After a decade of astonishing growth, social media advertising can now safely claim to be part of the marketing mainstream. And yet in a mature industry which continues to see annual revenues soar, many marketing professionals are still left scratching their head trying define the benefits of social in clear, quantifiable terms.
According to eMarketer, global spend on social advertising will reach $32.97 billion in 2016. The annual increase of 33.4 per cent is gigantic compared to the projected 5-6 per cent growth in overall advertising outlay, demonstrating just how hot social is. By 2018, social could account for a fifth of the global advertising market, and 45 per cent of display advertising.
What is curious is the willingness of marketers to invest in social without the benefits being clearly defined. Almost two thirds of decision makers report that they struggle to quantify ROI on social advertising spend. A third say it is difficult to integrate social with wider business goals. And yet the money keep being spent, driven perhaps by a desire not to be left behind the latest tech trends.
Another potential pitfall for social advertising is the dominance of a single platform. Facebook accounts for three quarters of the global market, and is streets ahead in terms of trust in ROI. Yet over-reliance on one channel will hamper growth as advertising opportunities on Facebook will reach saturation point a lot quicker than the social media market as a whole.
Time to Diversify
Reliance on a single channel runs counter to what makes digital marketing so attractive - the potential to reach out to a diverse audience through numerous different means. Success in social advertising depends on keeping this principle front of mind.
Part of this need to stay diverse arises from the different advertising strategies which exist on social media. Broadly speaking, there are two options - dynamic display advertising, which mirrors traditional advertising by using social space to directly promote a product, and so-called ‘social advertising’. The latter aims to mimic user behavior on social platforms by using bought space to promote content, encourage re-posts and drive traffic to a targeted destination.
Both are equally important and encourage diversity in approach. Dynamic advertising can draw on Big Data insights to target specific audiences on different places in the marketing funnel with customized content. Video is catching up in popularity with display content, with half of all US businesses likely to invest in digital video ads this year. Mobile is also a huge growth area, accounting for half of all digital advertising in the US.
If dynamic is all about reaching audiences, social advertising is all about engaging with them. The key to social advertising is the quality of the content you are promoting. What Google calls ‘quality score’ (‘relevance score’ on Facebook, ‘quality adjusted bid’ on Twitter) rates the relevance of your content alongside engagement and feedback. The higher your score, the lower your costs per click - so it literally pays to build a loyal marketing who will rate your content highly and produce viable leads for your advertising.
Diversifying your digital approach creates a holistic marketing strategy, from top-of-the-funnel brand building to bottom-of-the-funnel conversions. Again, using a variety of platforms strengthens this. Despite Facebook reporting 8 billion videos views per day, Google/ Youtube ranks higher in marketers’ plans for video content spend. Instagram is being embraced for its powerful sharing and community-building capabilities.
Cross-promoting content across platforms should drive digital marketing agendas for the simple reason that greater exposure drives greater conversion. Sites like Reddit, Digg and LinkedIn Pulse can even be leveraged simply to promote content on other sites. Top-class content and audience building will determine the traffic you can generate, but advertising will drive conversion.
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