In 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII, a surreal blackout put the nation’s most fanatically watched game on hold for what seemed to be an eternal half hour. In the midst of the chaos, Oreo posted the below tweet. It earned half a billion impressions and was named by Adweek as one of the top 5 ads of the night. Most astoundingly, it was the only one placed for free.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
During the 2014 Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres jumped into the star-studded audience and took the below selfie. As she predicted, it broke Twitter (disrupting service for an interminable 20 minutes) and gained the most retweets in history. In reality, the move was a not-so-subtle publicity stunt for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
What do these social media “ads” have in common? And what can they tell us about the future?
Timely, Fun, & Friendly
First, both were triggered by massive events. Social media travels at light-speed, with trends, topics, and memes flitting in and out of existence in mere instants. Brands who can jump on hot news get rewarded.
Second, both were fun, playful, and unexpected—fortuitous moments you couldn’t wait to share with your friends.
Finally, both come off as rather non-promotional—they don’t hit you over the head with a “buy me!” message. They play it cool and friendly, allowing the sales message to seep in subconsciously.
Monetizing Social Media
Today, Facebook—with its mind-boggling 1.3 billion monthly users—is the preferred platform for B2C advertisers, with smart algorithms that weave targeted ads into ordinary storylines and updated from loved ones.
Twitter is close behind and poised to release 15 new types of ads in the coming weeks. These new features, many designed for Twitter’s mobile app, are eliminating barriers between social networks and commerce. One tap can put an interested user directly on a call with a sales rep. Eventually, users will likely be able to make purchases directly from the platform.
But brands are also turning to Pinterest, Instagram, and even lesser known platforms like Snapchat to gain exposure—though the social network that turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook has yet figure out how to monetize ads.
The Shape of Ads to Come
The bottom line? We fully anticipate seeing the rising tide of social media advertising race toward its inevitable pinnacle.
But will these ads resemble their 20th century counterparts? Not at all. This represents a fundamental shift in the way brands and consumers connect. Rather than static pitch and purchase, ads of the future will launch responsive, interactive dialogue.
Nor is this change limited to business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions—B2B brands have been expanding beyond LinkedIn, with 85% using Twitter and 81% using Facebook to distribute content, according to a recent CMI report. While B2C companies tend to entertain, B2B brands inform, offering valuable insights over social media and establishing authority in the process.
Social media pushes both types of companies to speak with their prospective customers, rather than at them. Brands will continue to get more skilled at conversation as sell, and the world will be better for it.
Author: Paul Wry