NMPignite: The Future of Performance

Read Time: 4 mins 30 secs

In our first all-virtual seminar, The Future of Performance, we explored some of the most exciting opportunities and advancements that our Performance Marketing Team have been working on throughout 2020. 

In today’s climate, finding ways to mitigate risk is crucial for business success. As digital marketing specialists, we’ve been focused on how brands can effectively market themselves in times of crisis and stay ahead in a rapidly changing landscape. 

We at NMPi by Incubeta strongly believe in the value of performance models and have continued to push the boundaries of what is possible. True performance marketing, in particular, has never been more relevant, being such a risk-averse model. Our all-virtual seminar covered the advancements that we’ve made in this model – including CSS, Creative and Amazon – and how they can support you as you power up your Q4 strategies. 

Feed Management

Online commerce has become a real lifeline for retailers and this is only set to increase over time. If you’re a retailer especially, your performance is directly influenced by the quality of your feed. According to ChannelAdvisor, 42% of consumers will be shopping more digitally in the future: more shoppers means more brands wanting to meet demand, which means that your online marketing needs to be airtight. 

Feeds and Feed Management have been a core part of our approach to all kinds of advertising, and our internal experts have covered the topic in-depth in pieces like “Taking Feed Management to the Next Level”. In short, however, the most important areas to focus on are ensuring consistency, improving the quality, and applying regular governance. If you’re looking to take your feeds to the next level, you can even begin to incorporate third party data such as weather, social triggers and even sports schedules. 

Find out more about our feed management offering in Shalaka’s slides.

Amazon

Consumers are increasingly turning to Amazon for their online shopping needs and it’s easy to see why. The channel offers an ease of service, shipping, consistency and an overall great experience for the user. Compared to Google, the intent to buy is much much higher here; even if the user is only doing product research. Considering its relationship with the consumer, it’s no wonder that we see it as the Missing Piece of the Consumer Journey.

For retailers, the advertising offering has strong performance and ROI, a huge audience to take advantage of, and an active user base. As we ramp up to Q4 and the Christmas shopping period, then, it’s time to start putting your strategy into place. Our data highlights that 30% of users on Amazon plan to make their Christmas gift purchases in November, while 50% of consumers of still undecided about presents after Black Friday, so the majority of sales are made in early December. To make the most of this channel, we recommend that you start showcasing your brand before Black Friday, and keep the momentum going all the way until the end of the year. 

You can read through Pete’s slides on our Slideshare.

Creative

Unlike most performance channels, optimising to clicks isn’t an effective strategy for display. Expecting someone to see a display banner and click straight through to store to make a purchase when they’re in the middle of reading the news is like expecting someone to make a direct action after seeing an OOH ad. However, this doesn’t mean that display doesn’t contribute to performance.

To make display a truly successful performance channel, we have to shift our focus to being creative first. It’s the message that drives action, not the media selection. This lets you turn you optimisation approach away from clicks and towards engagement, and helps to unlock the power of smart media buying. Finally, it gives you the opportunity to really demonstrate your broader value to your business and marketing strategies. How do you get your strategy right? It’s actually pretty simple: just remember that if you want something from a customer, you have to offer them something in return. 

Anna goes into more detail about creative and display as a performance channel in her slides which can be found here.

Social

The value of paid social is hopefully fairly apparent, and it’s something we’ve discussed at length before (for example, in 5 Essential Steps for Maximising Facebook and Instagram Advertising). With 3.96 billion active monthly users, both your new and existing customers can be found on social, and lockdown has formed new, permanent habits with the way we use these channels. 

Paid Social is often not considered to be a true performance channel, instead, there is a misconception that it is a branding-led channel. Since the wider social media user isn’t as in market as your average Amazon user, there is a belief that you can’t run performance-driven campaigns. While some platforms like TikTok are very much branding focused, Facebook and Instagram, in particular, are great performance channels to make the most of as you head into Q4.

To find out more about how you can use Paid Social in Q4, check out Jack’s slides on our Slideshare. 

Supporting your Strategies

We have a wide range of audits and workshops available to support your Q4 strategies and performance campaigns over the coming months. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with our team at [email protected].

MythBusting: Facebook’s Server-to-Server Integration

Read Time: 2 mins 40 secs

Here at NMPi by Incubeta, intelligent, accurate attribution is always front and centre of our decision making. Social has always required a slightly different approach from our other performance channels due to the extremely limited insight available via third party tracking solutions. I wrote on this a couple of years ago here and sadly not much has changed. It has always been, more or less, Facebook’s way or the highway. This is particularly the case with post-view interactions, where historically Facebook has only allowed third-party tracking such as from Google Marketing Platform on certain targeting groups. The insight you can gain from this small section of your activity is also extremely limited in scope; only allowing you to verify impressions delivered, but not attribute sales.

