Next up for our 'ask the experts' series is paid social media.

We've got some consultants and agency bods to give us their opinions on everything from Snapchat to strategy, video to influencers. There's quite a lot to digest so you can use the hyperlinks below to jump between questions.

Oh, and subscribers, don't forget you can download Econsultancy's new Paid Social Media Advertising Best Practice Guide, should you want more. On with the questions...

  1.  Has Instagram proved the case for social shopping, or is the concept still a pipe dream?
  2.  How should organic and paid strategies dovetail?
  3.  What more do marketers need to do to track the success (and ROI) of influencer marketing?
  4.  What should advertisers bear in mind when placing video ads on social for the first time?
  5.  Does context matter, given the history of fake news on Facebook, or is targeting more important?
  6.  Do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to Snapchat advertising?
  7.  Who is using paid social well?

1. Has Instagram proved the case for social shopping or is the concept still a pipe dream?

Depesh Mandalia, CEO, SMCommerce:

I've been running ads on Instagram since they opened it up in 2015 during a time of uproar from the Instagram community, even if it was inevitable following Facebook's acquisition. It wasn't until late 2015 and into 2016 that I started seeing success, which even then differs by business.

For example an ecommerce client of ours with a fairly high average basket value converts extremely well on Instagram at the middle and bottom of the marketing funnel. That is, with warm and hot leads that already know the brand and so you can be more product focused.

That said Instagram has the potential to work higher up the funnel, albeit the imagery has to feel part of the platform and in most cases, very different to what you would place within a Facebook ad. From speaking to businesses that have failed to make Instagram work, often it has come down to poor creative execution. 

Joanna Halton, director and founder, Jo & Co:

Pinterest and Instagram are both channels that are most actively used for research and inspiration, but any social channel can be used to promote brands and products with the right targeting and creative.

Instagram tends to lend itself more to certain categories, the more visual, such as beauty, fashion and food. Anastasia Beverly Hills (see below) saw accelerated sales growth after users began posting results from using their brow-shaping products on Instagram.

They piggy-backed on that wave and were able to leverage Instagram to become one of the fastest-growing makeup brands. They're still very active on the platform – encouraging and benefiting from influencer and consumer mentions to this day.

instagram eyebrow

2. How should organic and paid strategies dovetail?

Joanna Halton:

Social is pay to play now. The impact of stand alone organic is so minimal, it's difficult to justify. In reality, it's more about having amazing content to maximise your paid spend. The better the content, the better the earned response and the better return on your media spend.

Greg Allum, head of social media, Jellyfish:

Traditionally brands have invested heavily in content to drive engagement, with the notion that organic reach was sufficient in achieving meaningful business outcomes.

With organic reach across Facebook diminishing rapidly over the last four years there has been a need to redefine social, organic or otherwise. It’s really become ‘less social, more media’ and organic strategies are now shifting towards a strong community management focus. Adopting this mindset allows brands to focus on investing in media, allowing significant reach of content that resonates with targeted audiences and drives high-value actions.

Smart community management allows companies the opportunity to resolve any customer service issues and to drive secondary engagement and further high-value actions.

Michelle Goodall, independent consultant:

I'm a firm believer that you should always lead with earned thinking in paid. It's obvious but rarely articulated. What will naturally get you earned engagement/shares etc? Brands who are close to the organic algorithm changes in social and can feel what their fans and community members genuinely like to engage with should be feeding insight back into paid activity.

I personally thought the Heineken "World's Apart" paid campaign (see below) was great as it contained lots of elements that work well in social – tension, release, debate, Freytag's storytelling techniques, and was brilliantly produced.

On the flip side, there are plenty of advertisers propping up their brands with shit social campaigns. Basically, just because paid social is cheap(ish) and easy(ish) it shouldn't be a place where bored ad creatives go to die.

Depesh Mandalia:

We've found organic strategies to work very effectively for retaining and monetising existing customers, with the support of paid ads in particular, however a common connection higher up the consideration funnel is strategically boosting organic content to see what's resonating with fans and prospects.

Paid boosting can help the organic social team discover what works much faster and also play into paid ad creative ideas.

3. What more do marketers need to do to track the success (and ROI?) of influencer marketing?

Michelle Goodall:

Be really clear about what you want from influencers and what you value as an organisation – ROI isn't just product sales, it's about efficiencies and effectiveness.

