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Why paid social is vital for digital marketing success

Expert advice on the changing landscape of content delivery.

Not too long ago, content was king and ruled over the social media landscape with absolute power. But things may not be so simple now.

David Schneider, the founder of social creative agency That Lot, recently explained how paying to place that content in front of audiences is now more vital than ever. “When the algorithm changed and everything shifted to ‘paid’ I realized we needed an expert,” he told the crowd in Lisbon at Web Summit, Europe’s largest technology conference.

Joined on stage by that expert, Joe Orton, the two explained how the marketing landscape has changed in the past year. They also spoke extensively about what the explosion in paid opportunities means for marketers and how to tailor content to the myriad of new paid formats.

Content is still king, but paid is president

paid social - digital marketing success

Content is still vitally important in today’s battle for ears, eyes and clicks. But Orton and Schneider suggest that investment in placement is necessary to ensure more accurate targeting of consumers on social media.

“At the core of everything we do now is to not (differentiate) between content and ads, organic and paid,” said Schneider. “It’s AdTent or Contads. We treat ads and content in the same way creatively.”

In other words, while the placement might be paid, the content still needs to be compelling or the investment may prove useless. “Paid allows you to knock on certain doors. But only if your creative is really strong will you be invited in,” he explained. “I don’t think it’s the death of organic — I just think we’re going through an age where paid is more significant.”

One objective per ad

The first steps in creating effective paid social advertising is to understand the business goals behind the campaign, align the content to those objectives and then track metrics for those outcomes. For example, if the goal is to promote a new product, the objective is ‘awareness’ and the relevant metrics should be related to impressions, ad lift recall and views.

“Try and plan one objective for each piece of content,” advises Orton. “Don’t think, ‘we need to introduce new products, we need to engage people about it, we need to drive them to the website.’ Don’t try and do that in one go, but actually break those objectives up.”

Creating content with a single objective, even if it means producing more pieces of content, can go a long way in achieving specific business goals, adds Orton.

Play with formats, but keep it native

paid social - digital marketing success

From Facebook Live videos to Instagram stories, social media platforms are offering a range of new and interesting ad formats for brands to utilize. No matter which platform and format one chooses to pursue, however, Orton and Schneider stress the importance of keeping the content native and natural looking — especially if it’s paid.

“The core of our paid strategy is the same as organic — platform specificity, being absolutely specific to the platform, using the formats that the platform offers you,” said Schneider, stressing the importance of your ad to have the look and feel of an unsponsored post.

“That’s where you take something that’s paid but you make it look as close as possible to something that’s organic so people don’t move on and ignore it.”

Video is no longer simply video

Though ad content used to be either video, still image or audio, there is now a wide range of formats that fall somewhere in between. While on stage, Orton previewed a number of That Lot projects that appeared to be still images at first, only to have a video component hidden within.

For example, he showcased a still image on Instagram that, when swiped over to the next image in the album, turned into a video. They also showed a carrousel of still images that had a digital butterfly appear to be flying from one image to the next, encouraging users to swipe through.

Experiment, test and adjust accordingly

With all the new content formats available to publishers, Orton and Schneider encourage brands to get creative and experiment — so long as they produce content that looks native to the platform and regularly test its performance.

“Maybe they don’t work, maybe they do, but it’s definitely worth trying and it’s always nice to be a market leader,” said Orton. “Don’t expect to get things right the first time…you have to have some really strong reporting to make sure that everything is working well.”


Up Next: How to format your business videos for different social media sites.

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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