As a result of this, there was considerable excitement at NMPi HQ (or our respective bedrooms/kitchens/garden sheds) when reading that Facebook & Google are taking some steps towards playing nice together. This consists of server-to-server integration, which is essentially communications between Facebook’s servers and a third party via API, in this case, Google Campaign Manager. This isn’t a new tool, you can already use server-to-server integration to attribute offline conversions and other data points to Facebook. However, there has been some confusion around the capabilities of the Campaign Manager integration specifically.

A Breakthrough for Social Attribution?

While some commentators have heralded this move as a gamechanger for Social attribution, the reality is much less groundbreaking. Server-to-Server integration with Campaign Manager will only allow impression counting and verification, rather than more in-depth information about post-impression conversions. Instead, the biggest opportunity that this change offers is the  ability to eventually allow impression counting across all target types, including pixel-based audiences, lookalikes, dynamic, and more. 

 Marketers have been crying out for a way to properly attribute Facebook’s post-view conversions and to be able to understand them within the context of their wider marketing mix. This change doesn’t solve this problem. Currently, all that is being shared across is a validation that the impression was served and the environment in which it was served. To allow post-view attribution, Facebook would have to share across a common identifier for the user that Google can read and match to a conversion. They can then place this in the wider path to purchase of this user, alongside all other channels tracked via Google Campaign Manager. However, this would likely lead to some issues with GDPR around sharing this user data over – even if Facebook opted to do so – and any solutions to enable this would require more data being shared between the two tech giants. 

A Step in the Right Direction

Server-to-server integration as a tool, in general, does certainly offer marketers an opportunity to gather more insights into the performance of their social campaigns. Most of the applications of this integration are designed to attribute more sales to Facebook ads (e.g. store & affiliate site conversions). However, we can still hope and this is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of sharing data more openly and effectively between Facebook & Google. There are unfortunately a few more hurdles to clear before we can start to glean full insights into the post-view performance of our Social campaigns.

5 Essential Steps for Maximising Facebook and Instagram Advertising

According to a recent report from eMarketer, 67.6% of adults (aged 18+) are spending over an hour a day more on social media platforms due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. It probably won’t surprise you to find out that Facebook and Instagram top the most used chart (78.1% and 49.5% respectively).

There is still incredible value to be found by utilising these channels, and if you aren’t in a position to offer your services at the moment it may be worth looking to the future and focusing on your upper-funnel activity.

If you are currently investing in your paid advertising, it’s even more important than ever to make sure that any activity you’re currently running is as efficient as possible. The 5 following steps will help you to create great campaigns. 

Essential 1: Set Campaigns Up for Success

A strong foundation is vital for campaigns, no matter the channel. Before going any further, make sure you address these factors:

  • Appropriate Campaign Goals – Ensure your KPIs are aligned with your campaign goals, as an incorrect application can set you up for failure. There are some shades of grey where the impact might not be quite so pronounced, such as between Reach and Brand Awareness, but if you’re running a Traffic campaign to maximise ROI, your campaign will never truly succeed even with perfect targeting, creative, and more.
  • Pixel Implementation – Many Paid Social campaigns fail or underperform due to incorrect or non-optimal pixel set-up. It’s essential that the key standard events are firing with the correct parameters, with the exact configuration of these varying in line with your vertical and KPIs. 
  • Attribution Approach – Relying solely on Facebook’s tracking is intrinsically flawed, as it operates in a silo and doesn’t take into account other touchpoints on the path to purchase. This can muddle the number of conversions that paid social significantly influences, causing advertisers to undervalue the channel.
  • Consistent Naming Convention – A consistent convention enables accurate and scalable optimisation, reporting, and auditing.

Essential 2: Leverage Granular & Varied Audiences

One of the most significant selling points for Facebook and Instagram is the unparalleled scale and variety of audience options available through which to reach your target audience. 

Proper usage of these empowers your campaigns to bring in the right new customers as well as maximizing revenue generation from current ones. Be sure to evaluate the potential of targeting based on interest, behaviour, demographic data, lookalikes, dynamic retargeting & prospecting, pixel-based audiences, and CRM data.

