Why YouTube Shorts Matters to Brands

Why YouTube Shorts Matters to Brands

YouTube

TikTok has another challenger. As we’ve blogged, apps like Snapchat are creating their own short-video-making platforms in a bid to carve out space in an increasingly crowded field. Now Google’s YouTube has joined the party with YouTube Shorts. Read on to learn more about Shorts and what they bring to the table—for users, and for brands.

What Are YouTube Shorts, and How Do They Stand Out?

If you are familiar with TikTok or Instagram Reels, you’ll get the basic premise of YouTube Shorts: using the YouTube app, people can quickly and easily create short videos of up to 15 seconds. The videos are created on mobile devices and viewed, in portrait orientation, on mobile devices. And once you open one short, you essentially access the motherlode in that videos start playing one after the other. Just swipe vertically to get from one to the next.

Shorts, much like TikTok, provides editing tools you can use to flex creative muscle. Users can string clips together. Adjust playback speed. Add music and text. And as YouTube has blogged, creators can play off of existing content: “[Y]ou can give your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience—whether it’s reacting to your favorite jokes, trying your hand at a creator’s latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits.” (Notably, creators are in control of their material; they can opt out of having their long-form videos remixed in this way.)

Shorts comes to the U.S. in beta after a beta launch in India last fall. The platform enjoyed success in India, finding a comfortable niche in the wake of the TikTok ban there. Now Shorts brings its opportunities to the States.

Why Did YouTube Launch Shorts?

Shorts is YouTube’s response to the huge popularity of short-form video. Who wouldn’t want in on that action? But Shorts is also meant to be the answer to a problem faced by new creators: it’s hard to break into the video-making world. According to YouTube, “Every year, increasing numbers of people come to YouTube to launch their own channel. But we know there’s still a huge amount of people who find the bar for creation too high. That’s why we’re working on Shorts, our new short-form video tool that lets creators and artists shoot snappy videos with nothing but their mobile phones.”

Think of it as users being able to dip a toe in creative waters without having to film and edit a full video. And because Shorts are counted like regular video views, creators hoping to make money from YouTube by getting accepted into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) can use Shorts to do so. Users must accrue 4,000 valid public watch hours in the previous 12 months to quality for YPP, and Shorts are an accessible way to meet that threshold. YouTube has also blogged that they are taking a “fresh look at what it means to monetize YouTube Shorts and reward creators for their content,” hinting at additional opportunities to come.

Why Do YouTube Shorts Matter to Brands?

The opportunity YouTube Shorts represents for creators is good news for brands, too. Why? For one thing, creators are potentially powerful sources of great user-generated content that can benefit brands – for a recent example, consider the incredible visibility that skateboarder Nathan Apodaca created for Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac with a TikTok video.

It’s worth mentioning that apps like YouTube Shorts are of particular interest if your target market is Gen Z or Millennials. As noted by iabuk.com last fall, short-form video is surging in popularity, particularly with these generations.

What Brands Should Do

  • Stay abreast of new apps like YouTube Shorts. Knowing what’s out there informs decision-making about where and how you want to make your brand known.
  • Understand how your target audience communicates. Are you courting Gen Z or Millennials? Go where they are. And as noted above, platforms for short-form video are a logical place to be.
  • Consider whether creating your own shorts makes sense. As Social Media Examiner notes, brands that create their own Shorts stand to get some attention: “for businesses, the strategy right now with Shorts is to get exposure and hopefully subscribers to your channel so people will see some of your content outside of the short shelf.” Meanwhile, this post from HubSpot will help you think through how to get started with YouTube Shorts.
  • Look at the big picture: YouTube Shorts is yet another example of the proliferation of short-form video. If you have not done so already, adapt your video content strategy for both brief snippets (e.g., teaser content) and longer-form content (e.g., educational tutorials).

Contact True Interactive

How can short-form video elevate your brand? Contact us. We can advise.

