Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Instagram Social media

Instagram isn’t just about the photos anymore. As reported in The Verge, the social networking service is embracing entertainment and video in a bid to stay competitive with platforms like TikTok and YouTube. This isn’t the first time Instagram has gone head-to-head with TikTok: as we’ve blogged, Instagram launched Reels last August as a means of connecting with TikTok’s Gen Z audience. What do these new changes mean? Read on to learn more.

Not Just For Square . . . Photos

In a video posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, Instagram head Adam Mosseri explained that the platform no longer wants to be identified as a “square photo-sharing app,” rather as a hip general entertainment app driven by video — and algorithms. Mosseri says focus is on four key areas:

  • Creators, where Insta’s recognition of “the shift in power from institutions to individuals across industries” underlines Instagram’s desire to empower its creators.
  • Video, which is, as far as Mosseri is concerned, where it’s at. As he notes, “Video is driving an immense amount of growth online for all the major platforms right now.” His message: Instagram users have spoken. They want to be entertained. To stay relevant, Instagram is making video a tentpole of its offerings. Mosseri promises changes along the lines of users getting full-screen, recommended videos in their feeds, including videos from accounts a user may not already follow.
  • Shopping, to reflect the leap commerce has made from offline to online, a change accelerated by the pandemic.
  • Messaging, to honor the way close friends keep connected now — not by Feed and Stories, as has been the case in the past.

Reactions So Far

Reactions to Mosseri’s announcement have been mixed. Journalists are saying Instagram is responding to the rise of TikTok and YouTube, but as noted in Axios, warn that “[a]s social networks continue growing, they run the risk of overwhelming consumers and losing what made them special and distinct to begin with.”

And while Mosseri specifically names creators as a priority in his video, some creators, specifically photographers, are feeling marginalized and voting with their feet: Digital Photography Review reports that some photographers are defecting to Twitter in order to share their work in a space they feel is more dedicated to their art. Photographer Bryan Minear is a case in point. “In my eyes, Instagram stopped caring about artists and independent creators a long time ago,” he says. Minear, who switched to Twitter as his primary social media outlet in 2019, has found a vibrant photography community there.

Although Mosseri later tried to retract some of his wording — “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app” drew particular ire — his initial statement has aggravated photographers who feel an algorithm championing entertainment doesn’t put a premium on quality. “Instagram has done nothing but promote video-centric features at the expense of still photographers,” Minear says. “They’ve made it loud and clear that we aren’t welcome anymore.”

What Advertisers Should Do

What does all this mean for your brand? Is this “new” Instagram a good fit? We recommend that you:

  • Re-examine how you use video in your marketing and advertising. Clearly, video is getting bigger: 86 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 93 percent of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Instagram is showing where its allegiance lies. If video makes sense for you, Instagram might just be a viable advertising platform for you.
  • Consider the different ways influencers on Instagram are using both video and imagery as you find influencers to partner with. Who does a great job with video? Are they the right fit for your brand?

Contact True Interactive

In short, video is hot. Trying to figure out how to embracing video in your online advertising and marketing? Contact us. We can help.

Apple Announces New Privacy Features

Apple Announces New Privacy Features

Apple

Apple has once again made some moves to make the internet more private. At its 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced new features intended to give consumers more control over how businesses interact with them. Let’s take a closer look.

What Privacy Controls Did Apple Announce at WWDC?

Apple announced that later in 2021, the company will roll out new features to help people control how their online data is used by third parties. They include:

  • Allowing people to disable the ability of marketers to see if and when an email is opened via Apple’s Mail app.
  • Making it possible for people to hide their internet protocol (IP) address information in order to prevent businesses from tracking web usage on the Safari browser.

In addition, Apple indicted that premium iCloud users will be able to access the internet with a feature called Private Relay. This feature will  block network providers from using IP addresses and web usage to create a user profile for tracking.

Why Does Apple’s WWDC Announcement Matter?

The news from WWDC is the latest in a series of actions from technology giants Apple and Google to make it more difficult for businesses to track users in order to deliver personalized advertising. For instance:

  • In 2020, Google announced it would stop supporting third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. In 2021, Google toughened its stance by saying it would not support workarounds for third-party cookie tracking.
  • Apple recently launched a privacy control known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT), which requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers.