Instagram targeting (source: Instagram)

While granularity in paid social is incredibly important, it’s essential that it’s justified. If you’re not serving a different creative, directing to a different landing page, utilizing a different budgeting strategy or some other variation, then do you really need to segment?

Facebook & Instagram offer a large number of customizations you can perform within ads such as different creatives for different placements. Overeager segmentation is likely to instead impair Facebook’s natural optimization by overly constricting audience sizes, negatively impacting performance, and potentially driving up costs.

Essential 3: Inspiring & Hyper-Relevant Creative

A consistent brand image is key for paid social, but a one-size-fits-all approach is highly unlikely to maximise success. Once you’ve defined your audience and the goals of campaigns, the appropriate imagery and copy should be used for each group. While this should draw on the key elements of your brand image, it’s important that different audience segments you’ve identified are hit with creative aimed at that user type if you are to elicit your desired reaction.

Are you trying to draw new customers to your business, where they may need a more informative creative? Alternatively, are you driving existing customers to site or re-engaging with lapsed customers? In this case, it may be more important to highlight offers or any new products.

The ad formats you choose are also key, so ensure that you’ve run tests across all relevant formats such as instant experiences, stories, collections & more. However, don’t be afraid to pull back on low performing formats, as different brands are very likely to have varying levels of success with different formats.

Essential 4: Maximise on Dynamic

Dynamic is a great opportunity to boost your paid social results. The success of your dynamic campaigns is wholly dependent on the quality of your technical set-up. Before setting up campaigns, ensure a full audit has been carried out on the events being fired by your pixel & that these are matching up as expected with your catalogue. Additionally, the catalogue must be regularly updated, with category data, custom labels & more populating daily at a minimum.

While many advertisers are making good use of dynamic retargeting, there remains a lack of quality Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences (DABAs) campaigns. We historically see significantly stronger returns from these campaigns than traditional prospecting campaigns, and their dynamic nature makes them much less labour-intensive to set up & maintain. 

Dynamic variations of the same ad (source: Facebook)

Finally, ensure you’re leveraging as many dynamic elements as possible in your ads, pulling in things such a price, category, and multiple images to make the ads as engaging, attractive and tailored to the individual user as possible. Some sense checking is essential here, as gaps in the feed can lead to unusual-looking ads, and incorrect prices present in ads lead to a negative customer experience.

Essential 5: Excel at Cross-Channel

If you’ve set up your Paid Social correctly, the logical next step is to appreciate its role within your wider marketing mix and business strategy, to break it out of the siloes and drive increased performance across your business. Sharing is the keyword here – sharing data, insights, attribution – all of this improves an individual channel’s performance as well as the business as a whole. From testing successful Instagram copy on Search to using Google Shopping best sellers in Facebook DABAs, you can cultivate a more effective consumer journey.

You can find out more about Facebook and it’s role in commerce at our upcoming webinar. We’ll be joined by Sophie Ellis from Facebook to discuss the Future of Commerce on Tuesday 14th April at 12pm. Register here for the link.

No Pixel, No (First) Party

Recent years have been marked by a shift towards greater consumer privacy. The EU’s famous GDPR legislation – a trailblazer in its own right – has paved the way for an insurgence of data protection policies across the world. With California’s new CCPA laws for 2020, and Google’s upcoming 3rd party cookie ban getting under marketers’ skins, we are having to adapt to a whole new landscape.

Whilst heightened data transparency and security is a big win in the eyes of consumers, you would be forgiven for assuming that these laws would restrict digital marketers’ access to granular data. To some extent this is true – perhaps the biggest impact of GDPR was its prohibition of the use of third party data, or Facebook’s ‘Partner Categories’. But this overlooks the potential for innovation, and crucially, fails to consider a tool far more valuable than Partner Categories: first-party data.

The Facebook Pixel

The age-old belief that companies are inundated with data (inundata’d, if you will) but are still searching for the best avenues to utilise it, rings true. In Facebook terms, the vast majority of this first-party data is captured on-site, by the Pixel. This is a piece of code placed on a website that, once given consent, registers events (content viewed, checkout initiated etc.) that users take on a site throughout their path to purchase. It then syncs this data to a registered Facebook user profile, ready to serve them ads at a later date. This is how your favourite retailer is able to retarget you with that pair of trainers you added to your basket 27 days ago.

What are Custom Audiences?

Facebook stores this event data in order to supply ready-to-build custom audiences within Facebook Business Manager (below). Most who are familiar with paid social are probably aware of these events and have seen great success from targeting these high-intent users, but not all are aware of their full capabilities. 

