, Search, and Hangouts. Users can interact with these ads the same way they would on the update itself, with comments and +1’s.|
|Tumblr||This blogging site has expanded on some of its sponsored content options since last year. Advertisers can now sponsor standard posts, video posts, and most interestingly, can sponsor a day. For one day, your brand gets extra visibility on users’ dashboard (homepage) and the Explore tab – “one of the most trafficked and engaging pages on Tumblr” – where you can fill a page with hand-picked content. Tumblr remains most popular with younger Millennials, and continues to take advantage of syndication with its parent, Yahoo!|
|Like Google+, Reddit has appeared to stay the course this year with its paid options: sponsored links and sponsored text. Links are bare-bones (just a headline, thumbnail image, and a link) and designed to point users to a specific landing page. A text ad also includes an embedded text box with a message of your choice to add more context to your campaign. Being a forum site, Reddit highly encourages user comments and advertiser interaction. It doesn’t offer much in the way of back-end campaign management or insights.|
Last Year’s Up & Comers: Where Are They Now?
We’ve already covered Instagram, which was just starting to develop its advertising options in 2015.
Pinterest: Pinterest has gone beyond its initial experiment with “Pinfluencers” – commissioned posts by high-profile accounts. Now, like most other paid social platforms, it allows advertisers to sponsor individual posts, or “Promoted Pins.” It also has built out a detailed back-end dashboard for reviewing paid campaign performance, though not as robust on insights as some of the others. Indeed, while it now accepts the presence and participation of advertisers, Pinterest’s attitude toward them is a little less welcoming, with a long list of ethical standards it expects.
Snapchat: Initially, Snapchat seemed keen to discourage advertisers from crowding out everyday users by assigning a hefty $750,000/day price tag and limiting availability to what it deemed “category leaders.” It seems their position has since softened. Now Snapchat boasts its paid promotions as “the best in mobile video ads.” These ads are interactive: users can swipe their screens to indicate their interest in learning more or seeing additional content. Snapchat emphasizes that their platform is all about telling stories, and urges brands to use it in this way, too.
One of the most popular features among Snapchat users is its collection of filters, which can do funny, creative, and sometimes bizarre things to your images – like swap your face with your best friend’s, or give you a Harry Potter scarf and glasses. Advertisers can get in on this by sponsoring “geofilters:” filters that become available when users are in a specific location. This is an especially attractive choice for event marketers and retailers.
WhatsApp: Snapchat’s contemporary competitor also took a strict no-advertising stance in the beginning. That doesn’t appear to have changed, despite it being owned by mega-advertiser Facebook. In early 2016 WhatsApp began allowing businesses to use its cross-platform messaging service to communicate with customers, but still drew the line at providing any ad space.
More Changes Sure to Come
Paid social deserves to be at the front of every marketer’s digital media planning & buying strategy. Between the targeting, the insights, and the massive reach, the potential of playing in this field is not to be overlooked.
To learn more about how Mason can provide up-to-date guidance on paid social campaign strategy and content development so that your brand can take advantage of every benefit these platforms have to offer, contact Alex Szafranski: 203-393-1101 x159 or ASzafranski@mason23.com.