The advertising world has reacted with a mixture of concern and resignation as businesses adapt to a reality in which third-party cookies will be less useful for creating targeted advertising. In addition, Facebook has argued that Apple’s ATT will hurt small businesses that rely on Facebook’s advertising tools to create personalized content.

How Will the WWDC Announcement Affect Advertisers?

It’s really too early to say yet how advertisers will be affected by Apple’s latest announcements. For one thing, they have not been launched yet. In addition, although Safari is the second-most popular browser in the world, it lags far behind Chrome in terms of usage. On the other hand, Chrome and Safari together constitute 83 percent of the global market share for browsers. The real impact will be seen when both Google’s and Apple’s tighter restrictions take hold together. It will be interesting to see the impact of the restrictions in Apple Mail, which has the largest market share among email apps.

What Should Advertisers Do?

As I noted in a recent blog post,

  • Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead because of the way Apple and Google are focusing on privacy. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.
  • Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.

My blog post “Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers” contains more tips.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt. But don’t panic.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Laurenz Heymann on Unsplash

For Further Insight

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Google

Google’s advertising business has come roaring back. In 2020, Google found itself to be in the unusual position of seeing a downturn in its advertising revenue for the first time in 29 years. That’s because a pullback in ad spending among Google’s clients, many of whom come from a travel/hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, hurt Google even as ad competitors Amazon and Facebook were reaping a windfall. But Google’s recent financial results show that the downturn was temporary, and Google will continue to exert an enormous influence on the advertising world.

Recently, Google’s parent firm Alphabet announced quarterly earnings that exceeded investors’ expectations. Although the growth of Google’s cloud computing business had a lot to do with Alphabet’s success, the rebound of Google advertising played a big role, too. Google’s advertising revenue rose to $44.68 billion for the first quarter of 2021, up from $33.76 billion the year before, prompting CNBC to note that the ad revenue spike was the fastest annualized growth rate in at least four years. So, what can we conclude form the turnaround?:

  • Google is benefitting from the popularity of video. YouTube earned $6 billion in revenue for the quarter, increasing 49 percent from a year earlier. Earlier in 2021, we predicted a surge in online video consumption, a reality that has been borne out during the pandemic. To be sure, online video is much bigger than YouTube, as the success of TikTok demonstrates. But as Google reported later in 2020, during the pandemic, people were turning to video more as a learning tool when in-person learning options were shut down, which benefits YouTube given the amount of instructional content that exists there. The only question that remains now is whether the popularity of online video, and, by extension, YouTube, will remain as strong in a post-pandemic world.
  • Google’s Knowledge Graph is becoming more powerful. The Google Knowledge Graph consists of all the sources of information that Google draws upon to provide search results to queries. It’s a wonky concept that people in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry follow closely. But the Knowledge Graph applies to advertising, too. When Google provides answers to searches such as “Where can I find a plumber near me?” or “Where can I find Anime T shirts?” Google draws upon sources such as Google Maps, Snippets, and a company’s Google My Business (GMB) listings (among other sources) to share information about relevant businesses. Well, guess what? Google is doing such an effective job tapping into its Knowledge Graph to serve up answers on search engine results pages (SERPs) that people are finding answers to what they need on Google without needing to click anywhere else. More eyeballs on Google SERPs means that Google can deliver a larger audience to advertisers through Google Search. As Google becomes an even stronger all-purpose search tool (hard to believe given Google’s dominance in search already), the company becomes even more valuable to advertisers.
  • Google is creating its own future. As widely reported, Google has intensified its war against third-party cookies that are essential for businesses to deliver ads based on a person’s browsing behavior across the web. As Google forces the demise of third-party cookies, advertisers will need to tap into businesses that possesses first-party data (such as Amazon) in order to continue to deliver effective personalized ads. And as it turns out, Google is sitting on a lot of first-party data through that Knowledge Graph I mentioned. When people use Google Maps, YouTube, and other Google properties, they give Google a ton of information about their search and purchase habits, which Google uses to create better ad products. According to Brendan Eich, cofounder and CEO of the privacy-focused browser company Brave, “The reality is that Google already has first-party access to nearly every site—via Google Analytics, ad words, Google Tag Manager, Google Maps, etc.—and that its users are being data mined for profit.”

