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What's ahead for social media's great divide in 2015?

Published: January 7, 2015

Author: Franco Puetz

It is undeniable that the social landscape is evolving at an incredibly high rate, and each platform is after the same goal: user attention. Without active users, it’s hard to call the platforms social, and even though they have huge amounts of user data, the best data will be the most recent. Interests change. People move to new cities. Users evolve over time, and without a good pulse on this activity a social platform’s data can quickly become irrelevant. For the purpose of this post, I want to focus more specifically on social advertising and how I think it will change in 2015.
I’m going to put social media advertising into two buckets; one bucket is for acquiring a user base on the respective social platform, and the other is positioned to leverage user data in finding the right audience to pull users off of the social platform. More specifically, this is the difference between getting users to like or follow your brand, versus sending these users to your website.
With the organic reach for brands constantly being scaled down, keeping users on the platforms becomes less appealing past building brand credibility in the minds of prospective customers by showcasing a large following. Pulling users off of these social platforms onto brand websites and landing pages will allow for retargeting options and additional marketing automation strategy, assuming an email address or some other contact information has been collected; and if everything works as hoped for marketers, this allows communication with ideal prospects that won’t be truncated by the whims of a social powerhouse.
As mentioned in the introduction, these social platforms have large incentives to keep their users active on their platform since each additional page view means more money in their investors’ pockets, and more recent and relevant data can possibly be collected. As a consequence, there’s a tenuous balance at stake for social platforms: finding a way to keep their advertisers happy with affordable reach, and their users happy by not opening up their inventory to too much spam.
I framed social advertising into these two buckets because I see social advertising being split by this divide in a number of instances, and I know at the very least Facebook is acknowledging it in their ad creation interface by asking what advertisers are optimizing for. I predict 2015 will bring a greater divide between these motives, and I suspect social advertising costs will be further reflected in this manner, making the cost of sending traffic away from these platforms progressively higher when compared to increasing reach and exposure on the social site itself.
At the end of the day, these social giants have collected enough information from their advertisers to make some very educated guesses regarding what their advertisers are willing to pay. It will be a difficult balance to strike, but if they are able to find a higher return from fewer advertisers paying a higher premium for their ad slots, I could see them moving in this direction. Let’s not forget that these companies have gone public and a large objective for them is to find ways to make more money than they did the year before. User growth plateaus mean that, if they can get away with it, charging their advertisers higher rates will be the quickest way for them to continue their revenue growth. (The presumption here: They can indeed get away with it.)
As online advertisers, one of our saving graces here is competition between social platforms. LinkedIn and Twitter are big players getting progressively more sophisticated in their advertising options, and let’s not forget Pinterest, tumblr, and the many other platforms competing for advertising dollars. If any one platform pushes too aggressively, forward thinkers will find new ways to allocate their marketing budgets. Chances are, laggards haven’t opened their pocketbooks too wide on social advertising initiatives, so fast-moving digital thinkers can really play a large part in which direction this activity and evolution goes.
I was recently asked the question of how I thought social media advertising would be changing in the year 2015. This is definitely something that’s crossed my mind a few times, but writing it out helped me think through everything a bit further. I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether or not you agree or disagree with my predictions.
Happy New Year to all of you digital thinkers!

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