Welcome to post #3 in a 7 part series examining the top trends in social media for 2015, brought to you by @natureclicker (with much assistance from the rest of the internet). Check back to see #4 in the series.
3. Social Advertising
I know what you’re thinking, social media advertising isn’t anything new, right? Well, you’re right, it isn’t — but if you think that 2015’s advertising is the same as 2014’s (or 2016’s, for that matter), you’re also terribly, terribly wrong (sorry!).
Once considered an equal playing field for brands, business, organizations, and that guy you went to high school with that you don’t really keep in touch with but can’t unfriend because what if you run into him somewhere that would be so awkward, Facebook now holds the keys to the kingdom when it comes to what shows up in user news feeds — and what doesn’t. It’s clear that the rules for social advertising are changing, and the price tag for reaching fans and followers is following suit.
Facebook’s old “open organic reach” strategy rewarded organizations and businesses that interacted regularly with users and posted quality, engaging, or otherwise attractive content to the platform. Facebook’s new cure-all for gaining page views and engagement is a little more, you guessed it, monetized.
For any social newbies in the audience, reach is the number of people who have seen a post, as opposed to an impression, which includes the total number of times that person (and others) have seen a page post. For instance, when I come across this adorable picture of a teacup pig wearing a shark costume in my news feed, I’ve been reached. When my friend Elin comments “OMG SO CUTE 🙂 🙂 🙂 ” on the same picture later in the day (so Elin), I am impressed by baby sharkpig twice.
In 2014, Facebook’s Brian Boland acknowledged the cutbacks to organic reach as a “pain point” for pages, but added that competition for post views has increased along with the interest and ease of posting to Facebook. The second half of his answer was a little more cryptic, revealing that: “Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them. Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.”
Those “thousands of factors” he’s talking about relate to Facebook’s all-powerful and ever-changing algorithm, which if you’ve taken a crack at it — I tip my hat to you.
While Mr. Boland makes some good points, he’s also advises (and you’ll have to scroll a bit for this) that “Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals. Your business won’t always appear on the first page of a search result unless you’re paying to be part of that space. Similarly, paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content.”
There you have it. While the majority of social media marketers have decried the death of the organic reach, others have proclaimed the benefits of Facebook’s new pay-to-play content promotion. Most of the arguments from the latter group sound something like, “finally, ROI!” Meanwhile, pages of all shape and size have begun to take a long, hard look at what, how, and when they post. For branded pages, including nonprofits, the changes to Facebook meant that pages lost about 6.5% of their reach and 45% percent of their “virality.” So, what is replacing organic reach for pages, and how are businesses and organizations dealing with the changes of 2014? This necessary focus on strategy has given rise to social advertising’s spot as #3 in our Top 7 list, because the results have spanned far beyond Facebook.
Social Advertising 1: Paid Ads, Targeted Options
The first and most obvious development of the post-organic era has been the rush to paid advertising on Facebook. For as little as $5, pages can choose ad pricing, location, timing, and audience (typically user age, listed interests, and gender selection) controls to fit their budgets and attract targeted users.
One of the most enticing aspects of Facebook ads are their tracking feature, which allows page owners to view and display their ad’s reach, impressions, and the amount spent per engagement. These features are attractive to the dollars-and-cents set because they deliver hard and calculable metrics that look great on charts and graphs and help to answer tough boardroom questions like “Why do we pay her to spend all day on Facebook?”
Of course, this isn’t to say that paid advertising on Facebook is the best idea for any organization or business. In fact, there are often many reasons why Facebook ads aren’t a good fit for everyone, but it is a conversation that is happening in meetings every day. While the exact number of ads posted hasn’t been revealed yet (current estimates are around 3 million unique advertisers, but stay tuned), Facebook’s own B2B marketing campaign seems to be taking root in the bed of its old organic soil.
Social Advertising 2: Platforms!
With new strategies come new platforms, which lead to — new strategies for new platforms. In the world of social media, are tweets, likes, or snaps equal? Well, it all depends on who you ask.
It’s no secret that different platforms reach different user demographics and offer vastly different experiences for audiences and page owners alike. Although I’ve come across a few organizations that are operating a social strategy solely on the back of a single platform (typically Facebook), the majority of organizations I’ve spoken with are engaging with 2-4 different platforms at any given time, and many are considering tackling more.
Obviously, Facebook isn’t the only platform to roll out paid advertising in the past few years. Others, like Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, YouTube, and even Reddit, offer their own paid options and advertising tools. Some of the organizations I’ve spoken with prefer Twitter’s engagement opportunities and analytic information. As one interviewee mentioned, there may be “more freedom to see and be seen” outside Facebook.
Instagram has also been a favorite “next path” for many, while others have highlighted the perceived benefits of marketplace social (like Pinterest) or trendy, but untested, waters (I’m looking at you, Snapchat).
Whatever direction social advertising takes in 2016, competition between organizations, businesses, and even platforms is sure to drive it to new heights — presumably gathering more tools and metrics along the way.
What advertising tools have been most useful to you on social media in the past? What platform features would be most useful to you in the future?