The Specialist View – Paid Social

Specialist advice on how to make the most of today’s media market.

22nd June 2023 Read time: 5 minutes
What's happening?

The Power of Paid Social

Social media has evolved from a platform solely used to connect with friends and family to a powerful channel for brands to reach new audiences. It is experiencing tremendous growth, with over 1 billion new users in the past 3 years, who now spend an average of over 2.5 hours per day on these platforms. [Source: GWI, 2023.] While this provides ample opportunity, it’s also important to understand how these audiences are interacting with each channel in order to fully leverage the power of paid social.

Many brands are still feeling the impact of the iOS 14 update which rolled out in 2021. While the move has undoubtedly affected the ability to measure ad performance, there are three key areas you should prioritise to overcome these challenges: understanding your target audience, using effective tracking and measurement, and creating captivating content that resonates with your customers.

Understanding Your Audience

Every social media platform caters to a unique audience base. It’s essential for marketers to understand these nuances to effectively reach and engage with their target demographics. Below are the social media channels you should consider in your marketing mix as well as any latest features to keep front of mind:

Meta (Facebook and Instagram) has a broad user base across different age groups and interests. They’ve introduced a new feature called ‘Advantage Plus Shopping’ that uses advanced algorithms to target specific audiences. We’ve seen a significant reduction in cost-per-acquisitions (CPAs) by deploying this Meta tool.

With over 1 billion monthly users, TikTok has seen exponential growth in the last 3 years and provides a unique opportunity to engage with audiences and drive business impact. The platform resonates deeply with Gen Z users. 1 out of 3 users discovered a product on TikTok and immediately went to buy it. #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is one of the strongest drivers of this discovery. The platform’s popularity extends beyond Gen Z too, with 30% of their monthly active users now being 35+. Notably, 92% of TikTok users take action after watching a video, and 37% have made purchases based on brands they have found on the platform. [Source: TikTok, 2023.]

Twitter attracts users seeking real-time updates, especially around sports and politics. This presents a unique opportunity for advertisers to reach a highly engaged audience. Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, the company has faced various challenges such as verification issues, API access changes, and significant layoffs. However, despite the negative press, Twitter has also been making significant developments with regard to its advertising capabilities. It has recently expanded its scope as a platform through ad exchanges which help brands to reach broader audiences through programmatic advertising.

LinkedIn has evolved from a job search platform to a comprehensive professional network. With a 22% increase in users in 2022, it now facilitates connections among professionals beyond their network. It is now the leading platform for B2B interactions, with 75% of marketers using it to reach decision-makers who actively research companies after seeing ads on LinkedIn.

Snapchat has introduced a new chatbot called My AI. This AI-powered feature allows users to send snaps and receive generative responses which include sponsored links that are relevant to the conversation.

Pinterest is a go-to platform for inspiration, especially in food, fashion, and home decor, many of which are unique to Pinterest. According to recent studies, around 66% of users rely on the platform for ideas and product searches. It is highly regarded for planning future purchases too, with 9 out of 10 users using the platform for this purpose.

Tracking and Measurement

To combat tracking and measurement challenges in paid social, marketers should adopt the following to effectively analyse campaign performance:

Using conversion tracking tools like CAPI, Events API and other server-side tools provided by social media platforms.

Leveraging your own first-party data, such as email lists or customer databases, to get richer data on your audience segments.

Adopting media mix modelling to understand the effectiveness of paid social in conjunction with other channels.

Unlocking Creative Success

Creative is key to maximising effectiveness, capturing the attention of your target audience and driving action. We recommend the following approaches:

Opt for platform-centric creatives such as user-generated content on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat to enhance video engagement.

Take advantage of TikTok’s Creative Exchange Programme which adapts existing creatives for optimal performance on the platform. According to TikTok’s analysis, using native creative content increases ad recall by 19%, and collaborating with creators further boosts it by 27%

Leverage the latest shoppable formats like dynamic feed ads on Meta and video shopping or carousel ads on TikTok to fuel your retargeting strategies.

Reminder ads on Instagram allow people to set reminders for upcoming events, moments or launches.

Instagram search result is now available where your ads appear in the feed after the user taps a photo or video in the Instagram search grid.

Brands that adopt a full-funnel approach using social media platforms are more likely to increase conversion rates.

What's in store?

Global advertising spend forecast

According to the latest industry report, global ad spend growth is predicted to slow to 3.3% in 2023 due to economic uncertainty. The UK, being the leading and fastest-growing market in Europe, is expected to grow by 3.1%, slightly lower than the initial forecast of 3.6%. Factors such as budget constraints and market conditions contribute to this slowdown, particularly in digital and TV advertising. However, there are positive signs with projected growth of 4% in Q4 and 3.5% in 2024, boosted by the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Yet, if we’ve learnt anything from recent months it’s that predictions are quickly proved wrong. While the outlook looks like a period of decline, it wouldn’t take much for the picture to quickly shift. The re-emergence of the energy sector in advertising will provide a revenue boost to suppliers. Home nation performance in the Women’s World Cup and the Men’s Rugby World Cup also could see a prevailing wind turned around. Being agile and reactive will help brands stay ahead of the market and, more importantly, ahead of competitors.

GA4 replacing UA

Remember GA4 is rolling out from 1st July. Stay ahead of the game by preparing for the transition to the new analytics platform.

Prepare for a cookie-less future

Google has announced (updated) plans to deprecate third-party cookies by late 2024, impacting advertisers and publishers. To help prepare for the change, keep embracing first-party data, contextual targeting, and exploring more holistic measurement frameworks.

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