Why social media is so attractive for advertisers heading into 2016

Social media is no longer the new kid on the marketing block. And, it has firmly assumed the rank of an essential channel for B2C and B2B marketers alike.

One of the biggest changes in social media marketing this past year has been its emergence as a major player for advertising dollars. Where social media was once seen as almost a performance-metric free zone that marketers engaged with almost out of a fear of missing out, it’s now a marketing channel that delivers highly targeted audiences, innovative ad formats and a wide range of measurements depending on the social venue serving the ad.

But why is social media attractive for advertising?

Social media platforms have grown to be seen as a way to directly reach customers and prospects, a place to monitor conversations about brands, and as a great way to distribute links to content marketing and otherwise drive traffic to websites and landing pages. 

According to Pew Research, 65% of all adults use social media. An infographic from Socially Aware pieced together some eye-catching stats on social media marketing that would make any hesitant advertiser think twice:

  • U.S. marketers spent $7.52 billion on social media marketing in 2014;
  • Marketing execs planned on spending 13.2% of their budgets on social media this year;
  • Sixty-six percent of companies have a dedicated social media team;
  • And in a $137.53 billion global digital ad pie, $16.1 billion was spent on social media last year, a 45% increase over 2013.

Social media spending is on the rise, and the mobile video ad trend is sure to push that figure even higher this year. 

Facebook and Instagram

Facebook and Instagram get lumped together because they share Facebook’s advertising platform, a favorable feature for marketers looking to run campaigns across both user bases.

This year Facebook made a concentrated effort to emphasize video on its users’ news feeds so it should come as no surprise it also rolled out a number of video advertising options. In September. it rolled out 360-degree video and last month six advertisers including AT&T, Disney World Resort and Samsung began testing the format. In August, Facebook began selling autoplay video ads through third-party apps via its Facebook Audience Network. It also began testing “immersive experiences” video ads this fall that offer advertisers the entire mobile screens with content, full screen video and interactive elements.

If you wonder why Facebook is testing and offering so many different video ad options, it earned almost $3 billion in mobile ads in the second quarter alone. It also boasts 2.5 million advertisers, and 1.5 billion users.

This fall during Advertising Week in New York, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg touted the ability to personalize ads on mobile and through targeting on Facebook. "What people are starting to understand is that what we offer is really broad reach — we have a Super Bowl on mobile every day," she said.

Instagram hasn’t been left out of the video ad bonanza.

The social photo-sharing app has 400 million monthly active users (more than Twitter) and even has something of leg up over its parent company in that video ads on the platform are seen as a bargain with ads costing as low as $0.02 per view, compared to YouTube’s ten cents for pre-roll video ads. Instagram has also found a way to lure print-focused luxury fashion brands to digital. In fact, beauty and fashion brands have flocked to Instagram, which has visual ad products, like carousel ads, that offer retail marketers an artistic space to show off their products.


Snapchat is on an advertising roll, even though it has gained a reputation of being difficult for marketers to work with in terms of lack of targeting and measurement. The messaging app is also known for charging for video ads that are “viewed” for less than a second.

But Snapchat holds something of a trump card for advertisers – a highly desirable and engaged user base of mostly millennials and Gen Z.

Snapchat has a Discover portal of a select group of publishers that have to play by Snapchat’s rules in selling ad units, but offers a way for marketers to reach Snapchat users. And the platform has been expanding its advertising options, most recently with “sponsored lenses.” Twentieth Century Fox was the first company to purchase a sponsored lens to promote “The Peanuts Movie” with a 24-hour campaign that ran on Halloween. Apple’s Beats was the first consumer brand to run a sponsored lens campaign.

As part of the concessions Snapchat has made to marketers, it is finally allowing publishers to link to content outside of the app. It also recently offered marketers a limited targeted ability around Discover content with “audience bundles” packages that place ads in content across Discover publishers according to specific themes such as entertainment.

And with a video traffic spike, Snapchat is looking to zoom past Facebook. At six billion video views daily, Snapchat is closing in on Facebook’s eight billion daily video views.


Twitter is the second-most popular social media platform among marketers with 77% of B2C and 83% of B2B marketers active on the network. Similar to Facebook, the micro-blogging site has been actively adding video ad options to its advertising units. In August, it began selling autoplay video ads in third-party apps and in October, it began testing in-app native video ads through MoPub, its in-app ad network.

Twitter also improved marketers' targeting and performance measurement by adding events to its targeting mix, and offering conversion metrics to its ad performance reports.

The social platform went through a rough couple of months after former CEO Dick Costolo departed the company early this summer, but finally elected Co-Founder Jack Dorsey as permanent CEO in October. Dorsey came in ready to help Twitter combat its biggest challenges: user growth and ad sales.

A day after naming Jack Dorsey as its new permanent CEO, Twitter launched the long-awaited curated news feature "Moments." Shortly thereafter, Twitter unveiled Promoted Moments, which gives marketers a channel for 24 hours to curate tweets, video and other content.

About the new ad feature, Matt Derella, Twitter’s vice president of revenue for North America, told Bloomberg, "The real estate [brands] get is going to be really prominently displayed."


Pinterest, the picture curating platform, is one social media platform that is struggling a bit to find its advertising footing. It added buyable pins, a feature that marketers wanted to make it easier for its users to make purchases when they found something they liked, but at least for one brand running a promoted pin campaign turned into a reason to drop Pinterest altogether.

Beauty brand Elizabeth Arden had been active posting to Pinterest, but after a promoted pin campaign resulted in only a couple of repins per post compared to Instagram images that garnered hundreds of “likes,” the brand decided to stop posting to Pinterest. And research from ChannelAdvisor found Pinterest trailed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in sales conversions.

Advertising on social media

One advantage marketers have when advertising on social media is a high degree of targeting (with Snapchat being an exception right now) that taps into first-party data collected by the platform on its users and their behavior. Often social media ad campaigns offer a fairly cost effective way to reach these audiences. And, beyond fine-tuned targeting, sometimes the user base itself becomes the target, such as Snapchat’s millennial and Gen Z audience and Imgur’s millennial male user base.

Social is one area worth pursuing as marketers head into 2016, especially given the current trend in mobile video.

And for good reason: social media platforms from Facebook to Snapchat are offering marketers many ad options for reaching their users, and the skyrocketing growth of mobile video makes those social media apps a very attractive venue for marketers looking to find a specific target audience.

Filed Under: Social Media Trends Video Mobile
Top image credit: Flickr; mkhmarketing