All of this is not to say that businesses need to dial up their advertising on Google. We’ve always recommended that advertisers go where their audience is, period. At the same time, Google has demonstrated the wisdom of businesses taking the long view with their advertising. The Big Tech ad platforms – Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – have carved out a powerful space in the advertising world. Those companies are all big targets for critics, which has resulted in antitrust action and negative PR. But the negative PR can lead a business around by the nose, too, resulting in short-sighted thinking. The ad giants are not going away. If they’re important to your business – and I suspect they are if you’ve read this far into my post – don’t pump on the brakes in 2021.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Five Lessons From the 2021 Ad Spending Surge

Five Lessons From the 2021 Ad Spending Surge

Advertising

Ad spending is surging. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, U.S. companies are expected to spend 15 percent more on advertising in 2021 year than they did in 2020. That’s because consumer confidence is increasing, and the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations is accelerating. And digital is getting a bigger share than ever of the advertising pie:

Digital Share of Ad Spending

Announcements from technology giants and social media apps in recent days underscore just how much businesses are investing into digital advertising:

  • As we reported on our blog, Amazon Advertising and Facebook reported strong year-over-year ad revenue growth in their most recent quarterly earnings announcements.
  • Alphabet announced 32 percent year-over-year ad growth for Google, demonstrating an impressive rebound from a slump triggered by the pandemic.

Amid this spending surge, we see some important lessons emerging:

  • Businesses that maintained their spending levels during the depths of Covid-19 in 2020 are at an advantage over those who pulled back and are now kickstarting their spending. Consumer behavior and sentiment are changing faster than ever. We predicted in 2020 that reducing ad spend during the pandemic would catch businesses flat-footed when consumer behavior shifted again – as it has done in 2021.
  • We’ve hit an inflection point with digital. As the stay-at-home economy takes hold, consumers are remaining online at higher levels than ever. As a result, online spending continues to accelerate. Businesses that asked, “But how long will the growth last?” in 2020 fell behind those that saw the surge for what it is: a behavioral change. The faster businesses adapt to those changes by boosting their online advertising, the sooner they’ll attract shoppers online.
  • The tech giants are experiencing a golden era. We’ve seen the tech giants – namely Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – experience heavy criticism in recent years for reasons too numerous to summarize in a blog post. And of course the specter of antitrust lawsuits looms over Facebook and Google (and Apple in Europe). On top of that, they’re at war with each other, and the demise of third-party cookies calls into question how well advertisers will be able to target consumers across these platforms. But guess what? Amid the blowback, the tech giants continue to run the table, as noted above. Smart advertisers aren’t allowing negative headlines to scare them away from the tech giants. They’re watching how these platforms innovate with new ad units that monetize the surging online audience.
  • Retail ad platforms are on the rise. Savvy marketers are capitalizing on the fact that retailers such as Amazon, Dollar Tree, Kroger, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart are monetizing their first-party customer data by building ad businesses. Each retailer can give advertisers access to different types of consumers. We expect more of these platforms to emerge, contributing to robust ad growth.
  • Social commerce is going to fuel more ad spending. As we discussed on our blog recently, businesses should capitalize on social commerce advertising tools such as Pinterest Product Pins, through which a business can connect its product catalog to Pinterest, filter and organize inventory, create shopping ads, and measure results; or numerous ad units on Instagram that make it easier for businesses to turn advertising into shopping experiences.

We urge businesses to take a fresh look at how your customers’ journeys are changing amid the rise of digital-first living and spending. Monitor performance closely as consumer behavior fluctuates. Businesses that invest in strong real-time analytics tools will have the upper hand.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we know how to help businesses navigate the complex waters of online advertising. Contact us. Learn more about our work here.

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

Why Advertisers Should Never Bet Against Facebook

Why Advertisers Should Never Bet Against Facebook

Facebook

Facebook has done it again. On April 28, the company announced quarterly earnings that crushed Wall Street’s expectations, demonstrating a remarkable resilience. Facebook continues to ascend as a premier advertising platform, too, second only to Google in terms of online ad marketshare. Let’s take a closer look.

