Facebook’s Q2 report makes one thing abundantly clear. No one can possibly predict what this company will look like, or what the Facebook user experience will feel like a year, let along 5 or 10 years from now. Sure, advertising is up 31% in 2015, but the user experience continues to evolve in ways none of us could have predicted. Digging into the Q2 numbers leads one to the inescapable conclusion that, just as you cannot step into the same river twice, you cannot experience the same Facebook twice. Yeah, it’s changing that fast. So fast, in fact, that the challenge is not to predict what it will become, but to simply stay current with where it is at the moment.
Let’s take a look at the very recent past. Video finally went mainstream on Facebook in the first quarter, (and how that has changed advertising for the top 100 brands is an early indicator of how political advertising is going to change in 2016). Digging into those numbers shows that some companies adapted far more quickly and successfully than others. It also shows that Facebook got it mostly right.
Video is now a major content type, and Facebook users seem to have taken the self-starting videos in stride. The new format has complicated metrics on the back end (which Facebook addressed this morning by shaking up their video ad options). “Likes” are down and “shares” are up, which one would expect as the type of content shifts. People share pictures and videos more often, and that also holds true with ads. Major companies also learned lessons that will help everyone. Simply Measured conducted a study of the Interbrand 100 and recently shared the results. For those who don’t recognize the name, Simply Measured is a company that specializes in presenting online analytics in ways that people can understand.
Their study covered the first three months of this year and documented several trends worth noting. One surprising finding was that, while posts were down, engagement stayed about the same. Advertisers apparently learned that superior content was worth the effort, and that customers responded in about the same numbers overall, even though the number of posts dropped, in some cases dramatically.
Adidas was clearly the runaway winner. They went video in a big way, increasing video posts 86% in the first quarter. The results? “Likes” and “shares” were both up more than 9000%. Adidas also recognized that quality mattered. Their videos featured athletic stars, with a driving hip-hop beat, and an edgy movie-trailer look and feel. In many ways, their campaign was a metaphor for Facebook itself, as you can see in this spot featuring Derrick Rose.
The lesson for everyone else should be obvious. Great is the new normal. What used to be “good enough for YouTube” almost certainly isn’t good enough for Facebook. It’s a premium channel with customizable audience tagging being fed increasingly first-rate ads. We’re not saying you need to spend a lot of money on production value because you don’t. You do need to spend what it takes to deliver the message right, which is exactly the same standard political advertisers apply to their television ads.
At any given time of the day or night, one in every five people online is on the Facebook/Instagram platform. Most are spending 45- 55 minutes a day on Facebook. As much as advertisers say they understand these numbers, their placement habits suggest they really don’t.
And as much as political media producers will give lip service to improving the quality of their online video, many are going to just have to learn the hard way. If they don’t, a couple of 20-somethings hanging around the campaign office just might do it for them. The market in 2016 will demand quick turnaround, quality production and a recognition that more than half of their target audience will be watching their product on mobile.