Commentary

The Facebook Train Keeps A-Rollin'

When it comes to advertising revenue, it seems like nothing can derail the Facebook train. Despite the issues of election interference spanning from Russia to Cambridge, advertisers around the world remain committed to the platform.

In our latest State of Media report, we saw global ad spend on Facebook rise 62% in Q1 versus the same period last year. Meanwhile, Instagram was up 136%. In the weeks before and after the latest scandal was revealed, there was continued increase in investment in Facebook, both week-over-week and year-over-year.

Looking ahead, it seems the opportunity for Facebook advertisers will only accelerate. But that doesn’t mean marketers will or should throw budgets into the platform blindly. Facebook’s PR crisis has shed light on some important areas. Here’s what brands and agencies should focus on so they don’t get left behind at the station.

Data Data Data!
Recent developments have brought a renewed focus on data management practices, just in time for GDPR. Facebook shutting down Partner Categories now puts the onus on brands to use other compliant ways to do advanced audience targeting.

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There’s no question that more clear consent will provide a stronger foundation for customer experience.

With further granularity, David Marks, paid social advertising manager at Smile Direct Club, expects to see “more personalization, stronger retargeting, and a focus on keeping people in-app to take actions” — for example, Facebook ads can book an appointment or reservation.

A Brave New Formatting World
New ad formats will also give marketers additional ways to optimize Facebook investments. As Mara Greenwald, media director at Performics, suggests, “We will see more products directly integrated in ad units (think the expansion of Collection to Instagram), more retail integrations cross-channel (the recent Instagram Shopping international rollout), and more ways to buy without leaving the ad experience.”

Clearly, there’s big opportunity with artificial intelligence (AI). Imagine if WhatsApp or Messenger were monetized not with ads but with AI agents completing requests, including commercial queries fulfilled by brands. Along these lines, Kate DuBois, general manager at Edelman, is “advising clients to look at applications of AI technology to better to connect to their customers or potential new customers, or how to improve their existing content across platforms.”

Two more innovative formats grabbing attention are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As Daryl Blanco, SVP, Performance Services at Zenith, comments, “The ability to engage with a virtual brand experience such as visualizing furniture in a home should increase as smartphone technology evolves.” Facebook already owns Oculus so there’s firm footing in VR, and AR is the perfect complement with lightweight functionality accessible through Instagram Stories.

Experience Over Everything
At the end of the day, the key is delivering experiences audiences want across all channels and devices. As ever, advertisers need to use tools that can extract audience insights from Facebook’s walled garden and make them actionable for cross-screen marketing.

The imperative to use social data as fuel for audience intelligence applies to all sectors and has implications beyond advertising. Stacie Levy, global director of content strategy and integration at Kerry, says, “Food companies can leverage social consumer insights to influence product development opportunities like finding keywords and phrases to include on packaging, ideate local market flavor preferences, and more.”

So as we look ahead, there’s no overlooking Facebook as a core component of marketing plans seeking return from investment on advertising and analytics. With that in mind, when we look back in a few years, we’ll characterize this period as a mere pit stop while the Facebook train kept a-rollin’.

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