Clubhouse: An Exclusive New App Powered by Audio Chat

Clubhouse: An Exclusive New App Powered by Audio Chat

Mobile Social media

Oprah Winfrey is a fan. So is Drake. But the new social media app Clubhouse, developed by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, is not just for celebrities. Why does Clubhouse matter to brands invested in digital? Read on to learn more.

What Is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse, an audio app that facilitates live conversation, is self-described as “a new type of social product based on voice [that] allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world.” Conversations are not recorded or saved; when a Clubhouse cyber “room” ends, the conversation is done and gone. Participants can opt to just listen in, or they can spontaneously host their own rooms. And the topics under discussion are eclectic, ranging from talks about music to chats about film, beauty, culture, tech, and more.

Clubhouse is distinguished by the fact that it is an audio-only app. There is no feature for private messaging, and there are no written comments. It’s a conversation that just happens to take place online.

What Is the Clubhouse Experience Like?

As Michael Stelzner describes in Social Media Examiner, when you enter a room you hear the conversation going on. Participants can “raise their hand” (using the raised hand emoji) to participate, and might subsequently be invited “on stage” to join the discussion. Those who contribute to the conversation may even become moderators, which allows them to call others up on stage.

Some users find Clubhouse to be like a podcast: something they can listen to while doing other things. Some liken it to a panel discussion. The rooms cover a wide range of topics, something like AOL chat rooms from back in the day. Depending on your interests, you will find rooms devoted to, say, investment strategies for Bitcoin or daily habits for high performers, film talk, writing sessions, mindfulness tips, and much more.

Like any interactive experience, certain protocols are observed and expected. The understanding is that participants will mute themselves until they are called upon, or until they have something germane to add to the dialog. Moderators control the conversation, and rooms can run for hours.

Who’s in the Club?

The app brings a wide range of individuals—and interests—to the table. Celebs like Kevin Hart, Oprah, and Drake are already on board, drawn by the relative privacy the app affords. The app is currently invite-only; each participant is granted limited invites to extend, though the more active a participant is on the platform, the more invites they are able to share. Stelzner recommends downloading the app and setting up your account, then . . . waiting patiently. As he notes, “Someone who knows you might be notified in-app automatically and grant you access.”

Why Clubhouse Matters

Stelzner has asked other Clubhouse members to highlight reasons the app keeps drawing them back (he notes that “[n]early everyone I interviewed was a creator, marketer, or business owner”). Among the responses:

  • It’s viral. When someone you follow goes onstage, the app sends you a notification. You can click on the notification and immediately join the room as a passive listener.
  • You don’t have to be ready for your glam shot. There’s no camera; it’s just your avatar and your voice. So you can join the conversation with that shaggy Covid hair, or even while you are running errands.
  • It helps build business connections. Think the conversations that start at business conferences; this is the same thing, but online.
  • It’s a place to test ideas. Got an idea for a podcast? Clubhouse is a forum to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

What We Recommend

Clubhouse, currently in beta, is only available to iPhone users; the invite-only protocol also limits availability. That said, according to wfmynews2.com, “Clubhouse claims it will eventually open up for everyone, but is attempting to ensure it takes the proper steps in doing so. They also want to make sure they can incorporate features that will be able to handle large chat rooms.”

In the meantime, the app’s very existence is a reminder of the myriad ways brands can plug into culture, understand the trends, and stay connected, even as the pandemic continues to minimize in-person contact. Clubhouse demonstrates yet another way to engage—and the importance of staying current and thinking outside the box—not just during Covid, but beyond.

What can be learned here? We suggest that you:

  • Stay abreast of the opportunities apps offer to connect with a new, diverse audience.
  • Don’t forget the power of audio in digital.
  • Understand the power of crowdsourcing new ideas or feedback on your brand.
  • Get involved. Download the app and request membership individually. Then start exploring the app in your role as your company’s brand ambassador. Network with experts in other industries. Never underestimate the value of learning from diverse startups, CEOs, tech giants—whether on an app like Clubhouse, or in other venues.

