Looking back on my career, I’ve seen major shifts in advertising – all enabled by the digital age. From the advent of search spurring the rise of SEO/SEM, to the rise of data-driven personalization, mobile, UGC, and over the past decade, the rise in social media advertising. CMOs now identify social as the most effective and efficient advertising channel available. This direct line of communication isn’t to millions, it’s to billions. Social is how we consume media, connect with others, conduct research and ask for recommendations, seek help and get support, and increasingly, it’s the way we buy.
Accordingly, marketers are aggressively increasing their social ad budgets, up 32 percent in 2018 alone, and it’s only expected to keep climbing this year. According to Hootsuite’s 2019 Social Trends report, 78 percent of respondents have either already invested in social advertising, or plan to in the coming year. Think about this: Facebook alone accounts for 23 percent of total U.S. digital ad spending.
But the intense popularity of social advertising has created new challenges. Standing out from the onslaught of content is at the top of the list. Rising competition in social advertising driving up the cost is a close second. So how can brands maximize the return on their social and investment heading into 2019?
While any business can pay its way into someone’s social news feed, there is absolutely no guarantee anyone is going to care. A good first step to getting noticed in 2019 is to recognize ad money has to be combined with the equivalent investment in time, creativity and targeting savvy. Here are five ways I’d recommend upping your social advertising game in 2019.
- Stand out from the crowd: Gone are the days of ads thrown against the wall of a newsfeed to see what sticks. Instead, look to brands like Netflix and Spotify for inspiration. They are leading the charge with social ads that are both personalized and entertaining. Brands that respect and engage customers as individuals will see real ROI. The end goal is to generate engagement. Don’t waste time and money broadcasting an ad at an indeterminate audience. Which brings me to my next point …
- Target the right audience. Every single ad campaign should target a specific group, compiled with information gleaned from the interests of your audience and their previous interactions with your brand. If you are not sure who you are supposed to be targeting and why, you need to do more research. Understand your customers’ challenges and how they interact with you. If you aren’t targeted in your ads strategy, your message will get lost in the noise and you’ll waste your money.
- Define your goals and metrics: This is essential, not just as an overarching ad strategy, but for each and every ad campaign. Best practices draw a straight line between your ads on social and your business objectives. Of course, depending upon what type of campaign you’re running, those objectives can change. An awareness campaign might prioritize impressions, while conversion campaigns want to see click-through results. What doesn’t change is clear goal-setting tied to business objectives.
- Content is king: The ho-hum just doesn’t cut it. High quality content that resonates is imperative, and the social ad space is one of constant innovation. I am seeing brands build out their social teams with content creators skilled in video, graphics, design and more – essential skill sets to succeed with social. Not every brand will have the budget for expensive equipment and a team of professionals, but learning some video and graphics basics or hiring a freelancer can hugely impact your results.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment: Because the social ads space is constantly evolving, it’s a perfect environment in which to try new things. New ad formats on social are emerging every day – just look at the innovations within Instagram Stories, Pinterest and Messenger this past year. 2019 will bring even more. And novel formats have the intrinsic advantage of tapping into consumer curiosity, while avoiding the pitfalls of ad fatigue.
The average American adult spends close to four hours a day interacting with social. That represents an amazing opportunity for compelling connections and results. Yet, carving out a slice of their attention is harder than ever. My best advice: make it your brand’s mission to deliver the right content in the right format, at the right time, to the right audience. That’s a great goal for launching your renewed social ad strategy in 2019.
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