As 2014 winds down, there have already been dozens and dozens of “top trends for 2015” articles and blog posts attempting to predict what will be big in the social space next year: from paid, to content, to video, to measurement. And while this piece is in the same vein of those other valuable and informational pieces, what I want to talk about isn’t just “trends” for trends’ sake. These are some key considerations for social media marketing that should be kept top of mind as you’re doing 2015 planning and beyond.
1. Having a Core Measurement Strategy Will make things a lot easier
With the 24/7/365 rapid evolution of social media platform functionality, paid targeting capabilities, user content consumption behavior, etc., measurement, reporting and analysis to gain actionable insights and actually track success can sometimes unintentionally tack a back seat to execution. But social media is a channel that should be viewed just as any other paid/owned/earned outlet from which you would apply core goals, objectives, KPIs and metrics to, from a long-term lens. Are you trying to build awareness? Increase conversions? Increase engagement? All of the above?
Whatever the case may be, these are different things that need to be addressed specifically, per the unique functionality, audience and metrics of the diverse social media ecosystem. So actually documenting these core elements in a structured framework is the first step to ensuring that you can steer yourself and your team on the right path, as well as hold yourself and your partners accountable to whatever the business goals and eventual “success” may be. This is also something that should be considered dynamic and expected to be revisited and tweaked depending on its viability. Google offers some nice building blocks into looking at these fundamental measurement factors that are worth checking out.
2. paid investment should be a standard best practice, for brand and performance objectives alike
You’ve seen all the headlines about Facebook’s reach decline over the past year-plus. We’ve also covered it thoroughly. The data is compelling, but there’s still differing opinions to the true origin of the trend. Some marketers have been gathering their pitchforks as they see it as Facebook forcing marketers to “pay to play,” while Facebook has publicly denounced that assertion with the alternative explanation that it’s a combo platter of its News Feed algorithm tweaks to increase relevancy and personalization, plus an increase in content clutter from brands. It’s probably both. However, it doesn’t change the fact that investing in paid media to amplify the visibility of content to whatever audience segments you are looking to reach is now a standard best practice, per its cost efficiency and ever-advancing targeting and tracking capabilities. This is true of all social platforms that provide paid offerings (Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.); albeit there’s a sliding scale in terms of sophistication, tracking and accessibility.
The planning and application of your paid social approach should be totally dependent on addressing consideration #1, as that would dictate the structure and execution of your campaigns, and allow you to measure and examine not only the performance differentiation between paid and organic content on social (brand–>awareness/engagement), but also the other digital paid outlets you’re investing in that are more DR-focused (performance—>conversions/revenue). And sometimes both can be addressed at once. For campaigns that we have conversion tracking in place for, even if the post or tweet is meant for “amplification only” to address brand awareness, we’re still tracking it to be able to attribute any conversions or revenue that its able to indirectly drive, further validating its impact and yours.
3. YouTube is Still King, But the social video ecosystem is becoming crowded with alternative opportunities
YouTube is almost always the default video hub for brands and it almost always should be: it’s free to use, has unparalleled reach, features integration with Google’s other services and thus has the search equity benefit. Not only that, but it’s video advertising offerings are a force to be reckoned with in the video ad space. But over the last year or so, Facebook (including Instagram) and Twitter have been investing heavily in video capabilities for content and paid advertising. Facebook for instance, is the clear example of a competing platform trying to challenge YouTube’s reign. From the organic side, there’s the recent News Feed algorithm update that now takes into account video consumption metrics: avg. % viewed, paid/organic completion breakdown, etc. (see some more of the metrics here). That is, however, ONLY available for videos that are uploaded to Facebook’s native player. Any other video link you share will only be able to attribute standard post engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares).
In addition, I’ve had trouble recently sharing YouTube links via brand pages, with the player improperly embedding so it prevents playing within the Facebook post itself (in the News Feed). I’ve yet to see any complaints about this in the industry, but I’m going to continue to do some testing. Anyway, this is a two-pronged approach by Facebook to entice marketers via enhanced video measurement, as well as restrict abilities with distributing YouTube links so that we, perhaps, consider using its native video player as an alternative solution for asset hosting and distribution. And then of course there’s the video ads roll-out from early this year that made waves and has now become an increasing staple of its advertising offerings. Solid performance, instant feedback and increase in marketer interest is what why Sheryl Sandberg is “really optimistic over the long run” about Facebook’s video potential and growth.
And while Facebook is the most immediate threat to YouTube and alternative opportunity to marketers, Twitter and Instagram (well, Facebook again) are no slouches and have both made big strides to incorporate video into advertising capabilities. I’m a huge movie nerd and have noticed studios like Universal, Warner Bros. and Paramount leveraging a multi-channel approach for distributing and amplifying teasers, trailers and clips. Just a couple weeks ago, Universal dropped the new Jurassic World trailer online on four different channels, leveraging each respective video player: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook (above) and Twitter (below).
— #JurassicWorld (@JurassicPark) November 25, 2014
But not everyone has the asset luxury of a movie studio. So, would you launch your new video campaign on Facebook or Twitter instead of YouTube? It depends. It depends on your audience, your social equity within those channels and any number of other factors. But the point is that these other big social players understand the importance of having a strong video component to their platforms and are making adjustments to provide marketers with an array of options, which is a good thing, and something that you should consider in 2015.