Paid Social Media Trends for 2016

Collective Measures
November 11, 2015
What are the top trends in paid social media for 2016? Learn more on our agency blog.


Why Paid Social Media Advertising is the Future

Paid social used to be an unsophisticated ad platform and over the last twelve months, it’s turned itself into one of the most nimble and successful advertising platforms for our clients.

However, many brands still consider social to be ‘earned media’ – and therefore are wary of spending budgets on advertising here. Luckily, 2015 was an especially big year for these platforms and the sophistication of paid social. Worldwide social network ad spend is currently projected to reach $25.14 billion by the end of the year – significantly higher than the $23.68B forecasted in April.

Source: eMarketer

And with total activity on mobile devices making up 60% of digital media time in the US (Source: MarketingLand), social media, which is used predominantly on mobile, is an extremely effective way to reach these audiences.

So what does this mean for advertisers?

Those who haven’t gotten in on the paid social game yet will need to be strategic about joining the quickly expanding space. Those already testing the waters will need to know what to expect next, in order to effectively adapt to this constantly-changing market.

With the year coming to a close, there are some big things on the horizon. Top three trends we see coming down the pike.

2016 Paid Social Media Trends

1. The push to keep users on-site and in-app

An initiative beginning to emerge on multiple platforms is the push to keep users on-site and in-app. This is becoming especially prominent within the advertising space. From new ad types to in-app eCommerce capabilities, social media platforms are recognizing the importance of holding onto traffic as long as possible. This initiative is definitely helpful to advertisers, too:

Lead Ads: Facebook’s auto-fill form ads are the “new, simpler way for people to fill out forms on their mobile devices.” By automatically populating forms with the contact information from their profiles, they have effectively created a native sign-up flow that enables users to convert in two clicks, without ever having to leave Facebook. It also decreases the length of path-to-conversion – a big plus for marketers.



‘Buy Now’ Button Ads: After a year and a half of testing their advertising capabilities, Instagram (Facebook’s adopted child) is beginning to catch on, too. Not only did they finally make their ads clickable and capable of sending traffic to advertisers’ sites, but then they also made it possible for users to convert without ever leaving the app. By opening a mini-browser, users can make purchases, read information, or sign up for a service – all from the comfort of Instagram.

Instgram Paid Social Ads


‘Dynamic Product’ Ads: Although not intended to keep users on-site, Facebook’s answer to Google Shopping was created to keep advertisers on its platform. Since their launch in February, dynamic product ads have now shown they’re capable of driving ROI comparable to paid search – and are quickly being adopted by numerous big brands looking to jump onto this wave.

Dynamic Ads Facebook


2. Social Media & Programmatic: The Modern-Day Laverne & Shirley

Social media and programmatic. Just a couple of friends trying to make it in the advertising world. Programmatic – the tough-talking cynic. Social media – the friendly pal who just wants to have fun. Social media has a secret diary called 1st party data that it writes in at the end of every episode. However, programmatic knows exactly what it wants – and has the granularity to get it. Anyway, enough sitcom references…

In 2012, Facebook realized there was an opportunity to expand its advertising options, and created Facebook Exchange – an exchange allowing marketers to use their own outside data to target on the platform. Similar instances occurred in other places like Twitter and LinkedIn.

Facebook Exchange


Even Google got in on the game, allowing users to upload lists and create things like ‘look-a-like’ audiences in search and display. Eventually, the platforms even expanded by offering targeting across other sites outside of their own.

However, various programmatic vendors like Dstillery and RadiumOne now essentially do the same thing – among even broader selections of sites – with data they’ve purchased from multiple sources, including social media. Whether intentionally or not, programmatic is proving the ROI of social media investments.


3. Video Killed the Image Ad Star

Video – it’s what’s for 2016 breakfast. It’s common knowledge that video views have been surging on social media networks – especially Facebook. In fact, natively uploaded videos on Facebook surpassed YouTube video posts in October (Source: SocialBakers).



Since April, total views (someone watching a video for at least three seconds) on this platform have doubled – now hitting an average of 8 billion per day. We also know that organic video growth definitely impacts ad spend, as everyone from large enterprises to small businesses are taking advantage of this trend. In September alone, 1.5 million small businesses posted promotional videos (both organic and paid) on the site (Source: MarketingLand).

Then, brands such as GMC used Facebook video – along with other ad types – to extend the reach of their tandem television campaigns. From this, GMC saw a 13-point lift in ad recall and six-point lift in brand favorability (source: Ebrandz).

So why is video suddenly the golden child? Christopher Spong, resident Social Media Scientist, has this to say: “A lot of marketers say it’s because the content is more interesting [than images]. I say it’s because the platforms are prioritizing videos.” We may never know the real reason people love videos – all we know for now is that the data is there to back it up.

Takeaways for 2016

If you’ve yet to revamp – or even consider – your paid social strategy, now is the time to start.

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