This year set the foun­da­tion for brands to increas­ing­ly eval­u­ate their social cam­paigns based on busi­ness results next year.

Social media is final­ly evolv­ing from shiny new toy to a seri­ous tool for mar­keters, thanks to seeds plant­ed in 2017 that more mar­keters are expect­ed to reap a har­vest from in 2018.

Lisa Bra­ziel, VP of strat­e­gy and spe­cial pro­grams at Ignite Social Media, said 2017 was “the year that we had been wait­ing for.”


Tying social spend to business results

In 2017, adver­tis­ers gained the abil­i­ty to track online con­ver­sions for their cam­paigns across all the major social net­works: Face­book, Insta­gram, Twit­ter, Snapchat, Pin­ter­est, LinkedIn and Red­dit. And Snapchat joined Face­book in enabling brands to track offline con­ver­sions as well.
By being able to mea­sure whether a social ad led to an on-site or in-store pur­chase, mar­keters are able to push past proxy met­rics — not only likes and impres­sions but even clicks and views. And by being able to prove actu­al returns on their social invest­ments, they can jus­ti­fy push­ing more mon­ey back into social.

All of our clients now under­stand that just hav­ing engage­ments on social — while it can be a great brand met­ric, it can also be very much a van­i­ty met­ric. There has to be some tie-back to trans­ac­tion. In 2017 a lot of the work was laid to deter­mine what those met­rics should be,” said T3 pres­i­dent Ben Gad­dis.

Look­ing for­ward what mar­keters are excit­ed about is think­ing about how these chan­nels can real­ly show lift and sales and rev­enue,” said Bra­ziel.

Social will dominate digital’

As a result of increas­ing­ly sales-dri­ven strate­gies, mar­keters may shift even more of their spend­ing to social if social plat­forms prove more capa­ble of dri­ving busi­ness results than oth­er chan­nels in a brand’s arse­nal.

Next year will be where [brands] get more seri­ous about allo­cat­ing more dol­lars from their tra­di­tion­al dig­i­tal spend­ing and where the com­par­i­son between dig­i­tal ban­ner-like adver­tis­ing and oth­er efforts will be com­pared against social and social will dom­i­nate dig­i­tal,” said Bra­ziel.

While it’s ear­ly to call win­ners and losers, it’s like­ly that Face­book will be among the for­mer. “The dom­i­nance of Face­book is going to con­tin­ue. We’re see­ing a big move away from pub­lish­er direct deals, and the growth of pro­gram­mat­ic and paid social is sig­nif­i­cant. A lot of that is, unfor­tu­nate­ly or for­tu­nate­ly, mov­ing to Face­book,” said one agency exec­u­tive.

How­ev­er, while some social plat­forms may suc­ceed in dri­ving busi­ness results, oth­ers may strug­gle and see their spend siphoned away as mar­keters look to move more of their mon­ey to the plat­forms that are most help­ful to brands in mak­ing their mon­ey back.

I think 2018 is all about opti­miz­ing, mak­ing sure that what we believe would be the dri­ver of a trans­ac­tion through social is in fact the case and then opti­miz­ing that on a con­tin­u­ous basis,” said Gad­dis.

More opportunity to experiment

That’s not to say that social mar­ket­ing will become sole­ly sales-dri­ven in 2018. In fact, the enhanced abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy the oppor­tu­ni­ties that dri­ve sales could free up mar­keters to ded­i­cate more of their bud­gets to exper­i­ment­ing with those that do not, or at least not yet. If a brand knows it can all but guar­an­tee hits by invest­ing in cer­tain ads and cer­tain plat­forms, that makes it eas­i­er for a brand to try to swing for the fences every now and then with a cam­paign that may be more dif­fi­cult to tie to sales but more like­ly to gar­ner atten­tion. “It opens up an oppor­tu­ni­ty for more home runs,” said Gad­dis.

Also free­ing up brands to exper­i­ment more in 2018 is the low­er­ing of bar­ri­ers in 2017. For exam­ple, mar­keters that had been intrigued by Snapchat in the past gained the abil­i­ty to test out the app by buy­ing ads through its self-serve plat­form. Sim­i­lar­ly, brands inter­est­ed in dip­ping a toe into aug­ment­ed real­i­ty saw the democ­ra­ti­za­tion by Snapchat and Face­book of tools to cre­ate aug­ment­ed-real­i­ty cam­paigns. As more brands are able to dab­ble in Snapchat or AR, they become more like­ly to invest real bud­gets in those oppor­tu­ni­ties, as evi­denced by influ­encer mar­ket­ing.

Increased investment, scrutiny of influencers

The rise of the micro-influ­encer in 2016 made it cheap­er for brands to try their hands at influ­encer mar­ket­ing in 2017 and to invest more in the medi­um in 2018. “We’re start­ing to see influ­encers become a much big­ger part of clients’ com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies for next year,” said one agency exec.

Pre­vi­ous­ly, influ­encer mar­ket­ing had been the domains’ or brands’ PR strate­gies. But “as peo­ple are catch­ing on that influ­encers are a great way to devel­op con­tent and get brand mes­sages out with­out always being from [the brand], peo­ple are see­ing the val­ue from a mar­ket­ing stand­point,” said Bra­ziel. As a result, she expects to see “larg­er cam­paigns, larg­er invest­ments and ongo­ing [influ­encer mar­ket­ing] pro­grams.”

But with increased invest­ment comes increased scruti­ny. “This year will be the reck­on­ing of influ­encers. You’re not going to be able to go into a pitch and say ‘influ­encer’ and peo­ple will think that’s inter­est­ing, cool and effec­tive,” said Gad­dis. Instead, he said, mar­keters will be increas­ing­ly ask­ing, “How do these influ­encers actu­al­ly dri­ve key objec­tives?” A ques­tion that, in 2018, clients will be ask­ing not only about their influ­encer cam­paigns but their social efforts in gen­er­al.