Contact True Interactive

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

Why Pinterest Matters to Advertisers

Why Pinterest Matters to Advertisers

Social media

During a tough pandemic year, the image-sharing and social media service Pinterest rebounded mightily. According to cnbc.com, shares of Pinterest surged in trading late in October, closing up nearly 27 percent after a third quarter in which total revenues jumped to $443 million. That’s an increase of 58 percent year over year. Why is Pinterest growing, and what sets Pinterest apart from some of the other big advertising apps? What can you do to capitalize on what Pinterest has to offer? Read on to learn more.

Why Is Pinterest Growing?

As reported by The New York Times, widespread shelter-in-place during the pandemic has meant that expenses like travel, restaurant dining, and even clothing shopping have dropped considerably for most people. Some consumers have channeled money that might, in a different year, have gone towards an exotic vacation into purchases that help make their homes a cozy sanctuary during an uncertain time: updated furniture, for example, or new dishware. Enter Pinterest, which has become an important site for people to share ideas with one another about everything from recipes to decorating. As Emarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman notes, Pinterest is “especially well positioned for the moment.” That’s because users are looking to Pinterest for inspiration during a time when the idea of “nesting” seems more attractive than ever.

What Sets Pinterest Apart?

That connection with audience is one of the things that makes Pinterest especially interesting to advertisers. As CFA Andres Cardenal notes here, Pinterest’s business model lends itself to a symbiotic relationship between consumers and advertisers. When Pinterest users “pin” images they like to specific boards (much like someone tacking a physical artifact of a favorite recipe or vacation destination to a cork board in their office cubicle), Pinterest’s algorithm takes note and suggests new pins based on the user’s interest. (Think the coworker who might notice your Grand Canyon virtual Zoom background, and recommend checking out the hiking at Yellowstone.) Some of Pinterest’s suggestions can take the form of advertising, and as Cardenal points out, a useful ad that “gets” a user is a very different animal from invasive advertising. He also notes, “Pinterest is focused on inspiring and uplifting content, which sets it apart from the big social media platforms.” And during a chaotic year, the power of inspiration and uplift cannot be underestimated.

Another reason Pinterest is popular is because it is highly visual. We live in a visual age! As far back as 2014, Business Insider reported that people were uploading 1.8 billion images to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat every day. Recent stats shared by the Omnicore digital marketing agency indicate that as of 2020, on Instagram alone, 995 photos are uploaded every second. And people respond to images: as HubSpot noted earlier this year, Tweets with images earn 150 percent more retweets than tweets without; Facebook posts with images enjoy 2.3 times more engagement than those without; and articles with an image every 75 to 100 words get double the social media shares compared to articles incorporating fewer images. Bottom line: content with visuals gets shared and liked more than content that lacks visuals. There is no turning back.

Finally, Pinterest is interesting to advertisers because it’s a hub for cultural trends. As noted in yahoo!finance, Pinterest and its advertisers take trend-watching seriously. Witness the Pinterest 100, the platform’s annual report that showcases emerging trends around the world. Pinterest is a goldmine for understanding not only what is popular, but what’s coming next. And if, as a brand, you understand the trends, you can learn where your particular “in” is. You’ll stay relevant.

What You Can Do

Advertisers can benefit from Pinterest’s uplifting connect with its users, visual nature, and understanding of what’s cool. We recommend that you:

  • Dig deeper into Pinterest’s user base. Understand who they are. As reported by Omnicore, 69 percent of Pinterest users are between the ages of 18 and 49. These are folks with a lot of earning power—more so than younger teens, say, who might more likely be found on TikTok or Snapchat. Pinners are also more likely to be women: 71 percent, according to the Omnicore stats. How does your messaging resonate with this audience?
  • Get to know Pinterest advertising options, such as:
    • Promoted Pins appear in the search results and home feed as regular pins do, but they are boosted and targeted to deliver more reach. Users can pin them to boards, comment on them, and share them. Note that after a Promoted Pin is shared once by a Pinner, the “Promoted” label disappears, with repins considered “earned media.”
    • Promoted Carousels feature two to five images that users can swipe through. This can be a useful format for brands who wish to showcase multiple products or features.

