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At the end of last year, we published a blog post titled ‘18 Digital Marketing Trends for 2014 You May Not Have Heard About’, where several of us from across the business were asked to give our thoughts on which areas of digital marketing were the ones to watch in 2014.
As head of social media, my contributions centred around social media advertising, which for me is one area that has been gathering pace over the past few years and was only going to grow more this year. In this post, I take a look at what has happened in the first few months of 2014 and whether my ‘prediction’ is coming to fruition.
In the future-gazing post, one of my suggestions was about how social media advertising would become higher on the agenda for most digital marketers.
It’s no surprise that spend on social media is on the rise. Forrester’s latest social media research (Social Media Forecast, 2014 to 2019) predicts that spend is expected to reach $16.2 billion by 2019, up from $7.3 billion in 2014. And while this is for the US specifically, it’s likely that the UK and other countries will experience similar percentage increases as well.
The Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB) released figures in April this year which showed social media advertising spend on mobile increased to £221.8 million in 2013. Across digital overall, social media advertising grew 71% to £588.4 million. Consequently, mobile now accounts for over one third (35%) of total digital social media advertising.
Facebook’s financial results for the first quarter of 2014 stated that: “Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 59% of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2014, up from approximately 30% of advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2013.”
So it’s clear that not only is mobile usage globally on the rise, but so too is social advertising via smaller devices.
Are you already spending more on social advertising? And more importantly perhaps, are your competitors?
The decline in the organic reach of social posts, especially on Facebook, is definitely more evident, even more so than at the end of 2013.
Facebook itself has come out and claimed this is as a result of an increase in sharing: “Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach.”
However, some sceptics are suggesting that this is a planned strategy from Zuckerberg et al to force businesses to spend advertising dollars with them. The American food delivery company Eat24 recently published an open letter to Facebook and deleted its 70,000 strong Facebook page, despite claiming it was made up largely of people who wanted to see its content (but now were not able to organically).
That said, further research from Edgerankchecker.com backs up the organic decline earmarked by Facebook, as the graph below clearly shows.
However, as Edgerankchecker.com also points out, there are some brands that have such strong ‘Social DNA’ that they are not being impacted in the same way. We have noticed something similar ourselves – we have seen examples of some Facebook pages becoming a ghost town in terms of post reach, but some are flourishing.
So, if your brand is facing declining reach of organic posts, what should you do? Well, first off, you need to take a proper look at your post activity and see what the situation actually is.
Use your Insights within Facebook (tip: export them to a csv file for more data options) and see exactly what reach your posts are getting, and then ask yourself a few questions:
Then you can spend some time playing around with content and posting schedules before measuring your reach again. If at that point you do find there is still a decline (both in terms of reach and subsequent engagement) then maybe it’s time to consider boosting your posts with some paid advertising, in the form of promoted posts.
If you do choose to allocate some of your marketing budget to promoted posts, it’s vital you measure the results of your activity and put it into context. While paid promoted posts will allow you to reach more people, you do need to see whether this results in something tangible, for example increased engagement on the posts, more traffic back to your website from Facebook, or more conversions. And if the results are not meaningful then make sure you refine your activity, for example by tweaking your targeting.
My second ‘prediction’, which is still related to social media advertising (and again not surprising), was around the increase of new ad products for marketers to use.
While not strictly a product, in March this year Facebook rolled out an update to its campaign structure across the ad interfaces. This simplifies the way ad campaigns are set up and organised, making it easier for advertisers to optimise and measure the performance of the ads.
And, just to prove that Facebook is not the only platform making headway in the advertising field, Google announced in April that it is going to be rolling out its ‘+Post ads’ to all advertisers.
The +Post ad is where you take a piece of your public Google+ content, like a photo or video, and turn it into an engagement ad that runs across the Google Display Network.
The example below is a +Post ad used by the European Parliament to encourage voting in the European elections.
+Post ads can also be used to promote Hangouts Live on Air and allow users to RSVP to the event, watch it live or view a recording post-event. Brands such as ASOS have started to use these already.
Using +Post ads might be the catalyst that brands need to try and get some real value from the Google+ network, especially here in the UK where many people are still not seeing a volume of engagement or referral traffic to justify any real investment of time in the platform.
It will be interesting to see how this product develops, but early indications are that brands using it are reporting seeing higher engagement levels than the industry average for rich media ads.
At this point in the year there haven’t been any other new ad products for the other major social media platforms. However, a couple to keep an eye out for are Pinterest’s Promoted Pins and Sponsored posts from Instagram.
Both of these were announced as being tested in 2013, but have not yet rolled out to a wider advertising audience.
STOP PRESS: After I wrote this blog post, Facebook held it's f8 developer conference and announced a new product called 'Audience Network'. This will allow advertisers to target Facebook users in other mobile apps with just one-click. Audience Network will be available in all ad interfaces for marketers to take advantage of.
While neither of the suggested predictions were particularly surprising or unique, it’s interesting to see exactly how they are developing after only the first third of the year.
And you don’t need me to tell you that this is only likely to continue throughout the rest of 2014 and beyond.
If you’d like to find out about how social media advertising can help your business, download our free essential guide to social media advertising.