Direct Line got incredible insights about the language teenage drivers use and lots of value-add from their relationship/campaign with Alfie Deyes. Working with top-tier influencers like him is costly...it's a significant media spend, but remember influencers create the content, distribute the content and amplify the content (so your production, distribution and amplification costs will be affected).

Depesh Mandalia:

Influencer marketing has been around for many years (under different names like blogger outreach) however platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have strengthened the hand of influencers to charge even more for a highly engaged audience on a platform the brand wants to reach out on.

Having run influencer campaigns on Instagram it has been very hit and miss, which is part of the learning process. There are hacks influencers use to boost their following and having run campaigns with poor performing influencers in the past, it's always wise to run small tests and measure engagement metrics (which the influencer should be sharing with you) – ideally via a third-party platform like Whalar to independently verify those numbers.

In addition, the success measure depends on your goal; some brands want more followers to engage with later down the line, others want emails or direct sales. It's worth considering that the further down the consideration funnel your goal is, the more you're going to have to put in to spreading the reach of your campaign and finding influencers that have an audience ready to buy. Some influencer accounts handle this well and others are far too promotional which in turn their audience know to ignore.

whalar

Whalar's website

Greg Allum:

To this day, demonstrating value across social is critical and often incorrectly attributed. Influencer marketing is seemingly the current gold rush of social.

Focusing on ‘meaningful business outcomes’ is core to our clients’ strategies and this means moving away from the softer vanity metrics of ‘engagement’ and ‘clicks’. There are well-documented studies that demonstrate ‘engagement’ on social does not lead to improved purchase intent or sales. Click happy users themselves are also expensive and inefficient to reach.

At a very top level, business relies on influencing the following to be successful:

  • Finding new customers, acquisition
  • Keeping existing customers, retention
  • Delivering efficiencies in spend at scale, either media efficiency or more effective cost-to-serve channels for customer service
  • Improving brand metrics and growing advocacy

Therefore, regardless of the activity, be it influencer led or by the brand itself, marketers should aim to measure the impact on these metrics.

Joanna Halton:

Marketers need to understand why they're using influencer marketing. If it's for exposure and engagement, those should be the metrics that are tracked. Sales can also be driven by influencer programmes, so if there's no direct traffic or promo codes, keep tabs on mentioned or associated item performance to get an indication of sales performance.

Authenticity is also key, shoehorning in a brand with a talent can just end up being embarrassing for all involved. Marketers actually need to monitor conversations and chatter from the influencers' audiences – this will give a feel for appetite and sentiment, as well insight for future campaigns. 

4. What should advertisers bear in mind when placing video ads on social for the first time?

Michelle Goodall:

Bear in mind the swooshing thumb and silent autoplay. Put the 'money shot' first and find creative ways to overcome the "wall of silence" – love this Captain Obvious ad from Hotels.com.

Carmen Jones, senior paid search executive, Click Consult:

Videos should be tailored for the platform, audience and the campaign. So many brands show me two-minute long videos about nothing in particular that already exist on their YouTube channel, hoping to have a hugely successful campaign with engaged users. You can have the best campaign targeting in the world but it will only be as good as your content.

It needs to make an impact and it needs to be engaging. You need to think if another brand churned out a video similar to the one you want to push, would you actually sit through it?

Joanna Halton:

Eighty-five percent of video views on Facebook are silent, so if it's a piece to camera, consider subtitles – this is a tactic Channel 4 uses for a lot of its programme promotion content.

You can also use text to help tell the story with narration. Equally, think about if you can use video in an interesting or unexpected way – some pages have been trialling static videos. This is a still image in a video format, so that it gets the benefit of Facebook's preference for video content over stills.

(Editor's note: There is some suggestion that since we spoke to Joanna, Facebook has cracked down on this – Steve Bartlett discusses the importance of staying ahead of the algorithm in a recent interview.)

Greg Allum:

The key challenges for first-time advertisers on social are in three areas and all form part of a good creative brief:

1. Clear Objectives.

It’s important to ask the following questions: 

  • What are we trying to achieve with this piece of content? Is it brand awareness or are we trying to build retargeting pools of engaged users who we can serve high-value action content to?
  • Why would someone engage or consume the content?
  • Who are the audiences we are targeting? Do we need multiple edits or different post copy in order for this to resonate with them?
  • What do we want audiences to do, or feel, as a result of seeing this content?
  • How are we measuring success?

