Adaptly President Sean O’Neal’s Overview of Social Advertising

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Social media advertising agency Adaptly, a Facebook Marketing Partner, recently discussed the social ad environment in an internal question-and-answer session with its president, Sean O’Neal.

Adaptly, which recently turned six years old, shared the Q&A with SocialTimes:

Q: In the six years that Adaptly has helped brands connect with audiences on social media platforms, there have been significant changes in paid social media. What were some of the biggest surprises?

O’Neal: We anticipated that Instagram and Pinterest would be popular with advertisers, but we couldn’t have predicted the scale. Within weeks of offering paid media solutions for the platforms, there was a huge surge in demand.

It says a lot that Instagram went from hundreds of advertisers in June 2015 then opened the floodgates when there was a wide rollout of its ad platform in September. By February 2016, the platform had 200,000 monthly active advertisers.

Another surprise: The rate at which brands and agencies transition from managed service to self-serve has been much slower than we expected. Our strategic service is in higher demand than ever. The complexity and speed of change within the increasingly fragmented social media ecosystem makes it difficult for businesses without (and even with) dedicated teams to keep up. There’s an array of ad formats and targeting capabilities, plus platforms keep emerging that change the way we consume and share media.

Q: Facebook’s audience growth and the evolution of its audience targeting sophistication have been phenomenal. Why would brands want to advertise anywhere else?

O’Neal: With more than 1 billion active users, Facebook is the largest social network in the world. The sheer size and diversity of its audience, plus the extensive targeting capabilities, make Facebook a boon for advertisers that want to reach specific users at scale and across devices.

Consumer behavior and preferences change, and the social media landscape has expanded and adapted accordingly. Now there are platforms like Instagram (which Facebook acquired), Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and Kik—each with unique strengths and user bases. Brand advertisers have to be on the platforms that are most relevant their target audience.

Q: Which brand categories have fully embraced social spending and which do you think lag behind?

O’Neal: There are more than 2 million advertisers on Facebook, so it’s safe to say it’s the social media platform where all verticals have established a presence. But other platforms are popular for specific industries given their nature. For instance, consumer packaged goods and retail are core brand categories on Pinterest, which is like a visual search engine people use to plan for the future—things to cook, buy, etc.

Q: You have used the term “autonomous marketing platforms” as a kind of shorthand for social media platforms. Why and exactly what does it mean?

O’Neal: Social media platforms encompass more than just sharing updates with friends and family and direct messaging: Now they’re home to visual search, video publishing, real-time events, augmented reality and commerce. Autonomous platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.—are often called “walled gardens,” since they’re subject to distinct user experiences and have given way to fragmented interactions between consumers and companies. In turn, they’ve ushered in new opportunities for brands to connect with audiences, namely advertising formats that deliver against any marketing objective–hence the term, “autonomous marketing platforms.”

Q: Where do you see the growth in autonomous marketing platforms in the next couple of years? Where is the smart money headed?

O’Neal: We’ve passed the tipping point where there are more users of messaging applications than social networking apps: 3 billion versus 2.5 billion. The huge and engaged audiences of messaging apps like Facebook MessengerWhatsApp (another Facebook property) and Snapchat have been relatively untapped by advertisers up until recently.

Now people can use messaging apps for:

More brands will form integrations with mobile messaging apps to gain the opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with consumers and become part of their everyday lives. Advancements in artificial intelligence will help make these interactions more seamless.

The original article can be found on Adweek SocialTimes.