Contact True Interactive

Can Pinterest help you connect with your audience in new and exciting ways? Contact us to learn more.

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Advertising

When COVID-19 first took hold in 2020 and the world entered a time of seismic change and uncertainty, we urged businesses to stay in the ring with a strong digital presence. We wrote, “You don’t want to be caught flat-footed when consumers shift their behaviors again as the current disruption subsides. And subside it will; not knowing when is different from not knowing if.”

As we look to the new year ahead, this truth resonates more strongly than ever. Here’s what you should know about why digital advertising remains important, how digital presence relates to consumer—not to mention competitor—behavior, and what you can do going forward:

Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Online — Have You?

IBM’s U.S. Retail Index indicates that the pandemic has deeply informed the way people shop: the shift from visiting brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online has in fact been accelerated by approximately five years. The types of goods consumers deem essential has come into sharper focus, too. Clothing shopping, for example, has dipped in an era when more people are attending school and working their jobs online. By contrast, sales in categories such as groceries, alcohol, and home improvement materials have all accelerated.

The question to ask yourself: when people go online to shop, will your brand be present with targeted online advertising, such as paid search, that is relevant to what consumers are looking to buy?

Your Competitors Are Connecting with Consumers Online — Are You?

Ad revenues for the Big Three—Amazon, Facebook, and Google—can also shed some light on what a successful path forward can look like for brands. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Big Three are enjoying a surge of online revenue: Amazon and Google have reported strong quarterly sales, and Facebook has also enjoyed record revenue. All three had a great third quarter, evidence that businesses continue to connect with people, online, on multiple levels, from retail to social media to digital advertising. Even the StopHateFor Profit ad boycott did not seem to take a lasting bite out of Facebook’s advertising revenue, which was up 22 percent in the third quarter as compared to a year ago. (It’s worth noting that changes in consumer habits have manifested themselves not just in terms of venue—e.g., the move online—but timing. As Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos notes, “We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts.”)

Social media ad spend overall is also on the rise. In the third quarter, global social media ad spend increased 56.4 percent. According to The Drum, that’s almost double the average spend recorded during the COVID-19-related spending nadir of late March.

In short, brands that understand where, and when, to connect with consumers will benefit. If you are ignoring trends in online advertising, you are probably falling behind competitors who are speaking to these tendencies. Are you taking the prevailing trends to heart?

What Businesses Should Do

To stay competitive, we recommend that you:

  • Keep focused on digital. That’s where the action is, according to the data.
  • Invest in creative advertising. As more people go online and interact with brands, it’s going to be harder to stand apart from the pack. As we’ve blogged, it’s critical to invest in strong creative—and creative that is consistent across all your touch points.
  • Keep growing as digital tools evolve. An understanding of—and investment in—new technology helps brands communicate that what they have to offer is cutting edge. And that new technology is out there for the taking. For example, Consider Google’s new visual search tools:
    • Google Lens allows shoppers to tap and hold an image in the Google app or Android Chrome browser in order to find it in an online store.
    • AR Autos will soon allow shoppers to look for a vehicle in Google Search, then see it rendered in 3D or augmented reality. The result? A more immersive look at key features before consumers even arrive at a dealer lot. This advance “peek” is particularly beneficial at a time when many shoppers are trying to limit in-person contact during the pandemic.

Google’s offerings are just a taste of the new opportunities out there. The headline is this: staying on top of new technology can help position you for success.

