The past year has brought about major changes to social platforms from Instagram Stories to Facebook Live to Snapchat Discover. Competition in the space is heating up as platforms work to match each other feature-for-feature while working to outpace each other in the process. The social space at the beginning of 2017 is very different than it was at the beginning of 2016, and you can be sure 2018 will be no different.
Still, many marketers have yet to experiment with many of these new features. Maybe because it’s risky. But there’s a risk in not experimenting. That risk is being left behind. After all, Facebook plans to be all video in the next five years. Marketers have to try because we’ve seen them—the brands that are still looking at social and digital like it’s 2011.
This doesn’t mean experiment for the sake of experimenting. It means being smart, moving deliberately and choosing your experiments and what you hope to learn from them strategically.
There isn’t a brand out there that isn’t trying to get its message out into the world (obviously), but the message is just the beginning. The experience after the message is what makes the message pay off. It’s what turns interest into loyalty, one-off purchases into regular ones, brand detractors into brand advocates. The experience is what makes the work and the investment in the message worth it, and brands are taking notice. 73% of brands are “working towards delivering cohesive customer experiences, rather than standalone campaigns or interactions."
In an era of tech proliferation, we have a lot, but one thing becoming increasingly scarce is attention to spare. For marketers, reach is one thing, but getting people to pay attention when they tell their stories is an entirely different ball game where relevance is everything.
Relevance is a loaded term. It conjures up eye rolls and is easy to dismiss, but when it comes down to it, it’s about what advertising has always been about, making a message relevant to a consumer’s life and current mindset. The challenge now is lifestyles are more diverse and mindsets shift on a minute-by-minute basis. But understanding what is on a large segment of the population’s mind is easier than ever if we pay attention.
What is Facebook anymore? It’s hard to say. It’s a lot like asking what is Google or Microsoft or even GE. It’s a giant company, supported by advertising. That’s inarguable, but Facebooks is something beyond that. It’s a series of experiments.
The social network is constantly tweaking the formula and trying to find new ways to encourage people to share, and this experimentation is supported by its flagship platforms: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and now, more than ever, Messenger. Behind all of these is a series of apps that Facebook launched and then learned from.
Facebook is now working very hard to build deeper relationships with publishers, especially after making updates to its News Feed algorithm to feature high-quality timely content. Facebook's offering publishers a more optimal user experience, built for mobile with faster loading times, if they start publishing content that lives within Facebook's mobile app and is then hosted on Facebook's servers. Publishers would then be able to serve ads sold by Facebook with shared revenue. Instead of driving to their websites, they'd create content to keep users on Facebook.
That is quite the offer. Facebook has become the preeminent news source for millions of people. It brings 1.3 billion users to brands, publishers, celebrities and anyone else who wants to get a message out there. This paired with Facebook users' strong mobile usage and Facebook's mastery of user experience clearly make it an attractive platform for investing time, energy and, of course, dollars.
All of this raises questions for advertisers as well as publishers when they look at the role of any platform they use to reach their audiences be it Facebook, Twitter, a microsite, a blog or anything else. Who owns the relationship? What is the end game? Who ultimately has control of the data?
There's always been more than one way to solve a problem, and today most businesses are equipped themselves or through their agencies to approach modern advertising challenges from two fronts: data and creative.
Too often the solution chosen is one or the other. We like to solve problems based on what we know and feel we're best at. Unfortunately, both solutions are likely to fail when challenged to stand on their own. Data won't save bad creative and ideas, and great creative and ideas can't save a poor use of data in a world where standing out amidst a deluge of content is seemingly impossible.
But when creative and technologically-driven data are combined, truly meaningful brand experiences that aren't only beautiful and emotional but are also experiences designed to maximize success and target the right people become possible.