2013 saw some major changes in the social media sector. New platforms sprung up, more ad types emerged and all networks increased their efforts at monetisation.
So what has 2014 got in store for us marketers? We've put together a list of 5 social media advertising trends that are bound to have an impact on the industry.
The shift to mobile is already well under way. 80% of Twitter users access the platform through mobile, while 74% of Facebook users have installed its mobile app and 50% access Facebook exclusively through their phones.
A recent study by Marin on Facebook advertising found that:
2014 will be the year when localisation is added to the mix. Advertisers can already target Twitter users based on US Zip Code. And Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Hootsuite, argues that geofencing will go mainstream.
According to eMarketer, advertisers in North America will spend $32.82 per social network user in 2014. This ~20% increase compared to last year is also reflected in the budgets of advertisers in other regions.
After the second half of last year, Facebook changed its algorithms to decrease the organic reach of Facebook page posts. According to a recent study by Komfo that surveyed data from 5000 pages, this has led to a substantial, 42% drop in fan penetration since August. Businesses that want their ads to be seen by a large amount of users now need to "pay to play".
Twitter successfully completed their IPO in November and with it a came strengthened focus on extending their advertising offering. As well as opening up its self serve platform to small and medium sized businesses outside the US, Twitter introduced a number of new ad types (such as Twitter Lead cards) and targeting options.
In addition, social media advertising continues to go visual: Last year saw the rise of Twitter's Vine app and a more visual focus for the platform, as
images are now displayed by default. Following the visual trend, Facebook has recently announced the introduction of auto-play video ads .
At the same time, advertising has become more subtle: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all developed promoted content adverts that blend in with organic content, which has boosted click through and engagement rates. And at the end of last year, Pinterest and Instagram have both started rolling out their own in-line adverts.
Until now, advertisers have been able to reach the users of social networks only from within a platform. 2014 may be the year when Twitter, Google+ and Facebook go one step further and create ad exchange services that will enable businesses to display their adverts across the internet.
Joop Crijk points out that the main social networks already collect valuable engagement data about users visiting third party websites through the Facebook Like, Google+ and Twitter Tweet buttons. This information can then be used to target users with ads when they are off-platform.
The targeting of such off-site social ads will likely be much more precise compared to current display ads, since social networks continue to collect data on logged-in users across the web through their cookies.
Google+ has taken the first step and is currently running a closed Beta program for a new ad type called +Post ads that lets advertisers promote their posts across its display network.
2013 was the year when the value of advertising on social media became widely recognised, and when social media platforms doubled down on their marketing to small and medium sized businesses.
However, not enough solutions exist for advertisers with modest budgets that enable them to manage and optimise multi-channel marketing campaigns. We predict that 2014 will be the year when the kind of marketing technology that has so far been available only for enterprise clients will go mainstream.