A good first step to get­ting noticed in 2019 is to rec­og­nize ad mon­ey has to be com­bined with the equiv­a­lent invest­ment in time, cre­ativ­i­ty and tar­get­ing savvy.

Look­ing back on my career, I’ve seen major shifts in adver­tis­ing – all enabled by the dig­i­tal age. From the advent of search spurring the rise of SEO/SEM, to the rise of data-dri­ven per­son­al­iza­tion, mobile, UGC, and over the past decade, the rise in social media adver­tis­ing. CMOs now iden­ti­fy social as the most effec­tive and effi­cient adver­tis­ing chan­nel avail­able. This direct line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t to mil­lions, it’s to bil­lions. Social is how we con­sume media, con­nect with oth­ers, con­duct research and ask for rec­om­men­da­tions, seek help and get sup­port, and increas­ing­ly, it’s the way we buy.

Accord­ing­ly, mar­keters are aggres­sive­ly increas­ing their social ad bud­gets, up 32 per­cent in 2018 alone, and it’s only expect­ed to keep climb­ing this year. Accord­ing to Hootsuite’s 2019 Social Trends report, 78 per­cent of respon­dents have either already invest­ed in social adver­tis­ing, or plan to in the com­ing year. Think about this: Face­book alone accounts for 23 per­cent of total U.S. dig­i­tal ad spend­ing.

But the intense pop­u­lar­i­ty of social adver­tis­ing has cre­at­ed new chal­lenges. Stand­ing out from the onslaught of con­tent is at the top of the list. Ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion in social adver­tis­ing dri­ving up the cost is a close sec­ond. So how can brands max­i­mize the return on their social and invest­ment head­ing into 2019?

While any busi­ness can pay its way into someone’s social news feed, there is absolute­ly no guar­an­tee any­one is going to care. A good first step to get­ting noticed in 2019 is to rec­og­nize ad mon­ey has to be com­bined with the equiv­a­lent invest­ment in time, cre­ativ­i­ty and tar­get­ing savvy. Here are five ways I’d rec­om­mend upping your social adver­tis­ing game in 2019.

  1. Stand out from the crowd: Gone are the days of ads thrown against the wall of a news­feed to see what sticks. Instead, look to brands like Net­flix and Spo­ti­fy for inspi­ra­tion. They are lead­ing the charge with social ads that are both per­son­al­ized and enter­tain­ing. Brands that respect and engage cus­tomers as indi­vid­u­als will see real ROI. The end goal is to gen­er­ate engage­ment. Don’t waste time and mon­ey broad­cast­ing an ad at an inde­ter­mi­nate audi­ence. Which brings me to my next point …
  2. Tar­get the right audi­ence. Every sin­gle ad cam­paign should tar­get a spe­cif­ic group, com­piled with infor­ma­tion gleaned from the inter­ests of your audi­ence and their pre­vi­ous inter­ac­tions with your brand. If you are not sure who you are sup­posed to be tar­get­ing and why, you need to do more research. Under­stand your cus­tomers’ chal­lenges and how they inter­act with you. If you aren’t tar­get­ed in your ads strat­e­gy, your mes­sage will get lost in the noise and you’ll waste your mon­ey.
  3. Define your goals and met­rics: This is essen­tial, not just as an over­ar­ch­ing ad strat­e­gy, but for each and every ad cam­paign. Best prac­tices draw a straight line between your ads on social and your busi­ness objec­tives. Of course, depend­ing upon what type of cam­paign you’re run­ning, those objec­tives can change. An aware­ness cam­paign might pri­or­i­tize impres­sions, while con­ver­sion cam­paigns want to see click-through results. What doesn’t change is clear goal-set­ting tied to busi­ness objec­tives.
  4. Con­tent is king: The ho-hum just doesn’t cut it. High qual­i­ty con­tent that res­onates is imper­a­tive, and the social ad space is one of con­stant inno­va­tion. I am see­ing brands build out their social teams with con­tent cre­ators skilled in video, graph­ics, design and more – essen­tial skill sets to suc­ceed with social. Not every brand will have the bud­get for expen­sive equip­ment and a team of pro­fes­sion­als, but learn­ing some video and graph­ics basics or hir­ing a free­lancer can huge­ly impact your results.
  5. Don’t be afraid to exper­i­ment: Because the social ads space is con­stant­ly evolv­ing, it’s a per­fect envi­ron­ment in which to try new things. New ad for­mats on social are emerg­ing every day – just look at the inno­va­tions with­in Insta­gram Sto­ries, Pin­ter­est and Mes­sen­ger this past year. 2019 will bring even more. And nov­el for­mats have the intrin­sic advan­tage of tap­ping into con­sumer curios­i­ty, while avoid­ing the pit­falls of ad fatigue.

The aver­age Amer­i­can adult spends close to four hours a day inter­act­ing with social. That rep­re­sents an amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for com­pelling con­nec­tions and results. Yet, carv­ing out a slice of their atten­tion is hard­er than ever. My best advice: make it your brand’s mis­sion to deliv­er the right con­tent in the right for­mat, at the right time, to the right audi­ence. That’s a great goal for launch­ing your renewed social ad strat­e­gy in 2019.