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Instagram is coming up in the world. This week the social network revealed it has reached more than 1 billion monthly active users, jumping from 800 million in September of last year.

The extra 200 million users also make the site the fastest growing social network around right now by a fair amount.

For context, while Facebook remains the biggest social network overall, its growth in monthly users has fallen to just 3.14%. Snapchat, trapped by its own niche market of younger users, is growing even slower at 2.13%.

Instagram, however, continues to grow by almost 5% from quarter-to-quarter.

There is certainly some irony in the latest numbers. While Snapchat continues to stall, Instagram is largely making its gains on the back of similar features like Stories and image stickers.

Stories, in particular, have taken off to surprising popularity. According to the latest numbers, there are more people posting Stories on Instagram than Snapchat’s entire userbase.

The continued growth of Instagram also hints at Facebook’s gradual disconnect with younger users. Teens and other young social media users are adopting Instagram, rather than signing into Facebook.

The social network still has plenty of hurdles in its path, but their user growth shows it may be worthwhile to establish a business presence on the platform sooner rather than later.

Facebook is opening up a new part of its platform to advertising by letting businesses run ads in the Facebook Marketplace for the first time.

Marketplace has, until now, been an area of the site strictly reserved for users to buy and sell items. However, that is changing as Facebook is allowing ads to also be shown alongside the user-sold items.

The actions function similarly to any other type of Facebook ad, allowing you to include photos or videos representing your products or services, as well as a call-to-action button.

You can also choose to expand your currently running ads onto the Marketplace platform by changing the placement settings for your ads.

In the official announcement, Facebook said the ads would allow advertisers to be where users are most active:

“Advertising across our platforms enables you to reach your target audience wherever they’re spending time, giving you more opportunities to connect with people likely to be interested in your offerings.”

According to Facebook’s tests with select businesses, running ads on Marketplace can help generate up to 2.2X greater return on ad spend.

While this marks the first time businesses have been able to advertise on Marketplace, it is notable that Facebook recently also began allowing users to promote their listings within Marketplace, similar to how promoted posts work in News Feed.

Currently, Marketplace ads are only available in the US and Canada, and only eligible for traffic, conversion, and product catalog ads.

According to the announcement, Marketplace ads will be coming to Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks.

Pinterest is giving video advertisers even more screen real estate with a new video ad unit that expands to fill the entire width of your screen.

The company first introduced promoted videos over two years ago. Since then, Pinterest says they have proven to drive business and measurably impact purchasing decisions.

“Two years ago, we launched the first version of Promoted Video on Pinterest. Since then, people on Pinterest have tuned in to watch high-quality videos so they can find ideas, make decisions and do what they love. When you think about the mindset and behavior on Pinterest, it’s no surprise that people say that videos from brands on Pinterest add to the experience (1.6x) and that they are more likely to make a purchase after viewing a video (2.6x)”

As their name suggests, max width promoted videos are designed to spread out significantly further than the typical Pinterest videos in feeds and search results on mobile devices. This makes them stand out even more and truly get the attention of viewers. The format is available in both 16:9 (cinematic) and 1:1 (square) aspect ratios.

While announcing the new promoted video format, Pinterest claimed that users are more interested in seeing videos from brands on Pinterest rather than other platforms.

“People on Pinterest really are more interested in videos from brands than on other platforms. 67% of Pinterest video viewers say that videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action. In contrast, only 32% of people say that about other platforms.”

For the moment, Pinterest is just getting started testing these max width video ads with a small group of select advertisers, however they say the format will be available in Pinterest’s ad manager later this year.

Facebook’s Stories are officially being monetized, as the social network announces new ads within their latest big feature.

The rising popularity of Facebook’s stories has been a slow growth. It has taken approximately 14 months since the launch of the feature to reach 150 million daily views.

To put that in context, Instagram’s Stories reached the same milestone within five months. Since then, Instagram Stories have continued growing to reach more than 300 million daily users.

Of course, now that Facebook has amassed a sizable audience for the feature, Search Engine Journal reports the platform is adding ads to Stories.

Facebook began testing ads in Stories earlier this month in North America and Brazil earlier this month. The ads consist of 5-to-15 second video clips, which can be skipped by simply taping through to the next story.

Compared to most of Facebook’s offerings, these new ads are relatively bare-bones. There is no click-through, no call-to-action, or any of the other ad features you are used to. However, Facebook plans to add those soon.

