7 Things CMOs Need To Know About Paid Social
With all the new ad types and emerging channels, do you know where your paid social dollars are going? Columnist Scott Rayden tells you what you need to know to ensure you're reaching your goals.
If you have any kind of a marketing budget, you’re using paid social advertising. Whatever your vertical or business model, you know there’s at least one paid social channel that can help you reach the right audience.
But you probably knew all that back in 2013, too.
Today’s paid social landscape is a lot different — and more mission-critical, with organic reach shrinking — than it was even six months ago, thanks to emergent channels and the rapid ascendance of new ad types from the major social players. If you haven’t taken a deep dive into where your paid social dollars are going, here are seven things you need to know today, starting with a general look and delving into some channel-specific updates.
Let’s get started.
Paid Social Can Cover Almost The Entire Funnel… For Any Size Budget
Two years ago, you could have made a salient argument that paid social was good for brand awareness and not much else.
Today, every paid social channel worth investing in has robust targeting, attractive ad types (including video ads), better conversion tracking, more flexible bidding, retargeting and even more advanced ways to put first-party data into play to engage people already affiliated with your brand.
Add to that the unique attribute of social proof (hey, your friends like us!) that paid social has always boasted, and you as a resourceful advertiser have all sorts of ways to push those folks down your funnel and toward a desired action. Social is still excellent at prospecting through methods like interest, behavior and competitor targeting, but it’s also better than ever at the steps that come next. Some channels, of course, are stronger at that than others, and we’ll get into that in a bit.
Oh, and even if you’re starting with $100 to spend, you can play. Get your CRM data uploaded into Facebook or Twitter to target the folks who already know you, create a lookalike or similar audience to reach a new base of users who look a lot like your customers, and watch the data roll in.
More Than Ever, Mobile Comes First
Couple of fun facts for you: In Q2, mobile accounted for a whopping 88% of Twitter’s total advertising revenue and 76% of Facebook’s total advertising revenue. (Remember when Facebook had a mobile problem?)
For e-commerce especially, mobile still struggles at capturing the ultimate conversion. (It’s not easy to fill out all that billing/shipping info on your phone.) But mobile CPCs (costs per click) are generally far lower than desktop CPCs, and there are still plenty of ways to engage potential customers — and then retarget them later on desktop after they’ve pre-qualified themselves. And as the stats in the above paragraph show, your users are on mobile; if you want to get in front of them, you have no choice.
But remember: When you’re pulling users off their mobile feeds and onto your mobile site, that experience has to be smooth and compelling to justify the click. (The same is true of desktop, of course.) Make sure your messaging, tone and creative are aligned from ad to landing page.
Just as importantly, make sure that the landing page itself is optimized for the mobile mentality, not simply resized from desktop. (3Q Digital, my employer, has a whitepaper that talks more about that, if you’re interested.) If the majority of a channel’s revenue is coming from mobile, and you’re simply tweaking the desktop experience, you’ve got it backwards.
Video’s Not The Future; Video’s The Present
Facebook has developed already-popular video ads that work for both direct response and brand awareness (more on that later). YouTube is growing so fast, with mobile watch time doubling since last June, that it carried Google to an unexpected earnings surge last month. Those are the two major video ads players, but Twitter, Instagram and others have developed video ads in the last year, as well.
Basically, advertisers now have the ability to combine TV commercials with digital-era targeting and relatively low costs. And paid social video is an outstanding way to test out potential TV content — how it resonates with your target demographics, which calls to action work best — before you blow a ton of money on a TV placement.
If you don’t have video assets yet, now is the time to develop them; the channel capabilities are viable now, and CPCs are only going up as more content gets pushed out.
Facebook Is Crushing It
Facebook can’t match a user’s intent in-the-moment as well as search can, but that’s nearly its only limitation these days.
It can do direct response better than ever, thanks to the introduction of carousel ads and video ads that take users off the platform and onto advertisers’ websites. Its conversion tracking is far more advanced than its competitors’, as is its conversion-optimized bidding. It’s also got mobile lead gen ads in the works that could bring tons of new businesses into the fold.
It’s great for retargeting, of course; Custom Audiences functionality has always led the paid social field in giving advertisers profitable ways to leverage first-party data. As far as brand awareness and mid-funnel effectiveness goes, its Lookalike Audiences feature has a big leg up on Twitter’s Similar Users: a bigger user base, which means a much wider reach. And it’s even beefed up customer support with live chat and quicker phone response time, which is a huge step forward.
Should you dump all of your paid social budget into Facebook? No. The other channels, particularly Twitter, have different audiences well worth reaching and inherent advantages worth testing. But there’s really no reason to ignore Facebook at this point, no matter how poorly its ads might have performed when you first tested them out.
Patience Is A Virtue With Twitter Campaigns
Fact: Twitter’s user data isn’t as good as Facebook’s (is anyone’s?). This has real targeting implications: Interests are inferred, demographics (including gender) are inferred, and so on. Out of the gate, you have to plan for more and faster campaign optimizations, since the initial targeting is going to be fuzzier and likely won’t perform as desired.
Our paid social team uses the following tactic in targeting: They make each campaign (whether it’s a user handle, hashtag or interest targeting) its own focus rather than lumping campaigns together, since the latter option limits your range of optimizations.
In any case, Twitter definitely has its strengths, especially for real-time event-based marketing, well-known brands and all things sports-related. But remember not to expect any campaign numbers to sparkle in the first few weeks; give your team time to roll up their sleeves and respond to the data before you make any big decisions on budget.
LinkedIn Has Its Appeal, But It’s Falling Behind
LinkedIn still has one huge advantage over its competitors: It lets advertisers target B2B decision makers on a business-oriented social publisher. But LinkedIn campaigns still regularly show inflated CPCs ($8–$9 is pretty typical), which means that CPAs have a long way to go to justify adoption in more brand marketing strategies.
LinkedIn has made some progress — an updated Campaign Manager, for one — but compared with its competitors, which have been introducing new ad types and targeting features at much higher frequencies, it has work to do to position itself to earn more marketing budget.
It’s Going To Get More Crowded
We’ve covered the big players in this post (Google+, we hardly knew ye), but make sure to keep your eye on a groundswell of second-tier options: Reddit, Instagram and Tumblr, to name a few. Those platforms are just beginning to explore advertising, from Reddit’s small-budget self-service platform to Tumblr’s sponsored posts.
We wouldn’t advise jumping on any of these just yet, as early adopters tend to double as guinea pigs who are paying platforms for the right to help them work out initial bugs. But we recommend that you put them on your radar.
The next emergent channel has already emerged, of course: Pinterest’s Buyable Pins are available to select retailers on a direct basis and to any retailer using Shopify or Demandware. Buyable Pins are a form of Promoted Pins (any brand can do Promoted Pins on a CPC model), and they’ve got a big advantage in that they combine social advantages with keyword-based intent. At 3Q Digital, we think Pinterest could be the most important new platform for many of our clients going forward.
If you only skimmed this post to the end, I’ll boil it down for you: mobile, video, full funnel, more budget. Even if you don’t have advanced attribution solutions in place that show just how valuable paid social is to your overall marketing strategy, a well-run campaign will be enough proof on its own.
Just make sure your team is aligning your goals with the right channels and ad types and testing promising new features as they become available — which, as we all know, is just about every week. Good luck!