Social Success Story

The rapid growth of social media usage on mobile has become abundantly clear recently. Just looking at Facebook alone, 751m of its users worldwide (around two-thirds of its total user base) now log in to the social network via their mobile phone. In its latest set of results for Q2 2013, Facebook reported that mobile accounted for 41 per cent of its total ad revenue for the quarter, ($656m) compared to 30 per cent ($375m) in Q1 2013.

The attraction of social networks for advertisers is their scalability and the wealth of user data they contain. Facebook and Twitter not only have huge user numbers, but also extensive databases. They provide a rich seam of personal data on consumers – their likes, dislikes, preferences, and interests. Combine this with the convenience and always-on connectivity of the mobile phone, and brands have a huge opportunity to personally engage with specific audiences with relevant, context-aware ads and content.

We’ve already seen extremely positive results via Facebook-based mobile ads, mainly with direct response app acquisition campaigns that quickly and easily take a user from their newsfeed to the app store, to install a new app on their mobile phone.
Facebook-based mobile banner ads now outperform standard mobile ads. In its set of online ad performance metrics announced earlier this year, DG MediaMind reported an 0.88 per cent average clickthrough rate for mobile banner ads. In contrast, one of Facebook’s partners recently reported that Facebook’s mobile newsfeed-based “Sponsored Stories” ads generate an impressive 1.14 per cent clickthrough rate.

Valuable channel
Facebook is not the only social network where mobile ads are flourishing. Twitter also represents a valuable mobile channel for advertisers to reach with consumers using timely, contextual ads and content. According to a June 2013 report by Business Insider Intelligence, Twitter’s mobile ad revenue now exceeds its revenue from desktop advertising.

To sustain this growth, Twitter has expanded its mobile advertising offering. This includes a move to harness the so-called “dual screen” phenomenon, in which consumers interact with others via social media on their phone or tablet whilst watching TV. New Twitter mobile ad features identify consumers who will have seen a brand’s ads on TV during a programme which they’re tweeting about. Twitter then provides the means for the brand to engage with these viewers with targeted messages and content.

One unique feature that mobile offers ahead of other advertising channels is location. Technologies like GPS, geo-fencing and network triangulation allow brands and advertisers to engage with consumers via their mobile, not only on the basis of their demographic date, previous browsing behaviour or recent purchases, but also according to where they are with their phone at any one time.

Video, too, is playing an increasingly important role in mobile advertising on social networks. The recent launch of 15 second video publishing by Facebook-owned Instagram comes just a few months after Twitter introduced mobile video-sharing capability via Vine. Instagram Video and Vine allow consumers to shoot and share short video clips direct from their smartphones. It is of little coincidence that Instagram Video is 15 seconds in length because that’s the perfect length for advertisers to fit in existing pre-roll video that they have made for other ad formats.

The roll-out of both these services suggests that social networks are increasingly a means for mobile users to share from their phone multimedia content, rather than simply text updates. This has not gone unnoticed by mobile marketers.
Brands are willing to pay more for video ads over display ones, which is good news for the likes of parent companies Facebook and Twitter. However, the social networks and their brand and agency partners face the common challenge of where and how to place ads and branded content (including video) within consumers’ social feeds in a way that produces positive engagement.

Happy medium
Importantly, they must find a happy medium and avoid flooding consumers’ smartphone screens with too much branded content. By potentially intruding on the mobile experience in this way, all parties risk alienating and driving consumers away from using social media on their mobile device. The best way to counter this will be with relevance and utilising the sophisticated data that they have access to in order to better serve advertising to consumers.

As social networks, brands and advertisers alike look to maximise the potential of the mobile channel, they must understand how to create long-term mobile campaigns that are efficient and targeted, and which use the different formats and variables available – display ads, branded content, video clips, location – in a way that is non-intrusive for the user.

A key part of this process involves the networks opening up their inventories for real-time bidding. This, in turn, will enable brands and advertisers to properly apply the new ad tools and services that are emerging in the mobile space – specifically demand side platforms.

So far mobile social advertising has been largely focused on direct response campaigns and user acquisition for mobile apps. As other social networks follow Facebook and Twitter’s lead and migrate to mobile, companies and brands should consider how they can use these networks for sustained brand awareness campaigns that engage and interact effectively with consumers on an ongoing basis.


James Hilton is Global CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile