17 Dec 2018
What does the future hold for social media advertising?
Social media advertising is BIG business.
Worldwide social media advertising revenues are forecast to top the 50 billion dollar mark in 2018. That’s more than $17.00 per global social media user. Better still, those numbers are almost certain to grow in the months and years to come. Such figures go a long way towards explaining why social media marketing budgets are expected to almost double in the next 5 years.
The question is; with user growth slowing and social media platforms already rife with advertisements, where will these additional advertising budgets go and what exactly will they be spent on?
To answer this we must look at the ongoing evolution of social media platforms, how their interfaces are changing, and how this is impacting user behavior.
Let’s take a look at what the future of social media will look like and where advertising will fit…
An evolving interface
As we have so clearly seen in the ongoing shift from desktop to mobile, the user-social platform interface is far from static. With new tools like augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and voice growing more powerful by the day, it’s a safe bet that the ways users access and interact with social media in 5 years time will bear little resemblance to the way they do today.
For brands, this means that resting on one’s social media ad laurels will soon be out of the question entirely. Adapting nimbly to changes in the user-social platform interface and early adoption of the technologies that interface is built upon is fast becoming a social media advertising imperative.
The future is dynamic
Gone are the days when a singular, carefully-crafted marketing message could be broadcast to the masses and cut the advertising mustard. Consumer expectations of brands and their ads have shifted significantly in recent years, and social media users have begun to demand a more personalized, custom-tailored social media advertising experience. With a plethora of adtech tools rushing in to help brands deliver more personalized and targeted social media ads, this trend shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Brands that are able to deliver dynamic, relevant ads to social media users will become an accepted part of the social media experience.
What’s to be done about data?
Funny thing about social media’s most effective adtech tools: they all require a steady stream of user data to do their jobs properly. As concerns about consumer data privacy continue to dominate the social media discussion, it is becoming clear that a workable compromise must be reached. If users demand a dynamic and relevant social media advertising experience (which they do), social media platforms require advertising revenues to keep coming in to make their businesses viable (which they do) and if advertisers require access to user data to make advertising on social platforms worthwhile (which they also do), finding a data privacy middle ground is crucial.
Once this middle ground is found, brands and advertisers will need to tread very carefully as they develop their social media advertising strategies. Brands will cross the fine line between relevant uses of user data and creepy Big Brother advertising behavior to their own detriment. Doing one’s own brand serious damage through the overzealous, creepy use of consumer data is becoming a dangerous possibility. Such approaches also represent a very real problem for the social media advertising industry as a whole – one which risks reopening the data privacy debate again and again.
Nobody wants that.
User experience is king
The social media advertising of the future is all about improving user experience. This simple fact cannot be stated enough. The rapid shift away from cable TV subscriptions and toward on-demand subscription video streaming services stands as testament. If the widespread integration of digital advertising into the social media user experience is to continue without alienating consumers, a positive user experience must always be the first priority.
While finding a workable ad revenue/user experience balance is indeed essential to the long-term viability of the social media marketing industry, it asks all stakeholders to err on the side of caution here. Testing the limits of user tolerance for disruptive advertising on social platforms is a fool’s errand (just ask MySpace). Social media platforms and the advertisers they work with will need to come together to protect the user experience, lest they drive audiences toward the shiny new alternatives that are almost certainly on their way to market at this very moment.
AI: your time is now
With vast troves of user data and advertising performance data on hand, and more pouring in by the day, the race to glean workable insights from it and build better social media advertising is heating up. Artificial intelligence optimized marketing has already produced awesome results for other digital marketing channels like email, and optimized social media ads are next.
The opportunity for brands to optimize their social media advertising using the massive data processing/analysis power of AI is very real. While AI is already a presence in the social media marketing realm, the truth is that brands and advertisers have only scratched the surface of what AI could truly accomplish. As useful problem-solving applications of AI technology become more widely adopted, it is only a matter of time until artificial intelligence goes from social media advertising “nice to have” to absolute social media advertising essential.
Remember journeys to purchase?
While digital advertising and eCommerce have come a very long way in the past few years, the one nut no brand or advertiser has yet cracked is the clumsy, meandering journey from ad impression to purchase. There are companies hard at work at this very moment to make digital journeys to purchase smoother, more efficient, and more convenient for the social media user, and it’s only a matter of time until they do.
The day when a social media ad can generate a purchase entirely with a single swipe or click of the mouse is coming sooner than you think. What’s more, the purchases that are made in this way could be arriving at consumers’ doors in a matter of hours (if not minutes). With Amazon leading the charge, the way commerce is done (and social media’s role within it) is going to change in ways few can imagine. The “digital journey to purchase” could very well become a phrase as antiquated as “dial-up internet access” before the decade is done.
Get out your wallets
Guess what: as social media advertising becomes more ubiquitous, and as the targeting/personalization tools offered by social media platforms become more powerful and effective, demand for advertising space on social platforms is going to grow. As I said before, user experience is king, and protecting user experience means that you can only cram so much advertising into any user’s newsfeed. As demand for ad space grows and supply remains stagnant, the immutable universal law of supply and demand will come into play. Social media advertising space is going to become more valuable in the years to come. A lot more valuable.
Reaching your target audience using social advertising is about to get more expensive, and brands need to prepare themselves for this new reality. The fact is that as the costs associated with advertising on your channel of choice goes up, the imperative to make sure the ads your brand is broadcasting are as effective as possible will become more urgent. At current rates, increasing engagement by simply broadcasting more social media ads remains an effective strategy, but it won’t be for long. More social media advertising will soon be replaced by better social media advertising, and that’s largely a good thing for everyone involved. Brands looking for ways to optimise their social media advertising investment have some rather impressive tools at their fingertips these days. British discount site Wowcher reduced its cost per lead by a full 31% recently by implementing AI language optimization into its social media ad strategy.
For brands prepared to invest in developing a more comprehensive and efficient social media advertising strategy, rising social ad space costs should present no major obstacle at all.