What Facebook Announced

Facebook’s quarterly results were impressive by any measure:

  • Earnings: $3.30 per share vs. $2.37 per share forecast.
  • Revenue: $26.17 billion vs. $23.67 billion expected.
  • Daily active users (DAUs): 1.88 billion vs. 1.89 billion forecast by FactSet.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs): 2.85 billion vs. 2.86 billion forecast by FactSet.
  • Average revenue per user (ARPU): $9.27 vs. $8.40 forecast by FactSet.

The increase in active users is key. Demonstrating that it can continue to grow its user base helps Facebook attract more advertisers.

Why Facebook Is Succeeding

Why is Facebook continuing to grow quarter after quarter even amid controversies and threats from legislators and competitors? Here are some reasons:

  • Advertisers remain loyal to Facebook. Facebook said its impressive revenue growth came from a 12 percent increase in the number of ads delivered – and a 30 percent year-over-year increase in average price per ad. Even as businesses were being rocked by the pandemic and faced an uncertain year, they were willing to pay more for ads on Facebook. And why not? Social media platforms such as Facebook enjoyed tremendous growth in 2020 as the pandemic drove more people online. Advertisers wisely went where their audience was.
  • Facebook is monetizing its user base beyond ad targeting. This is important. By its own admission, Facebook’s ability to deliver targeted ads is being threatened by Apple’s app tracking transparency privacy initiative in which users of iPhones will now need to agree to allow a business to collect information about them – known as an opt-in policy. The world’s largest social network is upset because its advertisers will have a harder time tracking its users off Facebook and serve up personalized ads to them. But Facebook has been steadily finding different ways to monetize its app (and Instagram’s) beyond ad targeting. For instance, in its earnings announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed how the company continues to build social commerce features. And Facebook’s Marketplace service, where users can buy and sell goods, continues to grow. These features keep businesses and people engaged on Facebook, generate more ad revenue for Facebook, and give Facebook a stockpile of first-party search and purchase data to deliver more personalized experiences.

Going forward, Facebook will continue to monetize that user base in creative ways – an example being the launch of several audio features that will generate revenue for creators and inevitably create a more engaged user base – which generates more advertising revenue.

 What Advertisers Should Do about Facebook

  • Continue to capitalize on tools to help you connect with your audience on Facebook. For instance, as Mark Zuckerberg mentioned to investors on April 28, Facebook launched Shops in 2020 to help businesses more easily conduct online commerce, and there are now more than 1 million monthly active Shops and over 250 million monthly Shops visitors.
  • As always, balance your advertising among the major platforms that continue to deliver value, including Amazon Advertising, Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Microsoft Advertising.
  • Monitor expected privacy legislation and the impact of Apple’s ATT initiative, but don’t overreact. Facebook continues to show a remarkable aptitude for managing threats from competitors and legislators.

Whatever you do, don’t count out Facebook regardless of what you read and hear about the headwinds the company faces. Facebook is not going away. It’s the world’s largest social media network for a reason. Follow your audience and engage with them.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize on social media advertising to build their brands. We can help you, too. Contact us to learn more.

 

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

The race to lead the online advertising market is getting tighter. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon Advertising and Facebook are catching up to Google’s share of the online advertising market. Let’s take a closer look.

What eMarketer Reported

eMarketer says that in 2020:

  • Amazon’s share of the online advertising market increased from 7.8 percent in 2019 to 10 percent in 2020.
  • Facebook’s share increased from 23.6 percent to 25.2 percent.
  • Google’s leading share dropped from 31.6 percent to 28.9 percent.

To put this data in perspective, eMarketer says Google’s share of online advertising was 38.6 percent in 2017.

What Does the Marketer Data Mean?

