This week we’re at Advertising Week New York, the worldwide gathering of marketing, advertising, technology and brand professionals. Advertising Week is a one-of-a-kind experience, now taking place across 5 global cities throughout the year, and featuring daytime seminars, workshops, networking, world-class entertainment and more!
The event features channel partners like Facebook, Google and Snapchat, as well as attendees from brands like Amazon, Mastercard and Nike. And amongst all of this, Head of Sales at Paragone, Nicolo Brentan, will feature on Thursday in a panel discussion on the ‘The Social Evolution’.
We caught up with Nicolo before he jetted over to New York, to get a preview of his thoughts on this topic.
Q: WHAT SORT OF IDEAS DOES THE PHRASE ‘SOCIAL EVOLUTION’ CONJURE UP FOR YOU?
It just makes me think about how far social has come. With origins dating back to Six Degrees as far back as 1997, it’s even amazing to think how much social media has changed in the last 5-10 years. As an example, Facebook only acquired Instagram in 2012, and now it has over 1 billion monthly active users! Added to that Instagram only added advertising in late 2013 and Stories as late as 2016.
Stories are a particularly interesting evolution, and probably the biggest shift in social in recent years. Originally debuted by Snapchat, Instagram adopted them in 2016 and has never looked back. Now with 400 million monthly active users on Instagram Stories, Facebook is even doing it’s own version in the blue app. And versions of the Stories format are also featuring in the likes of WhatsApp and Google. People have flocked to the immersive, non-polished, authentic nature of this sharing format, across all kinds of social networks.
Another thing I think of in terms of ‘social evolution’ is the way younger generations interact together and with brands on social networks. Generation Z – those born between 1995 and around 2010 – are essentially the youngest consumers out there today, and they are very different, even to millennials who may only be a few years older. On the whole, they tend to really value authenticity and transparency, from each other and from brands, and they want to have their voice heard. This opens up a bunch of opportunities for brands, to both leverage user content and create opportunities for them to respond and interact via social.
The rise of messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger (and chatbots to empower them from a brand perspective), is testament to the fact that consumers are becoming more and more comfortable interacting with businesses in ‘informal’ ways. They expect to be able to chat to a business like they would chat to a friend, and smart brands are putting systems in place to facilitate this.
Q: FOCUSING ON STORIES AGAIN, WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT HAS CAUSED THIS EXPONENTIAL GROWTH?
I think the Stories format has really served to take the pressure off sharing on social media. By nature they are ephemeral and temporary, which means there’s a sense that they don’t need to be highly curated. They’re also made for storytelling (since they are set up to work sequentially), immersive in that they take up the whole mobile screen and have more of a personal feel to them than feed posts. In terms of advertising in Instagram Stories, in particular, we’ve seen brands who embrace this experience gain a lot of success. One particular example is Vans who, along with their agency Social.Lab, tested carousel ads in Instagram Stories. They were very successful in being able to instil their ads with a personal tone and incorporated a style that was a little less polished that other video content they often create.
Q: WHY AND HOW ARE BRANDS USING USER-GENERATED CONTENT IN THEIR ADVERTISING?
There’s no doubting the power of influencers today. Social media networks have become these spaces where a new breed of celebrity has been born – one that is closer to consumer and, therefore, more powerful in a lot of ways if brands can harness that influence. Going even further, and focusing down on paid advertising across social, the repurposing of user-generated content from brands’ loyal followers is something we’re seeing more and more. And it obvious why – a test on Facebook saw a 300% higher click-through rate (CTR) and 50% lower cost per acquisition (CPA) for ads featuring user-generated content, compared to those that didn’t.
This works because a lot of value in social advertising is that it doesn’t need to feel like advertising at all. Think about Instagram Stories again – the way the user experience is set up allows for brands to effectively ‘enter the conversation’, placing ads in between stories for from a user’s friends. Crafting ads using user-generated content, or at least the same style as users are creating, means your ads fit within the overall experience and don’t stand out like a sore thumb! That in turn increases the likelihood of engagement and having a user take the action you want them to.
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