Consumers scroll through hundreds of feet of content per day in their social news feeds, not to mention the amount of content they take in from television, display media across the internet, email, out of home advertising and so on. When it comes to social media, many brands’ ads sit right there in the consumer’s feed, competing not just with their standard competitors or even other unrelated brands, but also with content from that individual’s colleagues, family, friends and other interests.
Today we talk a lot about the attention economy, and thus brands are competing for attention. The best way to get, keep and foster that attention is through the right content. In social media specifically, we know that when all is created equal, content or creative is the most powerful optimization lever.
We also know that the social platforms’ algorithms and auctions begin to rate and rank the content before any consumer ever sees it or engages with it, if at all. For those who may be familiar, it is similar to the concept of a quality score in paid search advertising. Therefore, the creative can’t just meet content best practices or paid social best practices around ad units; it has to be data-informed and media-led in a way that ensures that historical performance and what is known about the auction and the algorithms are used in the development of the content.
The days of repurposing display creative, television commercials or a photo of a cat with your product as creative for your social campaigns are long gone. But the answer isn’t a targeting hack that features your consumer’s name on a T-shirt, either. Oftentimes the idea that social media targeting can be hyper-granular, and the industry’s emphasis on personalization as whole leads brands to think that a hyper-targeting and nearly-creepy-level of personalization is the answer, but it isn’t.
The answer is to begin with the below considerations, layering in brand-specific best practices and always adding in any updates to algorithms and auctions.
First, the creative needs to be designed to meet the specifications of the ad units (sometimes referred to as ad formats) that are best for that campaign. There are more than 175 different ad units across the social platforms, and each type is designed to drive specific user behaviors. A variety of ad units should be tested by objective as an optimization lever.
A phrase that Facebook started to use a few years ago has caught on in this space. The idea that we as consumers scroll through hundreds of feet of content per day, and thus the creative has to cause the consumer to stop. The creative does this by playing users’ thumbs on the screen to stop the scroll, take it in and hopefully take the desired action. To do this, we’ve seen success with incorporating motion and vivid aesthetic, as two examples. Adding subtle motion to existing assets can achieve this with little production resources needed.
When sub-segments of a brand’s target audience have distinct uses, needs or applications of a product or service, it may warrant separate messaging and/or creative. The important thing is to segment when it’s smart, remembering scalability of budgets for media efficiency and the need to isolate variables as much as possible when engaged in testing.
If brands aren’t taking into consideration the auctions and algorithms when it comes to content and creative production, paid campaigns are at a disservice before they even launch. Therefore, it’s integral to think about the above considerations, stop using media from other channels to populate social (without at least editing!) and to remember to keep all media, including creative, accountable to the same KPIs that drive business results.