The Future of Paid Social Media in 2022

The future of paid media

It’s 2015. You post on Instagram knowing that regardless of any paid support, the post will gain a vast number of impressions, click-throughs, and sales for your website. Social advertising is relatively new, and your organic channels are killing it! Organic is thriving. 

That was the reality for most social marketers in the mid-2010s, but times have changed. As Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest began to leverage the power of their platform as ad networks; we slowly began to see the organic impact of social content decline and an overwhelming push from all platforms toward their advertising suite. Over the latter half of the 2010s, we witnessed paid social advertising spending increase across all industries as the platforms became the primary way for brands to grow their community and drive sales digitally. 

In 2010, paid social ad spend sat at roughly $25 Billion and increased to $100 Billion by 2020. This 300% increase in ad spend reflects a much larger focus on social media than ever before. So why have brands focused so much on paid social media in the past ten years? Essentially it comes down to the wide-ranging targeting options available to brands. Social media platforms have accumulated a wealth of information on their users over the years, which gives advertisers the ability to create exceptionally well-targeted ads. Whether through interest targeting at the top of their sales funnel or via pixel retargeting campaigns at the bottom, the options are endless. 

The granularity of the targeting options has pushed advertisers to increase their budgets, but times are changing. We are now on the precipice of another change as the internet goes cookieless.

So, what is a cookie? 


It’s a question we are often asked here at Canoe. Cookies are tiny trackers that connect users and websites. They function as an online ID card and a digital Post-it Note, helping the website remember the user’s choices and activities.

Cookies help inform websites about the user, enabling brands to personalize the user experience, build consumer profiles and customize a user’s advertising experiences. For example, e-commerce websites use cookies to know what merchandise users have placed in their shopping carts. They then use this information to re-target individuals on social media sites.

What’s happening to them?


Advertisers are now losing the ability to track users once they come away from social media ads and land on their sites. The first blow to the advertiser’s armoury of tracking tools came early last year with the IOS 14.5 update, which gave Apple users the option to opt-out of Facebook pixel tracking. 

The impact of this was twofold. Firstly, advertisers lost the ability to track conversions linked to their ads and track those individuals further down their sales pipeline. Additionally, without on-site Pixel data, Facebook has lost out on a vast information segment that could inform their interest-based targeting. This has weakened the quality of their audience sets and impacted the hyper-targeted appeal of Facebook advertising.

Given these vast changes in social, we wanted to highlight our top 5 predictions for the paid social landscape: 

1. Paid social media spending will continue to increase across all platforms 


Yes, the platform may be losing its appeal as a hyper-targeted means of advertising, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t access a brand’s audience on the platform. Sources indicate that the number of people on social media is only trending upward. With this in mind, we foresee advertisers continuing to focus on social but with a new approach that considers the reduced segment ability. 

2. Emphasis will be placed on broader brand pieces over hyper-targeted advertisements


Rather than building ads focused on specific website purchasing behaviour, we expect advertisers to lean on higher quality content that appeals to a broader audience over niche demographics. So, potentially, social ads may have to return to the old ways in which ads were created, focusing on hitting a range of demographics in one sweep.

3. Advertisers will focus on lead generation as a priority


As Pixel-based audiences begin to lose their effectiveness, we foresee brands focusing their campaigns on building email lists. Rather than sending people to the site and hoping to prompt an untraceable purchase, the focus will shift to building tangible first-party data that brands can utilise via email marketing campaigns.

4. Advertisers will focus on using engagement retargeting over on-site action re-targeting


If brands choose to retarget their audience, the tact will change slightly. Rather than be led by unreliable on-site pixel data, advertisers will pivot their retargeting to focus on driving actions within the individuals who have engaged directly with the content. For example, among many of our clients, we are beginning to see natural uplift from re-targeting individuals who have viewed 90% of a brands video

5. Community over Conversion


As user numbers continue to increase but the trackability of sales begins to wane, we predict social becoming a place focused more on community over conversion. Brands will need to focus on instilling trust in their brand advocates and using their social media channels to drive real value to their followers in the form of strong customer service, community-led initiatives, and engaging pieces of social content. The segmented and highly targeted hard sell era appears to be on the way out, and in its place, a social media landscape built on community will emerge.

Here at Canoe, we are always looking at how things will evolve within the social realm and looking for ways to ensure our clients remain at the forefront of the digital landscape. We look forward to seeing how the social world will evolve for our clients and helping them innovate in the face of the challenges this new era of paid social puts in their way. So if you are looking to revolutionise your social media strategy, get in touch today, click here.

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