It’s hard to measure the ROI of a “like” or a “retweet”. And yet, up until a few years ago, that was the only way to judge if your social advertising was effective. It created this lingering idea that social is great for awareness and engagement but not well-suited for anything lower down the purchase funnel. In an interview with eMarketer a few months ago, State Farm Insurance Advertising Director Ed Gold said, “On social media, brands don’t expect someone to take an immediate action. … It’s great when it can drive purchase intent or acquisition, but there’s definitely a higher priority on search to drive someone to our site.”
That’s just not true anymore. New products and targeting capabilities have made it so that a user can move through the entire purchase funnel in social, with measurable ROI beyond likes and clicks. Immediate action isn’t just expected; it’s encouraged and demanded, just like any other advertising channel.
As Monica Lay, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe’s Adobe Media Optimizer, told eMarketer, “Five years ago, it was very difficult to tie tangible business results to Facebook. Now, the way you measure Facebook [advertising] is very much in line with [how] you measure ROI across any other channel, whether that’s search or display.”
New ad products, primarily led by Facebook, have given advertisers an array of tactics built to drive sales, both on and offline. Facebook has upped their offerings to include ads that give users directions to navigate immediately to a business location; they’ve added new-and-improved couponing tactics, and they continue to tout Dynamic Product Ads (pictured below) for both Facebook and Instagram – a tactic that Sheryl Sandberg specifically called out in Facebook’s Q2 2016 earnings call, saying they’re delivering “search-like ROI” for businesses.
Pinterest is leveraging its idea- and product-based platform to encourage its affluent user base to buy directly on the platform with its new “Shopping Bag,” where users can buy items using Apple Pay or credit card without ever leaving Pinterest. Twitter has updated their Website Conversions objective to better target and optimize towards users most likely to convert.
In addition to new products, new measurement tactics have also helped prove out social ad effectiveness. Facebook’s offline conversions measurement gives advertisers the chance to find that elusive tie between digital advertising and in-store purchases: transaction data can be uploaded and matched to your audience on Facebook. Additionally, Facebook Offers allow advertisers to use coupon codes to track offline sales. Every step of the online conversion path is tagged, tracked and used for retargeting and lookalike modeling.
Twitter and Pinterest have followed Facebook’s lead for online conversion tracking with the introduction of Twitter’s universal website tag and the “Pinterest Tag,” which both allow for pixeling multiple conversion events in order to see how a user flows through the purchase path and build audiences based on actions users have taken on the site.
This combination of sales-focused ad units and better measurement capabilities goes to show that social has come a long way since the early days of promoted posts and Page Like goals. Continuing to prove out social advertising effectiveness for driving real business results will keep Facebook and other social networks relevant for advertisers and brands – one tracked and attributed sale at a time.