2. Audience Insight.

Understanding audiences is key to any piece of social content. Without this important knowledge, content is unlikely to resonate. Utilising insight tools such as Brandwatch or TGI, brands can start to build out rich personas and high-value segments.

Understanding these interests, behaviours and demographics helps facilitate meaningful conversations in creative meetings. This in turn ensures video teams can start to understand the type of content that will influence the target audience.

3. Specifications.

Each platform evolves rapidly. Facebook used to push 30-second video then 15-second and now is pushing six-second formats. The same applies for 16:9 aspect ratio to square format to vertical video.

It’s imperative social media teams stay ahead of the game and constantly test, optimise and refine creative to deliver effective and efficient video campaigns for their brand. What worked yesterday may not work today.

Depesh Mandalia:

The key is to engage quickly – the first few seconds of an ad are super important. For example we reversed a TV ad on Facebook showing the 'payload' of the ad first, then going into the build up. This dramatically improved performance, because you don't have the same forced dwell time on social channels as you do on TV, where you're most likely sitting on the sofa with a mobile in hand during an ad break.

Once you've grabbed their attention, keep it, by using short burst storytelling. With video ads it does depend on your goal (awareness vs. direct response) as to how long and the type of content to promote, however the above statement on fast engagement is universal.

5. Does context matter, given the history of fake news on Facebook, or is targeting more important?

Joanna Halton:

The main benefit of paid social is that you can target people. Newsfeeds will always be full of controversial content, try to avoid any obviously brand damaging links, but the majority of people understand that no one can control the feed. The main job of a marketer is to get the right content to the right people.

Depesh Mandalia:

Both context and target is important on Facebook, which is further promoted by Facebook's ad relevant score. The more relevant an ad, the more engaged the user and thus the higher the ad is scored. The higher ad score results in a lower cost per click and so everyone's a winner.

Facebook's goal is to keep their users happy and engaged, and make money. As an advertiser if you also take Facebook's end user goal into account then you can't stray too far from seeing great performance. The problem is putting the effort into research and testing to get the right connection between targeting and creative, especially when a business is looking for immediate results.  

6. Do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to Snapchat advertising?

Michelle Goodall:

Snapchat opening up its self-serve ad platform will create a massive drop in ad quality but the self-serve tools are so simple to use and the targeting options are good. If your audiences are there and you understand the nuances of the platform and what works for your audiences, why not go for it?

Take an example such as MTV's snapchat lens (see below, discussed in Econsultancy's Social Media Platforms Overview) – the equivalent TV spend to reach the same audience would have been massive!

mtv snap lens

Greg Allum:

There’s no doubt that the platform offers significant creative opportunities and huge value in geo-filters for FMCGs, restaurants or fashion brands with bricks and mortar stores to drive footfall.

However, recent reports have suggested that Snap Ads are being served to unintended audiences. Specifically audiences below the target age. It will be interesting to see how Snapchat develops its ad proposition to address these concerns. 

Carmen Jones:

Snapchat is a quick and easy way to engage with your target audience, especially with geofilters and snap-to-unlocks etc. It can be immensely fun. As with any channel, you must research it as thoroughly as possible.

You just need to manage your expectations, and expect to be testing and trialling what will/won’t work well for your brand.

7. Who is using paid social well?

Depesh Mandalia:

There are so many great examples of paid social done well. Simba mattresses (see below) launched a new product to a market that didn't know they wanted or needed a new kind of mattress and spawned a new booming category predominantly through paid social.

Borrow My Doggy is another example of a brand with really high engagement on its paid marketing activity, hitting the sweet spot between people and animals (what's not to like!).

simba

Joanna Halton:

Missguided's Baddie Winkle #naughtylist campaign is an example of paid social done well, although they also used other channels too. They were clever with the creative, messaging, timing and the mechanic. 

At a recent conference, Dane Stanley, Global Marketing Director, revealed that with a 10th of the spend of their Nicole Scherzinger campaign, they were able to drive an increase in revenue of +807%. For me, this highlights the need for excellent creative that really resonates with the target audience.

Carmen Jones:

Generally I find the fitness and beauty industry make fantastic use of paid social. Not only do they focus on the organic and traditional paid elements, their use of influencers to peddle their products with their millions of followers generates a huge amount of publicity despite the product possibly being completely ineffective.

Don't forget to download Econsultancy's new Paid Social Media Advertising Best Practice Guide.

Ben Davis

Published 18 October, 2017 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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