In-stream social ads evolve: Twitter promotes accounts and Facebook does video
This week saw two significant evolutions on the social advertising front: Twitter’s Promoted Accounts and Facebook’s video ads.
Twitter’s Promoted Accounts
Twitter has announced a new iteration of its feature for increasing follower counts, Promoted Accounts. The feature has been integrated into the sidebar, alongside other recommended accounts, encouraging users to follow certain accounts organically in addition to the paid promotion.
The new version of Promoted Accounts will actually bring the paid follow button into user timelines, meaning that Twitter users will see a small “Promoted” icon underneath certain tweets. A follow button sits alongside the Promoted Account so users can follow right there without leaving the stream.
This evolution is similar to how Facebook offers up Pages to be liked within a user’s news feed, where the user can click like right there in the feed without leaving in the Sponsored Story format.
The increased integration of Promoted Accounts into the tweet stream should prove lucrative for Twitter, as the previous sidebar integration was a bit outside of the intensive focus area for everyday use. Most advertisers on Twitter want not only to get tweets in front of targeted audiences, but also seek larger ongoing audiences as followers.
The investment in increasing followers can be a good one, as the opt-in nature of the “follow” delivers future marketing opportunities via other types of content, both organic and paid.
Facebook video ads
The more controversial announcement this week was Facebook’s release of video ads in the News Feed. This was a long time coming, as advertisers have been clamoring for access to the feed.
By adding video ads amongst the other promoted content, Facebook risks alienating users while increasing the clutter on the feed. Of course, Facebook believes it can still serve up the most relevant, engaging content to users via EdgeRank, and still ensure that the most interesting content for a particular user surfaces at the correct time.
The challenge for marketers eager to take advantage of the new ad unit is to not lose sight of the necessity to create entertaining content. As Facebook becomes more of a pay-to-play environment – remember, only single digit percentages of followers ever actually see a post organically – great content becomes even more essential.
Not only does it work better with users, but it is cheaper to run on Facebook, as well-performing ads are generally cheaper overall since users are engaging with them.
Despite the controversy today, this video ad news is not new. The social network has been experimenting with the new units since December, allowing advertisers to auto-play 15 second video ads in the News Feed. This is simply the moment where the video ad feature has gone live for a larger portion of the community.
The video ads will most certainly be popular; the question is whether marketers will step up and custom create content for Facebook’s unique use case or simply repurpose videos used elsewhere – such as on YouTube, where some of the 15/30 second television ads used by brands fall flat within the specific experience of that platform.
NB: Digital stream image courtesy Shutterstock.
Nick Vivion is a writer and strategist. He was a Tnooz reporter and global events lead between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and was recently AVP Operations, North America, at Zomato.