Once upon a time, “Westward, Ho!” defined where the U.S. population – and with it, the U.S. economy – was heading.
Today, “Social, Ho!” hasn’t yet become a watchword, but the advertising industry may have to come up with one. As Americans spend increasing daily minutes and hours on social media, advertisers are spending increasing dollars to be right there with them. But just as settlers heading West in the 1800s were venturing into rich but uncharted territory, brands are staking their ad dollars in a still-new and largely uncharted media terrain. They know they need to be in social media, but they’re still struggling to understand what makes a good social media ad. And metrics that show how well those ads are performing remain elusive. But read on, and you’ll see that effective solutions for mobile social ad testing and mobile ad metrics are in reach.
First, here’s how high the stakes are:
- The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that 2016 spending on social ads totaled $16.3 billion in 2016, up 50% over 2015. The lion’s share of those ads were seen on the mobile apps that U.S. consumers overwhelmingly favor as portals to their social accounts.
- So far this year, advertising’s turn to social shows no signs of slowing. In an article on the latest figures from Standard Media Index (SMI), which tracks ad spending, MediaPost reports that social media “showed soaring 55% gains” in the second quarter of 2017.
- That’s on top of “robust” growth of 25.9% in the first quarter.
- Social is soaking up spending previously devoted to other U.S. ad channels. Second quarter growth in overall ad spending was just 3.8%, according to SMI, after 2.8% growth in Q1 – which was the slowest first-quarter growth rate since 2011.
So yes — “Social Ho!” works as a two-word catchphrase for what’s happening in 21st century media.
But the latest SMI figures also underscore the uncharted nature of social media advertising, and the uncertainties that result. Social media video advertising, including YouTube and Facebook, “sank an eye-opening 15%” during the second quarter. MediaPost attributes the decline to “brand safety concerns, along with some measurement issues.”
The brand safety concerns arise from automated placement that sometimes embeds a brand’s social advertising alongside incompatible or objectionable content. And measurement has been a puzzle as advertisers search for ways to understand how well social ads generate awareness and drive interest when they land in consumers’ social media news feeds.
Like social media itself, In-app mobile research has matured and taken hold in the 2010s, with social and mobile both driven by the rising dominance of the smartphone. Now newly-developed mobile research capabilities are finally allowing advertisers to fill in the blanks as they seek ways to optimize social media campaigns and measure their effectiveness.
One breakthrough involves testing social media ads in the best way possible – by injecting them into the actual personal news feeds where those ads will be appear after the campaign is officially launched. Advertisers can test and hone their concepts with panel members who fit the audience for their brand or product, using a process that collects passive data that reflects awareness and interaction with an add, and then surveys ad recipients for detailed, qualitative insights into what’s working or not working.
For measurement after an ad campaign is launched, advertisers can now learn which mobile consumers are receiving the ad on their phones, and determine whether these validated recipients fit the audience profile the advertiser is paying to reach. There’s also an opportunity to send verified ad recipients a mobile survey for whatever further insights a researcher may need.
The takeaway is that “Social Ho!” and “Mobile Ho!” are no longer calls to venture into uncharted country. Now advertisers have a map they can follow to understand how their concepts and content are faring along the rich frontier of social media and the mobile devices. To learn more, just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.