New products and advances in social advertising continue apace in 2016, offering exciting new options for advertisers.
Let’s look at some of the biggest social advertising stories of February, starting with Facebook.
TechCrunch reports that Facebook advertisers will be able to send ads to people who initiate a chat thread with the advertiser’s company. Facebook is recommending that businesses encourage consumers to initiate message threads with them so they’ll have this opportunity once the feature launches. The company also launched a URL short link (fb.com/msg/) so users can instantly open a chat thread with an advertiser.
Mobile users react negatively when mobile video ads play loudly without warning. It’s one reason mobile advertisers are encouraged to create video stories that don’t require sound. Facebook now offers automated captions for advertising. Captioned ads increase view time by around 12%, and now a new tool will make video captioning automatic, allowing advertisers to review captions before saving them to their ads.
College students speaking out against terrorist propaganda will now have access to limited free advertising on Facebook. This is an entirely new use for social advertising, and it’s a product of collaboration with the State Department. Ad credits are provided to college students around the world, and test cases measuring reach of these counter-terrorist messages have demonstrated encouraging results.
Canvas, Facebook’s new mobile ad experience, shows ads as sponsored posts in newsfeeds. When a user taps the post, they aren’t taken to an external site, but to a custom Facebook-hosted page where they can scroll and flip through original content. It’s optimized for mobile and made to load faster than other mobile ad options on Facebook. Canvas ads are designed to be immersive and should help brands break through clutter on newsfeeds.
Instagram videos used to only be measured in terms of comments and “hearts,” but now the platform will start counting video views of 3 seconds or more to help advertisers learn how many people watch their video content. Unlike Vine videos, which play automatically wherever they’re posted on Twitter, Instagram clips only play automatically in the app, with desktop users having to click to view.
Instagram advertising has been open to all advertisers for less than half a year, but in that time, more than 200,000 brands have purchased ads. Currently, around 75% of advertisers are located outside the US, and they hope to reach Instagram’s growing user base, which now exceeds 400 million users. Twitter, by comparison, has 320 million users and 130,000 advertisers.
Until recently, social advertising on Instagram was limited to 30-second video ads. Now, however, 60-second video ads are available. To absorb some of the dollars shifting from television to digital ad spending, Instagram has concluded it can’t force advertisers into proprietary lengths and formats. It means longer-form ads produced for TV or YouTube can now be used on Instagram as well.
Twitter is a major channel for customer service, and now the platform is making it easier for brands to encourage private direct messaging for customers with service issues. Businesses add a deep link in their Tweets that allow customers to DM them easily. A new Customer Feedback initiative will enable people to provide private feedback with businesses after having a service interaction on Twitter.
Twitter recently introduced a modified timeline that features Tweets important to individual users (i.e. the accounts they follow) at the top, followed by the traditional reverse-chronological feed. Users have the option to turn this off, but the new format will be the default. Early studies have found that people using the new newsfeed format Tweet and Retweet more, engaging more with brands’ organic Twitter content and live event information.
First View empowers social advertising with phenomenal reach on Twitter, letting brands “own” the top video ad slot on timelines for a 24-hour period. First View is initially being rolled out to Twitter’s managed clients in the United States, with plans to expand the option globally later. Managed clients can contact their Twitter account team to explore this new option.
Year-over-year growth in Twitter advertising revenues reached 48% in the fourth quarter of 2015, and mobile ads accounted for the vast majority of that increase. Most of Twitter’s ad revenue came from ads shown on Twitter’s site and apps. However, Twitter also sells ads on other properties through its mobile ad exchange. This off-Twitter ad revenue added up to $85 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Big budget Super Bowl ads on Twitter were allowed to use custom emojis in their advertising campaigns this year. Only advertisers that spent $1 million or more were offered this option, which assigned a custom emoji whenever someone on Twitter used certain designated hashtags. How well they fared is still unclear, due to their being (in some cases), difficult to interpret due to their small size.
Pinterest’s new head of global sales, Jon Kaplan, was vice president for the Americas at Google for the past 12 years. This new ad boss follows Pinterest’s statements that it wants to narrow its ad focus, directly servicing advertisers only in retail and consumer packaged goods. Other categories can still advertise on Pinterest, but they’ll have to do so without direct input from Pinterest’s advertising team.
Snapchat now allows custom geofilters, which are little highlights people can add to their snaps containing the name of their city or neighborhood. Hundreds of millions of photos with geofilters are viewed each day, and now they can be customized further. For example, a business launching a product can create a custom geofilter showing precisely where people can obtain that new product.
The first Snapchat ads, which showed up in January 2015, cost a minimum of $750,000, but those rates have dropped significantly as the platform has rolled out additional social advertising options. Traditional video ads are now available, as are sponsorships of Live Stories. Today Live stories, which are 30-second videos, cost around $250,000.
Viacom is using some of its cable TV fortune to partner with Snapchat and sell social advertising on Snapchat’s behalf. Viacom owns Comedy Central and MTV, and Snapchat already carries content for these properties. Snapchat hopes to draw more major advertisers to its platform, while Viacom wants to build up its ad sales chops and deflect some attention away from softening TV ratings.
Mobile app install ads are now an option on Snapchat. The first one was a short video ad promoting a game called Cookie Jam that was presented in iHeartRadio’s Discover channel. It was a shorter version of a 30-second Cookie Jam ad that aired on television last year. At the bottom of these ads, users see copy reading “app store” that allows swiping up to download the app without ever leaving Snapchat.
Want to stay up to date on the stuff that’s more under-the-radar? Every Sunday night, we ship out 5-6 stories from the week prior that you may have missed and could benefit from knowing about.
No major Facebook headlines, no big Twitter news – you can find that in everyone else’s newsletters.