Screengrab of Facebook's readybuilt custom audiences

Below are three helpful examples of how custom audiences can be used to sift through your first-party data, unlocking nuances of user behaviour otherwise overlooked by the standard events.

Purchase Value

You can overlay standard events (add to cart, purchase etc.) with information in the URL of the specific page the user is browsing when the Pixel logs an event. This gives you access to various URL parameters like the product name or category to give you a much broader idea of specific user interest and intent. 

Overlaying a standard event with a category variable is perhaps one of the more common tactics deployed in custom audience targeting. All this means is serving trainer ads to users who have recently been on a landing page on your website with ‘footwear’ in the URL. However, many ignore the potential to further refine these audiences by additional variables: namely, price. 

Screengrab of Facebook Ads targeting for purchases made in the last 90 days

When advertising products of a higher value, it is crucial to understand who is best to market them to. Suppose your customer’s average order value is £50, but you want to advertise your most valuable product range with an average product value of £250. Ads for these higher-value products may well mean wasted impressions on a typical past purchaser. Custom audiences allow you to refine these purchases by value, so that ads can be served exclusively to customers who have previously checked out a basket with a specified minimum value. Ultimately, this makes your ads more relevant.

Building an audience in this way still only utilises a small segment of the abundance of first-party data businesses are sitting on, but in this scenario, this small segment represents a far greater potential for return on investment. These users also represent a valuable source audience from which to build a look-a-like audience from, enabling marketers to find new users that display similar behaviours to their big-spending customers. 

Time Spent on Site

The trusty Facebook Pixel not only logs the value and the events made on a user’s purchase journey, but also tracks the length of these journeys by measuring overall active time spent on a website. Helpfully, Facebook groups all website visitors into percentile thresholds of their time spent on site, which can be used to build custom audiences. 

Screengrab of Facebook audience targeting for visitors by time spent

Many marketers seek to reach their most engaged customers by targeting users who have actively signed up to reward schemes or within the CRM. Whilst this audience tends to be the most engaged, it’s surprising to see the level of overlap with users who are spending the most amount of time on site. 

We’ve seen as little as an 8% overlap between the 5% of users spending the most time on site and those within the CRM, with a level of performance that rivals the CRM audience. Using these two audiences in tandem can allow marketers to reach a much larger group of high-intent users that, without the custom audience tool, would otherwise have been difficult to reach. 

Purchase Frequency

Our last example concerns frequency; the Facebook Pixel stores repeat purchase data from users that are readily available to be retargeted, if you know where to look. 

Screengrab of Facebook audiences by purchase frequency

This tool can be very handy for businesses that sell consumables. Should a business ever wish to promote these in a 3 for 2 deal, then understanding which customers already frequently purchase, and therefore may be likely to capitalise on a sale of this nature, can make all of the difference.

Alternatively, there is also value in understanding which of your past purchasers have failed to make a repeat purchase in a given time frame. Users within this audience may well warrant bespoke promotional targeting to prompt them to make a repeat purchase. Where there is data, there is opportunity.

Make the most of your own resources

Nothing in digital ever stays still. In an era of unprecedented concern for data privacy, laws such as GDPR and CCPA will continue to be introduced across the globe. As marketers, it is more important than ever that we are reactive to these changes that threaten to challenge routine. 

We have only scratched the surface of the targeting opportunities that are available with the apparatus provided by Facebook’s Pixel and custom audiences.  These examples should be used as motivation to explore new innovative avenues to maximise the utility of transparent, first-party data. Granular targeting is still very much possible, but instead of seeking external help, why not consult your own resources? Innovating with your own first-party data is a hugely rewarding exercise in terms of the performance it can drive.

You can find out more about Facebook and it’s role in commerce at our upcoming webinar. We’ll be joined by Sophie Ellis from Facebook to discuss the Future of Commerce on Tuesday 14th April at 12pm. Register here for the link.

Top Tips for Maximising and Measuring your Social Advertising

Read Time: 6 mins

It would be an understatement to say that social media had a difficult year in 2018 with the Facebook family dogged by scandal after investigation after scandal, Kylie Jenner’s infamous “does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore?” tweet, and the steady stream of controversies regarding Twitter.

In light of this, you would be forgiven for asking why Paid Social matters; why would you want your brand to be on these undeniably flawed platforms? The short answer: the billions of users ripe for targeting with unparalleled creative capabilities.

