The 4 Most Critical Planning Insights for Social Media Advertisers and Their Agencies
SOURCE: Advertiser Perceptions Social Media Advertising Report
Our Social Media Intel Brief is based on a proprietary study conducted in March 2016 (see methodology on page 11), and is designed to help you plan a more effective strategy based on the attitudes and behavior of the people who count most – your fellow advertisers. The study covers the market outlook advertisers have regarding Social Media, how they buy it, how they execute it, as well as the criteria that motivates their spending.
1. Social Media Advertiser Optimism is at its Highest Levels Ever
Marketers and agencies indicate that of all the digital disciplines – be it programmatic, search, video, or native – social media advertising is the most likely to see an increase in spend over the next six months. Over two-thirds (68%) of advertisers expect it to increase, 31% believe it will stay the same, just 1% envision a decline.
The rise in social media spend is estimated to be around 18% over the next 12 months. This funding is most likely to come from an overall expansion of advertising budgets (cited by 54% of respondents) followed by diverting funds from print spend (38%), while 36% report it will come from a rise in the dedicated budget for paid social.
2. Programmatic Buying of Social Advertising is Increasing
How advertisers are buying these formats is expected to change dramatically over the next 12 months. Eighty-eight percent of buyers say social advertising is currently purchased directly, but this will drop to 67% in about a year’s time. Conversely, the proportion buying programmatically will rise from 58% to 79% – a relative rise of over one third of advertisers.
In terms of what this could mean for overall share, eMarketer predicts that the 39.7% growth in programmatic spend means it will account for 67% of total US digital display ad spend by year end. It reinforces how increasingly important it is that marketers understand the programmatic space and have the right ad tech partners in place to exploit the technology and minimize any potential downsides.
3. Advertisers’ Attitudes Toward the Benefits of Social Have Changed Significantly
The main benefit of social media advertising is the ability to reach consumers in engaging environments (cited by 20%) followed by the ability to easily/effectively reach niche audiences (17%) and the opportunity to interact with consumers (15%).
It’s interesting to note that the latter benefit only ranks third. In the very early days of social, the majority of thinking was around how social provided the opportunity to have a two-way dialogue with consumers. Indeed, among brand-focused advertisers it still ranks as the #1 benefit (cited by 22%) compared to just 5% among performance-based advertisers.
Social media is much more likely to be seen as a vehicle for brand advertising than performance / direct response – particularly among agencies. Agencies say 61% of social media budgets go to brand advertising (vs. 39% to performance) compared to 56% among marketers for brand ads.
Indeed, building brand awareness (cited by 28% of all respondents) is ranked as the number one goal for using social advertising, followed by generating online sales (18%) and increasing audience engagement (16%). Not surprisingly, among brand-focused advertisers, those ranking building brand awareness as the #1 goal rises to 35%, while those who rank generating online sales as the #1 goal of social advertising rises to 46% among performance-focused advertisers.
However, it’s important to remember this isn’t an “either/or” proposition. The most successful advertisers at harnessing social media will use a mixture of brand and performance campaigns to suit their particular objectives.
4. Advertisers Still Want Hard Data on ROI, Conversions and Branding Success
Sales conversions, social post engagements and clicks to websites are the most important metrics used to evaluate the success of social advertising. Over one-fifth (22%) cited sales conversions on the company website and engagement on posts (such as comments, shares and likes) as the primary metric to evaluate success. Clicks to the company website followed closely behind at 21%.
It’s interesting to note that agencies are much more likely to cite the importance of sales conversions (27%) than are marketers (17%). As expected, however, the most important metrics differ considerably between brand-focused and performance-focused advertisers. Engagement on posts is ranked as the #1 metric among brand advertisers (63%), while sales conversions is ranked #1 among performance advertisers (73%).
Despite the high optimism about paid social spend in the future, low ROI and the difficulty in gauging ad effectiveness are regarded as the biggest obstacles in using social advertising – both cited by 22% of respondents as the #1 obstacle. Gauging ad effectiveness is the biggest obstacle among marketers, while low ROI is tops among agencies. Notably, twice as many consider risk to brand safety/image to be an issue, which was one of the main concerns leveled at social media in its early days.
The ways social media success is evaluated and the concerns about determining ROI are a reminder that while hard metrics for evaluation are always important and, ultimately how marketers are measured on (rightly or wrongly), it’s important that social media is seen as an important vehicle for other less measurable benefits such as overall brand perception and brand health.
However, this doesn’t let the platforms off the hook in terms of proving their worth to clients. Both parties need to work harder together to come up with ways that show how social is working and, thus, provide, proof to continue the investment in the channel.
CONCLUSION: Social Is Strong, But Advertisers, Agencies and Media Providers Must Align on Transparency and Measurement
Clearly the market outlook for paid social advertising looks very strong and the insights contained herein should help you plan a more effective strategy and, ultimately reap a better ROI. However, it is in that last part that social media, and its advocates, face their biggest challenge in terms of maintaining increased investment in the channel. All parties will need to work together on establishing (buyers) and providing (sellers) greater measurement metrics and ways of reporting that show how beneficial social media is in delivering against marketing objectives.
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