Along with the launch of Story ads, Facebook is working on bringing more detailed analytics about the performance of Stories to businesses, to help monitor your investment.

If you already have Story ads running on Instagram, you can automatically migrate them to Facebook. Or, you can let Facebook automatically format your news feed ads for the Story feature, including a color-matched border and text at the bottom.

Instagram has introduced a new way for brands to tell their Stories, with expanded photo and video carousels.

In the past, brands could only include a single photo or video in their Story ads. Now, a limited number of advertisers can triple that with three consecutive photos or videos, as the company announced today.

For now, the expanded ad unit is only available to 12 brands, such as California Pizza Kitchen, Netflix, and Paramount. However, it is also opening the format, which it is calling “carousel ads for Instagram Stories” to brands buying ads through automated ad-buying firms.

It is unclear when Instagram will be bringing the ad unit to self-serve advertisers, which include the vast majority of small businesses that advertise on the platform.

The expanded format should come as a relief for the advertisers who have access. In the past, the constraints of Instagram’s Story ads forced brands to squeeze in as much as possible within a single image or 15-second video. Now, they have more breathing room to tell actual stories.

The versatility of the new ad unit also offers new creative options for brands who advertise on Instagram.

Because you can mix-and-match, you might start a carousel with a short video showcasing the product, followed by an image highlighting features or details, with a link to your website on the final slide. Or, you might create thematically related short-videos that complement each other. You could also just split a 45-second video ad into three segments across the carousel.

“The goal is really to create ad formats that feel as native as possible to Instagram,” said Susan Rose, director of product marketing for Instagram.

According to Rose, one-third of the most-viewed organic Stories on Instagram are posted by brands, and 60 percent of Instagram’s organic Stories are viewed with the sound on.

While the expanded carousel gives you more room for telling stories with your ads, the individual limitations for each slide remain the same.

The maximum length of each video is 15 seconds, and photos only stay on the screen for up to five seconds. Users can also swipe past the ad to skip it.

To provide better insight into how these carousel ads are performing, Instagram says it will record analytics data for views and swipes on each post in an ad. However, the impressions for the ad will only be counted once when the ad is served.

Pinterest has seemingly been testing autoplay video ads forever, but most advertisers haven’t been able to get in on the fun. The video ads were limited to just a small number of big advertising firms and massive brands, while local businesses or small brands made do with picture-based ad formats.

That all changed this morning when Pinterest announced its Promoted Video ads are now officially available to everyone. Anyone can sign up and start running their own autoplay video ads on both search results and within users’ feeds.

Unlike other platforms like Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest is avoiding providing analytics for the ads through their own measurement systems. Instead, they are aiming to avoid potential conflicts of interest by partnering with third-party metrics companies Moat and Nielson.

“One of the unique differentiations for video on Pinterest was that it’s not only about inspiration, but it also helps people do things,” Mike Bidgoli, product lead at Pinterest, told AdWeek. “Obviously the format moved to autoplay, which made it easier for advertisers to be able to buy and measure the same way that they are with everything else. The overarching point is that we wanted video to have third-party measurement from the get-go.”

The company also says that carrying your existing video campaigns over to Pinterest is simple because they follow “the same creative standards as the rest of the industry.”

You can get started sharing your own video ads on Pinterest through their self-serve service, Pinterest Ads Manager.

 

Twitter advertising

Twitter’s ad platform is reportedly in dire need of revenue. Judging by its latest advertising program the company is testing out, it appears that might be the case. The company is definitely getting quite creative in their attempts to find more business, at least.

Twitter is testing the idea of launching a subscription-advertising program designed to let smaller businesses and advertisers pay $99 a month to have their advertising automated by the company. The service would automatically promote their tweets, as well as run Promoted Account ads for the associated account each month.

“Instead of creating and optimizing separate Twitter Ads campaigns yourself, this program will do the heavy lifting. You just need to continue using Twitter as you normally do — Tweeting updates, links, and media that you want a larger audience to see. Then, the promotion of your Tweets will be automated,” as Twitter says on their business site page explaining the new program.

For now, the Twitter Subscription Ads Beta Program is invite-only while Twitter tests the waters. Based on the information available, it looks set to be aimed primarily at smaller advertisers who are using the company’s self-serve ad tools.

While this might sound nice to businesses interested in advertising but unfamiliar with the tricks of the trade, it’s important to know the program has some pretty big downsides. The biggest would be the amount of control you’re giving up.