Making your Social Advertising work as hard as your other channels is no easy feat. The question for many of us remains:

How can marketers operate efficient, impactful Social campaigns that have a positive, measurable impact across their marketing portfolio and wider business?

The starting point for this lies in your foundations. Intelligently implemented & complementary audience and creative strategy, with clear goals, is the bedrock of the most successful campaigns.  

Solid Foundations

Begin by choosing the right campaign goal. On Facebook, this will not only affect the options available when setting up your campaign but will also inform all optimisation decisions available moving forward. If you’re running a Traffic-based campaign when you’re aiming to maximise ROI or a Reach-based campaign for your new branding video, your campaign will never truly succeed even with perfect targeting.

As you’re setting up your audiences, ensure that you’re making the most of the vast array of audience information that can be layered to create complex and highly granular targeting strategies. Whilst lookalikes, interest targeting and dynamic prospecting can all be very powerful, they need to be narrowed down to be truly effective.

Finally, as you roll out your creative strategy, check that it aligns with your audience and campaign goals. Are you trying to draw in new customers, requiring a more informative creative? Are you driving existing customers to your site, or re-engaging with lapsed customers? Creatives for these audiences will need to focus more on any offers or new products.  

A coherent creative strategy is crucial as it increases the value of an impression in a time where a user’s attention span is more fleeting than ever. You increase the value of an impression when the imagery of that specific ad matches any interactions they may have had, or will have, with your brand.

Cross-Channel Sharing

There a very few campaign attributes that do not overlap across your channels. Your budget, attribution, audiences, performance data and landing page optimisation – amongst many others – are all incredibly important to share across your marketing mix. If you don’t know where to start, Jack offers a couple of starting points.  

Creative Strategies: Whilst there will naturally be a difference between the copy and imagery used across Social, Search and Display, it would be a waste not to utilise a clear shared strategy as this allows for a clear and coherent customer journey.

Performance Data: We’re given a wealth of data from each individual channel that all too often is criminally underused outside of its own silo. Whilst any advertiser worth his salt will be optimising at a product level on Google Shopping or selecting products for the home page based off sitewide performance, there aren’t enough cases of that data being freed to influence bidding decisions & dynamic product selection across Display or Paid Social.

Audiences: Play into each channel’s strengths and adopt a customer-centric approach which appreciates the touch points that users have taken so far along the path to purchase. Passing audiences from channel to channel allows you to adapt bids, creative, copy and other strategy points as you deem necessary.

A Source of Truth: Many advertisers still rely on Facebook’s tracking, which is incredibly flawed; operating in a silo which doesn’t take into account the other touchpoints in the path to purchase, wildly overestimating Facebook’s contribution. This leads to inefficient budgeting, an inability to effectively test, and inappropriate bid optimisations. A combined approach is needed, using deduped social activity to gauge true ROAS whilst also using Facebook post-view attribution on appropriate campaigns to assess further impact.

 

An appreciation of Social’s role within your wider marketing mix and business strategy is a key area of growth for many advertisers, to break it out of the silos and drive increased performance across your business. Armed with Jack’s advice, you’ll be able to develop a complete marketing strategy which allows you to share your insights to great success. You can view Jack’s slides here.

 

Top Tips for Sleigh-in’ it this Christmas

With Cyber Weekend behind us and Christmas looming ever closer, these next few weeks are the most crucial for any advertiser. We asked the team at NMPi for their top tips to make the most of your campaigns and snap up those last minute sales.

 

“Use your audiences effectively! It might be easier to capture searches for “insert-brand Christmas sales”, it’s a tired approach that relies on consumers actively looking for you. While efficiently capturing searches for just “Christmas sales” is more difficult, it can often prove more profitable if done right. You’ll be able to pull wandering consumers back to your brand and drive additional revenue all the while.” – Josh B, Senior Account Executive.

 

“On social, there are a couple of things you can take advantage of. If your messaging is based on gifting, then make sure your creatives reflect this. For example, have your creatives feature people enjoying your products, rather than focusing on products themselves. Also, remember that some customers may only buy from you once a year – they might not be a part of your normal demographic but are buying a gift for someone who is. To be able to retarget them, you can leverage CRM lists to circumvent the 180 day limit on Facebook pixel audiences. This way, you can target people who might have fallen out of the normal targeting window or don’t match your interest-based targeting.” – Jack C, Performance Manager.

 

“Storytelling over this period, particularly on display, is always a winner. Plan your ad copy or creative so each user learns more about your brand each time they see your ad.” – Charlie K, Account Executive.

