New Rules for Social Media Advertising in 2016 and Beyond

With 2016 right around the corner (yes, seriously), the social media advertising landscape is very different from what it was just five short years ago.

For one, Facebook’s ad strategy, back then, was in its infancy. Today, it provides one of the most powerful cross-device ad platforms on the market, with audience targeting features and ad carousel capabilities that allow marketers to tailor campaigns to reach their highest potential buyers. Even Twitter is making big strides in the advertising landscape with the ability to connect marketers with specific trends and products that help brands achieve specific conversion objectives.

It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago, CMOs and CFOs were still contesting the value of social as an acquisition, retention, and engagement channel. Even though social media represents the new norm for marketing, the channel still presents a wealth of untapped advertising opportunities. Here are the biggest trends that every marketer, business executive, analytics leader and startup founder should know.

Rule #1: As social advertising budgets grow, competition to reach audiences will become more cutthroat.

More advertisers are investing in social than ever before, and this trend is only going to accelerate over the next several years. According to one report from eMarketer, social network ad spending is expected to hit $23.68 billion worldwide in 2015—an increase of 33.5% from 2014. This number represents 16% of all digital advertising spend. Another forecast from the Social Times points out that Facebook CPCs rose roughly 8% between 2013 and 2014, which is a sign that the social giant is becoming more mature as an ad platform.

If you’re still approaching channels like Facebook and Twitter as “experimental” or “supplemental” to your core marketing initiatives, you may be missing out on a valuable opportunity to reach, engage, and convert your target audiences. The right time to venture into social media is now because, over time, this channel is only going to become more competitive. Newcomers who enter the market early on will have the clearest advantages over advertisers who wait.

Rule #2: Despite rising competition, new opportunities are continuing to emerge—although the days of dramatic, overnight growth are likely over for established platforms.

Often, rising competition should inspire marketers to turn around and pursue a different direction. With social, however, there’s more to the story in the form of a nuance to the trend shared via Rule #1.

As platforms evolve into mature ecosystems, advertising costs will increase. At the same time, however, Facebook and Twitter are still opening doors to new users. Emarketer, for instance, approximates that 5.4 million people will become first-time social users by 2016—a 3% change over the 180 million user baseline as of 2015.

While this number is small, it is still representative of a larger trend that social media is still a growing ecosystem. While the numbers may not be dramatic, they do represent an evolution that is potentially slow and steady; there’s still room to grow, but it’s not going to be what we saw ten years ago. The platforms that see the most dramatic growth will be newcomers to the market—and their users will have likely seen social platforms before.

Advertisers should keep an eye out for new opportunities and expect established ecosystems to experience some growth. At the same time, approaches to advertising should be grounded in rigorous testing methodology rather than luck or a game of darts.

Rule #3: Video isn’t limited to YouTube anymore.

Social media has become and will increasingly evolve into a channel driven by diverse multimedia experiences. In other words, audiences will be relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to engage with content beyond text and photos.

In September 2014, Facebook announced that its platform was generating more than a billion video views per day. Just months prior in June, the social giant revealed that for the first time ever, it had served more video views that YouTube.

Video is becoming increasingly ubiquitous for advertisers. In addition to serving your video ads on YouTube and through video seeding partners, you’ll want to consider Facebook video ads as an additional channel.

That’s a big deal, with a value proposition to stretch your ad budget further.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, you’ll need a trusted partner to help you navigate this new terrain—that will likely have more solutions ready by the time that you invest your first dollar. A mature and growing ecosystem means that the number of ad products are growing. You’ll have the power of choice to develop an ad strategy that’s truly right for you.

About the Author

Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, internet culture, and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and sociology.

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