Contact True Interactive

The changes brought by 2020 won’t go away with the flip of a calendar page. Rather, they have invited brands to adapt. Curious as to how digital can elevate your brand in 2021? Contact us.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/apps-blur-button-close-up-267350/

6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

Facebook

Is Facebook the most resilient brand in the world? It sure seems that way. Here is a business that has weathered one public relations storm after another in recent years, and yet the global business is getting stronger than ever. In the past couple of years alone, we’ve seen Facebook experience some serious threats, such as:

  • Widespread criticism that the platform tolerates hate groups.
  • Accusations that Facebook has been used as a tool for malicious parties to interfere with the election of public officials in the United States and internationally.
  • Anger over Facebook’s failure to contain egregious breaches of user privacy.
  • Speculation that Facebook’s internal culture is imploding.
  • Anxiety that Facebook exerts an unfair advantage over its competition and needs to be broken up.

What have I missed?

These, and many other concerns, have resulted in some concrete actions that normally would cause some serious problems for a business, such as:

  • An advertising boycott by a number of powerful brands in July.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg being hauled into public hearings to face a public grilling by Congress, most recently the week of July 27 over Facebook’s competitive practices.

And yet, in Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings report, the world’s largest social media network reported:

  • $18.7 billion in revenue, up from $16.9 billion a year earlier and above analysts’ expectations of $17.34 billion.
  • Profit for the second quarter nearly doubling to $5.18 billion, or $1.80 a share, exceeding Wall Street estimates.
  • An increase in monthly active users to 2.7 billion, from 2.6 billion in the first quarter. More than three billion people now use at least one of Facebook’s products on a monthly basis.

Now look at Facebook’s stock price, rising year after year:

Facebook’s resilience has prompted many to ask, Why? Well, I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. Clearly, the negative PR does not speak for everyone.
  1. Facebook continues to enjoy an advantage of being the first major social media network to break through globally. When you gain a foothold on a market, it’s awfully hard for anyone to dislodge you.
  1. Facebook has stayed true to a fundamental brand promise of connecting people. If you want to stay connected with Aunt Mary in Topeka or your old college buddy Jim in Montana, Facebook delivers.
  1. It’s not the only social media network fraught with controversy over free speech versus fringe activities. Every major platform – TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and others – faces the same fundamental challenge Facebook does, and no one has anywhere near a perfect solution. Investors and advertisers understand this reality, and so long as social media platforms appeal to them, Facebook does, too.
  1. Facebook continues to make smart moves to expand its global reach, a recent example being its investment into Jio Platforms of India.
  1. The company is delivering on its 10-year growth plan unveiled in 2016, including continued investments in virtual reality.

Reason 6 above is especially important. Investors like to see businesses create a compelling growth plan and stick to it. Facebook has never lost sight of its own aspirations to grow globally and to use technology to connect people. As a result:

  • Facebook attracts more investors.
  • Those investors fuel the company’s expansion.
  • The company’s expansion attracts more users.
  • More users attract more advertisers. And advertisers are crucial to Facebook’s future.

My advice to advertisers:

  • If Facebook is delivering the audiences you want, continue to rely on Facebook as a crucial element of your game plan. Capitalize on new tools to reach your audience, such as Facebook’s recently unveiled ways to connect people and businesses on WhatsApp. If you work with an agency, ask them about how they’re using these tools to help you.
  • Be patient, and don’t let negative PR distract you (but if you’ve stuck with Facebook thus far, you probably know that already).
  • As with all social networks, assess your own tolerance for the risk versus reward of having a presence on Facebook. As I blogged recently, being on social media presents the possibility that your ads and organic content will appear alongside questionable content. At the same time, being on social also means benefitting from the surge in traffic on social media occurring in 2020. Bottom line: be vigilant (and your agency partner, if you have one, should be vigilant, too).
  • Keep a close watch on all the news affecting Facebook, especially Facebook’s ongoing issues with Congress. It’s important to understand the potential changes that legislation could have on Facebook. Being aware is always a good course of action.
  • Get comfortable living with the wild card in the deck: the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest impact the pandemic may have on Facebook is fluctuating advertising revenues from businesses looking for ways to reduce their ad spend as they react to uncertain economic conditions. But one thing is clear: the Facebook community itself is only getting bigger, and it probably will as people increase their usage of online platforms amid spikes in COVID-19 rates.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize Facebook’s growth to build their brands. We can help you, too. Contact us to learn more.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Facebook Social media YouTube

One of the more interesting aspects of the ongoing Facebook advertising boycott is the concern over brand safety. Advertising Age reports that boycotting advertisers want assurance that the ads they place on the Facebook News Feed will not appear next to objectionable content such as hate speech. And who can blame them? But advertisers may not get everything they want. And they may have to live with an ongoing reality: so long as your brand lives on social media, you will always need to manage risk (whether you advertise, manage organic content, or both) against the ROI of having a presence on the world’s most popular digital destinations.