 

“Increase your Display spend at the beginning of the month to raise awareness of your offering early on. While it might be a little late for that now, you should also ensure that your last delivery date is called out in your messaging.” – Alice M, Senior Account Manager.

There’s not long left until the big day, but with these top tips you’ll be able to pick up some quick wins across the Yuletide seasons. If you want to get some external insights into how your campaigns are performing, take advantage of our Christmas gift this year: a full digital audit. Get in touch with the team to request yours today.

A Story About Facebook Stories

Like every good story, this one begins once upon a time, last summer to be precise, when, a social media giant went through one of the biggest one-day losses in US corporate history. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, was reported to have lost more than £11.5bn in one day.

What was the reason behind his recent loss of fortune – or at least a small portion of it? Well that my friends, is a new chapter in the Facebook tale.

Reacting to a surge in popularity of short, visually-engaging formats, Facebook began rolling out Stories to its users and advertisers.

Facebook has restricted its newsfeed ads and has switched their focus to the new Stories format. While the format doesn’t currently bring in as much revenue as its more established counterpart, the bet is surely worth taking if the last five years are anything to go on.

What’s the Stories?

It all began back in 2013. Snapchat, an app with a camera at its heart, designed a tool which allowed its users to create a narrative from a collection of images and short videos. Named Stories, the format was unique in that posts would only have a lifespan of 24 hours. Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, said: “we learned that creativity can be suppressed by the fear of permanence, but also empowered through ephemerality.”

With point-and-shoot now more accessible than ever, the environment was ripe for Snapchat users to neglect the use of text. Instead, what they saw could be captured, edited and shared, creating a makeshift story for all of their friends to see.

Enter, Instagram Stories

Now, this wouldn’t be a story if it didn’t contain a bit of foreshadowing.

In August 2016, Facebook-owned Instagram had a problem: their product had become too high-end. In fact, many users felt the bar was set too high, and that their everyday pictures were not worthy of being posted to their feed.

So Instagram took a drastic step, copying their competitors to introduce Stories.

The new format was placed at the top of the app, inviting users to post to an audience made up of their existing social network. Now boasting 400 million daily users, the radical implementation has produced an engaged audience and now offers an effective way to speak to customers.

With this platform, though, it is more important than ever to adapt to the environment, a lesson learned quickly by The Guardian. Initially, their posts were tv-quality videos with high set up costs and did not generate the engagement they would have liked. They later adopted a form of native advertising, using short-video explainers and static graphics on news topics – fun content which is easy to make. By adapting to their surroundings, the news outlet has seen their Instagram account grow from 860,000 to one million followers over the last four months.

The Climax of the Story – Facebook Stories

To go forward you must go back, an ethos certainly practised by Facebook as of late. As the Newsfeed begins to reach its limit, the tech giant has planted the seed for the latest addition to paid-social advertising.

A change to the Newsfeed’s algorithm earlier in the year means that brands struggle to reach users organically and instead must rely on sponsored content in order to reach users on the platform. This is all part of Facebook’s desire to make the feed a place of “meaningful interactions” and consequently a shift away from newsfeed-focused advertising.

Introducing a new character to the tale, Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer of Facebook recently announced that “the Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.” A prediction with stats to support it, the consulting firm Block Party stated: “since early 2016 Stories creation and its consumption is up 842%.”

The Plot Thickens

On the brink of a visual communication era and a filling newsfeed, Facebook is shifting users towards Stories despite them monetising at “materially lower” rates than the Newsfeed, Brian Nowak of Morgan Stanley states. He believes that Facebook “will now need to increase its execution around stories engagement and ad innovation.”

With the introduction of Spotify and GoPro on Facebook Stories through third-party app integration, the foundations are set for our vertical protagonist. Perfect for brand-building exercises, the price to advertise through Stories is currently lower than to advertise on the Newsfeed.

And they all lived happily ever after

Perhaps the story is missing a Liam Neeson, David vs Goliath or even a frog-kissing princess, but the potential of Stories means there’s always a chance of a sequel.

A high degree of its success can be attributed to the short lifespan, giving users the freedom to post how they wish without the worry of an old post being quoted against them if they were to become Prime Minister (you never know). Once the feature was introduced to Instagram and the engagement it produced could be analysed, it was only a matter of time before Zuckerberg adopted and monetised Stories on the biggest of all social media platforms.

With ads at the heart of Facebook’s growth, Stories will allow them to create an environment which both elicits the greatest possible connection and allows their revenue model to flourish. Even if it does temporarily mean losing some loose change.