  • Amazon Advertising is only going to get bigger. That’s because Amazon delivers advertisers insight on its vast customer base – and not just casual searchers, but people searching with intent and making purchases. Per eMarketer, Amazon is enjoying growth across the board — search revenues from Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands, and video ad revenues on properties including Amazon Fire TV, Twitch, and IMDb TV. It’s worth noting that Amazon’s growth is coming not just from ads on Amazon.com but from the Amazon network, as noted (e.g., Twitch and IMDb). That means Amazon is figuring how to use data about its customer base to expand its ad services across the web. In addition, as we noted on our blog recently, Google’s crackdown on third-party cookies is favorable to companies such as Amazon that know how to sell ads based on their massive inventories of first-party cookie data.
  • Facebook and Google are doing just fine. Despite Google’s drop in market share, the company generated a whopping $147 billion in ad revenue in 2020. Google saw a dip in its ad revenue in 2020 because its travel advertisers were hit hard by COVID-19, but the company came roaring back in the back half of the year. Google’s ad revenue actually increased by 9 percent year over year. The decrease in Google’s market share may actually help the company combat multiple anti-trust lawsuits at the state and federal level. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to reap the benefits of being the world’s largest and dominant social media network. Despite numerous controversies, Facebook enjoyed advertising growth in 2020. An increase in its user base has played an important role. That growth spiked owing to the massive uptake of social media that occurred during COVID-19, but Facebook’s user base has been climbing for years. Simply put: there is a disconnect between news media criticisms of Facebook and the behavior of its user base.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • First, follow your audience. Make your advertising investments based on the journey your own customers are making. Most customers rely on multiple digital touchpoints on their way from awareness to purchase. It’s likely that no single ad platform will (or should) dominate your spend. Incorporating Amazon, Facebook, and Google into your ad spend is probably not going to be an either/or choice (more about that on our blog).
  • Do your homework. The ad giants are going to launch more ad tools as the market place becomes more competitive. Amazon recently launched Amazon Live, which makes it possible for retailers to use livestreams to sell products – part of the live commerce trend we blogged about recently. In addition, up-and-comers such as Walmart Connect and Macy’s will launch more ad products as they capitalize on their own first-party data to generate more ad revenue.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we’ve been helping businesses succeed through online advertising for many years. Our services span Google, Facebook, Amazon Advertising, and much more. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

 

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A

Facebook

If you operate a business on Facebook, you’ve probably received pop-up notices from Facebook warning you about ominous changes coming because of Apple’s latest operating system update. What’s exactly happening, and why? Our new advertiser Q&A takes a closer look.

Why Is Facebook Upset with Apple?

The conflict comes down to access to customer data.

Apple’s new operating system update, iOS14.3, contains new privacy tools that prevent apps from being able to track user activity across the internet. All applications need to ask iPhone users for permission to track their activity for the purposes of advertising. There an estimated one billion people around the world who own an iPhone.

Put another way: under iOS14.3, if a person has a business’s app on their iPhone, that person needs to agree to allow the business to collect information about them. iPhone users now have more control whether they actually want personalized ads generated as the result of an app following them around the internet.

Facebook believes that this opt-in approach could create a major problem for Facebook’s app. Most Americans have expressed discomfort with the way Facebook tracks their personal data. Since almost all of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, Facebook sees the new opt-in policy as a threat.

How Has Facebook Responded to iOS14.3?

Facebook has attacked the update publicly. For example, in December, Facebook argued on its own site that tougher privacy controls will hurt small businesses that rely on Facebook advertising to reach people. Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of Ads and Business Products, wrote that Apple is “hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic.” He elaborated:

These changes will directly affect [small businesses’] ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalized ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads. We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalization but rather a move in that direction over the longer term.

Facebook has also reached out to businesses, news media, and agencies (including us) to voice its position through content such as webinars.

What Is Apple’s Response to Facebook?

Apple continues to go about its business without a corporate response with one exception: the following tweet from CEO Tim Cook, which speaks for itself:

Tim Cook tweet

Otherwise, Apple has spoken with its actions by going forward with the iOS 14.3 update.

When Does the iOS14.3 Update Happen?

Although Apple made iOS 14.3 effective in December 2020, the company has not yet enforced the opt-in prompt. None of the changes discussed here is happening as of this writing. Apple has not announced when it will make these changes and enforce the prompt.

What Should Advertisers Do?

First off, we recommend monitoring the development closely. But don’t panic. No one knows how many iOS 14.3 users will opt out with their apps – Facebook or otherwise. To be sure, people opting out will compromise everything from conversion data to attribution to custom audience sizes. Facebook says it plans to roll out new features in events manager to help mitigate the impact of those changes. We are monitoring this situation for our clients. Stay tuned.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.