In this article we look at how some of the biggest social media platforms are expanding their advertising offerings beyond their own platforms and on to third party websites and apps, monetising their data at scale in an effort to compete with Google and cut into its dominance.
Some of the big social media platforms are building out their advertising offerings and capitalising on their rich data sets, primarily in two ways: (1) improving audience profiling; and (2) providing advertisers with ways of advertising outside of the social media platform by using an individual’s social media profile ID to track across devices and across channels.
How have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn expanded their advertising products over the last six months?
Last week, Twitter introduced a new offering which allows advertisers to select more than 1,000 ‘partner audiences’ from Acxiom and Datalogix directly in the Twitter Ads UI. Twitter previously worked with Datalogix to track offline sales so that advertisers could see if their campaigns on Twitter actually led to in-store purchases. This latest partnership allows advertisers to target specific defined audiences, as Twitter clarified in a blog post on 5 March:
“For example, by using a partner to provide the desired audience, an auto brand can connect with audiences that are in-market for a new car. A CPG company can reach customers that have previously purchased products in their category. And luxury brands can limit campaigns to shoppers who earn a household income above a certain threshold.”
This new offering comes on the back of ‘Fabric’ which was launched by Twitter towards the end of last year. Fabric is a suite of products which amongst other things allows mobile developers to integrate Twitter and Twitter feeds into theirs apps and websites so that advertisers can advertise promoted tweets across apps and websites whilst still appearing to be native to the app or website in which it appears. In other words, ‘social’ advertising is no longer confined to the Twitter platform.
In September last year, Facebook launched Atlas (or rather, relaunched it, having bought it from Microsoft in 2013). The Atlas platform allows advertisers to target Facebook users across devices and channels, on apps and websites outside of the Facebook ecosystem. Part of the effectiveness of Atlas is that it helps to track the full customer path from impression to purchase across devices. A significant proportion of online purchases are made on a different device from the one on which the relevant advert was first viewed by the end user and tracking users across devices and channels is typically a technical challenge for advertisers.
Last month, Facebook expanded Atlas and announced new partnerships with customer relationship management agency Merkle and software company Mediaocean, which join Havas, Omnicom and Publicis’ tech arm VivaKi. These five companies between them control tens of billions of pounds in ad spend.
Alongside Atlas, the Facebook Audience Network (similar to Twitter’s new ‘partner audiences’) allows advertisers to target audiences based on demographic and behavioural data, primarily on Facebook itself.
Following on the heels of Facebook is LinkedIn, with the launch of its Lead Accelerator and new Network Display last month. With over 300 million professionals registered on its site, LinkedIn is incredibly well placed in the B2B marketing industry which is reported to be valued at US $1 billion.
The Lead Accelerator, like Facebook’s Audience Network and Twitter’s Partner Audiences, allows businesses advertising on LinkedIn to divide their audiences into segmented groups and allows advertisers to find out more about visitors to its site (based on LinkedIn login data).
The Network Display, like Facebook’s Atlas, uses both user login data, in addition to other identifiers (such as job title, industry and education background) to target LinkedIn users outside of the platform. In partnership with AppNexus, LinkedIn is able to use this rich data within the vast AppNexus network of third party publisher sites.
Most other ad networks use probabilistic targeting methods in order to reach particular audience segments but Facebook and LinkedIn are able to use ‘real’ deterministic data (i.e. user profile information) to ensure the right consumers are targeted. In the context of LinkedIn, this is particularly attractive for targeting higher net worth individuals with specific products that only resonate with that audience.
What we have seen over the last six months is a general trend amongst the social media platforms to expand their advertising offering beyond the advertising on their apps and services, using the end user data and its unique relationship with end users to build its advertising capabilities outside of its own ecosystem and deliver advertising to third party website and apps. Their services are becoming both audience-targeted and effective across multiple devices and channels. The combination of these two things is a very attractive proposition for advertisers as it allows for cross-device measurement and audience-based targeting in tandem.
Digital marketing which is ‘social’ is no longer just about advertising on the social platforms themselves but about using data and expanding the reach of social into other areas of an end user’s online experience.