The end.

The Battle for Stories Ad Supremacy

Despite a growing user base and significant backing from Facebook, the Stories ad format has yet to be wholeheartedly embraced by the digital marketing community. Facebook has even taken to advertising Stories placements across the web to drum up interest.

Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram have been leading the charge on this new type of ad format. While Facebook Stories remain a fairly new advertising proposition and Snapchat struggles to win over advertisers around the world, Instagram Stories are currently the go-to for many companies, even if they haven’t been universally adopted.

Despite widespread hesitation to adopt this format, some retailers are keen to jump on the opportunity. We recently ran a large, full-funnel campaign for one of our clients across the different Stories platforms. This allowed us to test the benefits of each one, to find out how you can maximise performance with Stories ads.

Snapchat: the Originator

The originator of Stories, Snapchat, is the first to come to mind when thinking about this particular format. However, having previously been plagued with conversion tracking issues, many advertisers have lost faith in the platform as a home for paid social. While projected to earn £104.8M this year, the channel has only generated £68.4M – a solid 34.7% below target.

With that being said, there has been a big push to improve the advertising offering over the past few months, making us think the time was ripe for a retest.

The biggest selling point for Snapchat is its price, coming in 4 times lower than our Instagram activity. This meant that our budgets went even further, allowing us to reach even more of Snapchat’s highly sought after youth audience.

Ultimately,  we do have concerns about the quality of traffic, having seen a higher bounce rate than Facebook or Instagram. While it’s great to reach a wide audience, it’s even more important to have high-quality traffic.

Instagram: the Innovator

Instagram is the most widely used way to advertise with Stories content, and its innovative formats pave the way for the industry.

We were able to test new features for our campaign including, the Stories carousel and Facebook’s video editor; which allows you to create videos from existing images. At the time of writing, these opportunities were not available on any other platform.

Despite forecasting strong performance, we saw the weakest engagement from the Instagram campaigns. The higher cost of media, likely caused by increased competition, and lower CTR resulted in the highest cost per conversion across all of our tests. However, this could be the result of doing the majority of our testing within this platform.

With this in mind, Instagram remains the easiest to use with the most opportunity to test new features and ideas. Most recently, a Shopping feature has been released for organic Stories, which means if it’s successful it’s likely to become available as a paid format.

Facebook: the Newbie

Facebook Stories are the new kids on the block, only recently launching as a paid advertising format. Sadly, this becomes fairly apparent when you come to build a campaign. The innovation present on Instagram hasn’t crossed streams onto Facebook just yet, and so we were limited to single images. Also, at the moment you can’t just target Facebook Stories, you have to include Instagram as well. This means that you don’t have anywhere near as much control over your budget – we only saw 11% of our budget going into our Facebook Stories ad placement, despite having a 34% lower cost per visit. This is likely due to a lack of inventory available on this platform.

Facebook certainly has promise with a cheaper price and similar CTR to Instagram. Unfortunately, the current reduced inventory does hinder performance, and a lack of budget control will certainly put some off. This is one for the early adopters to play around with before the inevitable rise in CPMs as more businesses get on board.

NMPi: the Decider

Each of the different platforms inevitably has their strengths and so if you aren’t currently making use of them, you definitely should be. However, it is important that advertisers treat Stories, as well a mobile in general, with the respect they deserve. Content specifically designed for Stories will achieve greater performance, and the more holistic the viewing experience for the user, the more engagement you will see.

Your mobile site is just as important as the content you produce; the battle isn’t won once you’ve made the user swipe up. If your mobile site is a chore to navigate with a long load time the users will click off.

However, as is to be expected with such new platforms they don’t come without their problems. You cannot run Facebook Stories ads without also running ads on Instagram Stories, which makes it difficult to recommend the platform on its own. While Snapchat drives high volumes of traffic, there was a high bounce rate to match and so wasn’t the best option for our ads.

On the other hand, while we saw our weakest engagement on Instagram, it’s still our platform of choice. It is the most sophisticated option, which continues to roll out new features to further differentiate its offering, and we believe that the low engagement rate was mostly down to our high level of experimentation throughout this campaign. Further, the traffic we attracted on Instagram was of a higher quality than from Snapchat. So, if you’re trying to decide which of the three to trial first, make it Instagram.

With that said, keep your eyes on this space. It seems inevitable that they will continue to grow and expand their solutions, not to mention improve any current shortcomings.   