Social Media Controversies

I’ve been following how brands have managed occasional controversies on social and have commented on them in posts such as “Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots” and “Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live.” Many of the issues I’ve been writing about remain today, and Facebook is not the only platform wrestling with them. They include:

  • The inherent tension that exists when businesses exist on platforms designed to give people and organizations an open forum. An open forum means that anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always make its way on to social.
  • The reality that malicious parties are actively looking for ways to game the platforms and disrupt them. Twitter is reeling from a major hack July 15 in which the accounts of high-profile individuals such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were hijacked as part of a Bitcoin scam. Of course, the bad guys out there are also going after brands’ websites, too, but on social media, your account is only as secure as the platform where you are renting space.
  • The difficulty of combating malicious content. As I discussed in a post about Twitter trying to combat trolls, social platforms continue to struggle with the fact that they can employ only so many people to monitor and combat inappropriate content. And when the platforms use automated tools to root out trolls, those tools make mistakes by overreaching and going after innocent accounts, too.

But brands simply cannot decide to ignore social media. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are among the Top 20 most visited sites in the world according to Ahrefs. And as online traffic has surged across the board in 2020, businesses continue to succeed with social media advertising.

What You Should Do

So what’s the answer for brands wanting a safer experience? Well, there is no easy one. But:

  • Artificial intelligence is going to get better. Remember, we’re still in the early stages of AI’s development. As AI improves, social platforms are going to do a better job rooting out objectionable content.
  • Social platforms can and should be more transparent about how they monitor and react to objectionable content. It’s unrealistic for any social media platform to promise brands that their ads will never appear alongside offensive content. But according to Advertising Age, Facebook is figuring out how to more proactively report to brands how it monitors content and responds to flare-ups. This is a step in the right direction. It’s just not a good idea to leave advertisers in the dark. Being candid and including them in a solution goes a long way.

Advertisers should demand that social media platforms work with them to manage their brands. But social media more than ever will always be a risky place for brands to live. I suggest that businesses:

  • Have a strategy for how social media attracts and keeps customers both with advertising and organic content.
  • Measure success – but also measure your risk tolerance. Assign a numerical scale to assess the level of risk you are willing to accept on each platform and for various types of incidents ranging from security breaches to your content appearing alongside inappropriate content.
  • Monitor your ROI as well as incidents you experience. How much ROI are you getting? How frequent are the violations you experience? Does the ROI outweigh the costs of dealing with negatives? (Your mileage will vary.)
  • Keep applying pressure to the major social platforms to hold themselves accountable.

What have your experiences been on social media? I’d love to hear from you.

Contact True Interactive

Do you need help making decisions about advertising on social? Contact us.

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

 

Amazon, Facebook, and Google Earnings: Takeaways for Advertisers

Amazon, Facebook, and Google Earnings: Takeaways for Advertisers

Advertising

The week of April 27 was especially important for the online advertising world. The three companies that account for nearly 70 percent of online ad spend – Amazon, Facebook, and Google – all announced quarterly earnings. Here was the first time advertisers would see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ad spend. And the news was better than expected.

Amazon Advertising Surges

Amazon announced a rise in quarterly revenue as people sheltering in place increasingly relied on digital to manage their lives, including purchasing products. Amazon’s Advertising service saw a 44-percent increase in revenue (advertising is included in the “other” category in Amazon’s earnings). Why did Amazon’s advertising business do so well?