Unlike normal ad campaigns where you get to select exactly what you’re promoting, participants in the subscription service will have little to no control over what Tweets are turned into ads or whom they are shown to. The company also notes that “not every Tweet that is added to your Promoted Tweet campaign will serve an impression, and the extent each Tweet is promoted may vary based on performance.”

If you’re thinking you might be able to fold the subscription service into your existing advertising efforts, you’ll also be disappointed to learn that isn’t possible. Any account participating in the program will lose access to Twitter’s self-serve ad platform. “In order to participate in this private beta program your previous ads account will no longer be accessible,” says Twitter.

pinterestlogo

Pinterest has been teasing its leap into search advertising for months, if not years. While the company is still yet to open its search advertising platform for all businesses, it continues to test search ads with a limited number of partners.

Now, the company says it will open its ad product to a wider number of advertisers and indicates it is getting ready to expand further.

As the announcement points out, Pinterest currently reaches over 150 million unique monthly users around the world, with over half of its users residing outside America.

“When people come to Pinterest, they’re starting earlier in their decision-making process,” said Jon Kaplan, global head of partnerships at Pinterest. “We saw this with the holidays — people were pinning holiday ideas as early as August. For brands, the implications to our business, that’s an amazing opportunity to reach someone at the earliest stages of decision-making.”

To underscore that idea, Kaplan also points out users conduct over 2 billion searches on Pinterest a month – making up approximately half of the site’s activity.

According to Kaplan, the thing that separates Pinterest’s ads from other platforms is the visual nature. While services like Google deliver text rich ads, Pinterest prefers to let pictures do the bulk of the talking.

“When you search for something like modern furniture, a lot of times a text query doesn’t capture the nuances of your individual tastes or what you actually want to see. So having something that’s visual in nature for a lot of different queries is actually the most powerful way of demonstration or displaying.”

In the past, Pinterest allowed advertisers to target ads using keywords such as “furniture,” which would show ads alongside the site’s relevant organic content. Now, the company says the ads will appear immediately after a person enters a search term.

For now, the social media platform is still limiting its search ads to its partners and companies advertising through the Kenshoo marketing suite. However, it says it plans to eventually offer an open self-serve digital ad service, similar to Google’s.

Instagram Stories

In just five months Instagram Stories has grown into a force to be reckoned with, as the company has launched numerous new features like links, live video, and hands-free video recording. Now, the platform is working to make Stories more attractive to businesses with ads and insights for Stories.

According to Instagram’s own numbers, over 150 million users interact with Stories every day, with one in five Stories also receiving direct messages from viewers. The company also says 70% of users follow a business on Instagram and a third of the most viewed Stories are created and shared by businesses.

Now, the company has announced that ads and insights for Instagram Stories are coming soon.

Ads for Instagram Stories

For now, ads are limited to just 30 brands like Maybelline, New York, Nike, and Netflix, who have been given the ability to test a new 15-second, full-screen ads during Instagram Stories.  If you want to see what the ads might look like, check out how Airbnb is using ads in Instagram Stories:

 

Insights for Instagram Stories

In addition to the testing of ads for Instagram Stories, Insights will also be available as part of Instagram  Business Tools. Anyone with a business account can now view impressions, reach, replies, and exits for all their stories within Business Tools. You can see a preview of Insights for Stories below:

 


These new features are expected to roll out globally in the new couple of weeks, so keep your eyes out.

messenger

Facebook has been expanding their advertising service across every aspect of their platform for years, but one area has remained completely ad-free for users despite this – until now.

Facebook has officially launched ads within its Messenger app with ad bots.

The company has been testing sponsored messages since April, and now it has announced it is opening the messaging app’s ad format to all brands using Messenger’s developer tools to manage their chats.

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The ads are pretty much exactly like the format they have been testing, with straightforward ad messages. However, you can’t spam out ads to everybody. You can only show sponsored messages to those who “have an open, existing conversation with” a brand, according to Facebook.

To help with this limitation, the company says it is also allowing advertisers to create ads that link directly to their Messenger account to spark more conversations with brands.

The ads are also limited to just one link and photo. Unlike most Facebook ads, sponsored message campaigns also cannot be modified to automatically run on Facebook or Instagram.

In another departure from Facebook’s normal ad formats, the company says it will charge advertisers anytime the ad appears on a Messenger user’s screen in their Messenger Inbox – even if it is never opened.