Facebook Announces New WhatsApp Ads for 2019

In February 2014, messaging platform WhatsApp joined the Facebook family with their adless reputation still intact. Since its launch in 2009, WhatsApp has drawn in users with its “no-ads” mantra and its end-to-end encryption, but those days seem to be numbered with the announcement of ads which will appear on the Status page coming to the service in 2019.

What Do We Know?

The WhatsApp Status feature was introduced in early 2017 and works much in the same way as many other Story platforms like Facebook and Instagram Stories, and Snapchat. Users can upload photos to show their contacts what they’re up to, with the promise that these videos will be gone in 24 hours. However, uptake has been weak with less than 50% of account holders making use of the feature.

Despite this, and against the platform’s long-standing commitment to providing an ad-free service, Facebook has confirmed that ads will be rolled out into the Status feature at some point in 2019 to the dismay of users and stakeholders alike. WhatsApp’s co-founders didn’t originally know that Facebook wanted to start sharing data across platforms to help target ads at users, which in part led to Brian Acton leaving the company last September.

Users are also unhappy about the news, as it appears many of the platform’s main selling points have now gone to the wayside. WhatsApp’s founders never wanted to know more than your phone number and promised end-to-end message encryption, but many are worried about how much information will be scraped from their private conversations.

What Don’t We Know?

A big question that many advertisers will have is how linked it will be to Facebook, as this will have an impact on the level of targeting available, how much information about a user is made available, and how tied to the Facebook Ads Manager it will be.

For instance, by linking a WhatsApp profile to a Facebook account, this gives an advertiser access to all of Facebook’s targeting methods, raising the question, how easy it will be to integrate WhatsApp advertising into your social advertising campaigns. Will WhatsApp be part of the Facebook Ads Manager – like Instagram is – or will it be managed independently?

WhatsApp operates on a very low barrier to entry, only requiring a phone number to sign up. As such, will the platform be able to link this mobile number to a Facebook account? This will provide more information than is currently available on WhatsApp alone. With account information, advertisers will be able to apply similar targeting strategies to those on Facebook such as interest segments and lookalikes.

It will be interesting to see what kind of creative formats are available: will there be a variety, as there is for Instagram Stories, or will it be more like Facebook Messenger where you can only use single image ads.

There will be a lot of questions about how much information will be scraped from messages and just how much personal data will be shared between Facebook’s platforms. This will be crucial to getting consumer buy-in, as many users will be frustrated if they feel like information from their private conversations is being exploited.

Furthermore, the only ad format being put forward at the moment will appear in the WhatsApp Status, similar to Facebook or Instagram Stories, which are viewed by less than 50% of users. Whether this is extended out into Chat remains to be seen, as this may result in people deserting the service and thus making it unprofitable as an advertising platform.

Currently, we have more questions than answers, but monetising WhatsApp was going to happen at some point, even if it has been soon than many would have liked or even anticipated. This is certainly a platform to keep an eye on as the potential is enormous, but testing will be necessary to assess the actual value.

NMPi Acquires Boutique Paid Social Specialists, MediaPact

We are excited to announce our acquisition of boutique paid social specialists, MediaPact. Following a year of international expansion in 2017, this kicks off another year of continued growth. Last year, we opened 2 offices in the US, and this will further our growth in the Paid Social market: allowing us to grow our presence in the US market, providing benefits not just to our US clients but those across the globe.

MediaPact is based in Los Angeles, California, offering paid social advertising on a performance model and working with clients such as Fabletics, JustFab and Nicequest. With their specific expertise and our international footprint, it’s a match made in heaven that will further develop our Paid Social offering.

Our CEO, Luke Judge, took a moment to discuss what this acquisition means for the company. “We are always looking for ways to strengthen our service offering and from the beginning, it has been clear that NMPi and MediaPact’s similar heritage, rooted in performance marketing, makes us a great match.”

Paid Social has been an integral part of our proposition for a number of years, and this expansion of our knowledge couldn’t come at a better time. MediaPact’s American influence will help support our continued growth in the US market, and will also allow our clients to gain earlier access to Facebook and Instagram betas that are launched overseas first.

“MediaPact’s knowledge will help amplify our expertise and reach for a service that is growing exponentially within our business,” says Judge.

Nathan McCurley, Senior Customer Success Manager at MediaPact, is also looking forward to the partnership. “Social media marketing remains a vital part of our strategic offering and we’re excited for the joint benefits this acquisition will bring.”

This acquisition demonstrates that we have no plans to slow down after 2017’s successes and that we at NMPi will continue to grow, both in terms of our services and our international activity.