  • For one thing, consumers on Amazon are searching with intent to buy. And a lot of people are searching on Amazon. According to CivicScience, 49 percent of product searches start on Amazon, versus 22 percent on Google.
  • Amazon without question became a more attractive place to find things to buy as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. According to Learnbonds.com, Amazon’s monthly unique visitors for March, 4.6 billion, easily exceeded competitors such as eBay and Walmart.
  • Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during the surge. As we have reported on our blog, over the years, Amazon’s advertising service has developed a number of products that have served Amazon and advertisers well. Those products include Sponsored Ads, Video Ads, and Display Ads, among others.

Amazon said it will plow its profits into COVID-19-related relief activities. As CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement, “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we’re not thinking small. Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we’d expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren’t normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.”

Amazon’s steady development of an advertising service helped put the company in the position to be able to accommodate this expenditure.

Facebook and Google: Signs of a Turnaround

To no one’s surprise, both Facebook and Google saw a slowdown in revenue earned from online advertising, especially in March. But stock shares for both companies rose after they announced earnings. Why? Let’s take a closer look.

Facebook: More Users and Engagement

Facebook announced that even though ad revenue had dropped during the quarter, it was showing signs of turning around in April. Overall, quarterly revenue rose by $17.74 billion. As Facebook said in a statement, “After the initial steep decrease in advertising revenue in March, we have seen signs of stability reflected in the first three weeks of April.”

In addition, Facebook said that monthly active users had increased 10 percent year over year to number 2.6 billion, and engagement was up as people sheltering in place increased their use of social media.

The advertisers who maintained their spending levels during the dip in March benefitted by being present during the surge in user engagement, as we discussed on our blog.

Google: YouTube Is the Star

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported quarterly revenue of $41.16 billion, a 13-percent year-over-year increase. Revenue from advertising rose 11.6 percent, with advertising from YouTube surging by 33.5 percent.

Alphabet acknowledged that online ad revenue had taken a hit because of COVID-19. But in an investor earnings call, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, said that “We have seen some very early signs of recovery in commercial search behavior by users.”

Because Google is very active in the travel and retail – industries that have been rocked by the pandemic – its performance actually exceeded expectations.

As with Facebook, advertisers who maintained their levels of spending benefitted as the general population shifted its behaviors online during the first quarter. As we noted on our blog, many businesses adapted their tone and content to demonstrate empathy with ads running on Google sites such as YouTube. Those businesses positioned themselves well.

What You Should Do 

Amazon, Facebook, and Google will continue to dominate the world of online advertising for the foreseeable future. Here is what we suggest:

  • Don’t go dark. Businesses that maintained their visibility online during the March advertising downturn benefitted from the increase in online engagement. Even as states ease up their shelter-in-place orders, social distancing is not going away anytime soon. We’re living in a digital-first world now amid longer-term behavioral changes. Being present with paid media means taking a digital-first approach.
  • Mind your tone. As I blogged in March, businesses need to do a gut check on the tone of their content. Many businesses have successfully incorporated empathy into their advertising while others have changed their messaging to focus on health and safety. Taylor Hart shared some examples of successful social media advertising in this blog post.
  • Be open to different forms of engagement. It’s important that businesses be ready to adapt different forms of engagement to reflect changing user behavior. For instance, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out during Facebook’s earnings call, livestreaming on Facebook is a more attractive alternative to live events. Moreover, Facebook had already been seeing a marked increase in use of its Messenger app before the pandemic. Héctor Ariza recently shared examples of ad products that capitalize on the popularity of Messenger. Given the increase in Facebook’s monthly average users, now is a good time to try those products.
  • Capitalize on new ad products. Google is fighting hard to protect its turf amid the rise of Amazon Advertising. The company continues to roll out new products to make the Google universe more appealing to advertisers. For instance, I recently blogged about how Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV. As Mark Smith discussed in December 2019, Google has been developing some impressive location-based advertising tools.

Contact True Interactive

We know how to create and manage online advertising that is appropriate for the times we are living in — don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help.