Marketers will spend more than $100 billion on search marketing, display advertising, social media marketing, and email marketing by 2019, according to a Forrester report from November 2014. That’s a large chunk of change, and will far outpace what’s spent on broadcast and cable television.
From that estimate, one can see the power of social on the future of marketing spend. And while new sites and platforms that capture new audiences will undoubtedly emerge in the next four years, there is but a core group today that marketers truly focus on: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Each of these sites hosts a different audience and fulfills a different need for its users. Users check Facebook and Pinterest for divergent reasons, and therefore marketing efforts to those channels should reflect that distinctiveness. In social speak, those who would market on these channels need to find and develop an authenticity.
Creating Authentic Moments
The advertising aspect of its service is still in its infancy, but Snapchat is the newest test case in the ongoing search for authentic branding.
For those unfamiliar with the platform, Snapchat is a messaging application that allows users to take photos or videos, called Snaps, add text or drawings, and then send them to the users of their choosing. These messages are only viewable on the receiving end for a predetermined amount of time — from one to 10 seconds — after which they will be hidden from the recipient’s device. Users can also save photos and videos to their own personal Story, a collection of Snaps from the previous 24-hour period. Only those who have added a user on Snapchat are able to see those Stories.
As of May 2015, Snapchat had approximately 100 million daily active users. And as of the year previous, users were sending 700 million photos and videos per day. It has a valuation of $15 billion.
In more recent months, Snapchat introduced a Story based around location, what it calls Live Stories. Users are prompted to submit Snaps to live stories based on their location and these Snaps are collected under the location tag. For example, on Wednesday the two live locations were Washington, D.C. and Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Users can watch these Live Stories and get a sense of what life is like in those area.
Snapchat realized a huge advertising potential when it started to allow companies to publish within these Live Stories; but never within personal Stories.
These can, admittedly, seem a little out of place at first, especially when you’re expecting another shot of the White House at night, but that fades quickly. That’s how Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel prefers it to work. He wants it to be clear that ads are ads.
“We don’t want brands to act like people, because they’re not people!” he said to Business Insider. “So, we don’t make it easy for them to do that.”
Still, even if Spiegel doesn’t want these ads to mimic Snaps, I’ve found that ads that come up on my Stories are edgy, creative, and just plain cool. Here’s a screenshot from my own personal Snapchat:
Being in its infancy, Snapchat ads may not yet be totally authentic, in the sense that they do not all mimic a traditional story post. But some brands are getting better at this.
Snapchat emerges as a viable advertising platform at an important time for digital advertisers. Twitter, long a hyped advertising platform, is dying, or at least stagnating.
Twitter In Trouble
On Tuesday, Twitter released its second quarter earnings. Before the call, the stock was up approximately 6%. During that call, CFO Anthony Noto admitted that Twitter’s growth is not expected to improve in the foreseeable future.
“We do not expect to see sustained meaningful growth in [users],” he said. “That will take a considerable amount of time.”
After that statement, Twitter stock lost more than 11% of its value, reaching a 52-week low. Twitter actually grew its monthly active user base year-over-year — 15% worldwide and 9% domestically — but investors clearly hoped for more. The reasons for this are various.
Though active users has grown, the ratio of active users to total accounts is 44%, down 400 basis points versus the first three quarters of 2014. People are leaving Twitter faster than they’re joining. And new products meant to invigorate the brand and compel new users to sign up haven’t had an impact. Periscope and Instant Timelines have not yet proved to be reason enough to join Twitter.
A larger problem may be confusion. Who is Twitter for? Is it for news? Is it to maintain personal connections? Is it for sales? No one really knows, and this leaves active Twitter users posting into a great void where they are unsure who or what their messages will accomplish. Twitter can be a scary and lonely place, and digital marketing budgets are only so deep.
When there are fewer active users, and therefore less engagement with messages, how much longer until shouting into the void becomes a waste of time?
Or, perhaps more importantly, what will we do next?