Academic Research: The Power of Paid Aggregation for Brands

Multiple forms of content aggregated together can be enhanced through paid advertising. 

A study by Stanford School of Business marketing professors Navdeep S. Sahni and Harikesh S. Nair, proves this out through the results of a large scale field experiment on a restaurant review application. 

While much of their learnings can extend to both organic and paid content, there is perhaps more value to be found on the paid side. Sahni and Nair used a randomized sample of more than 200,000 consumers divided into two groups, those exposed to ads, and those not exposed to ads. They ended up finding that advertising in-of-itself increases consumers’ evaluations of local restaurants. Noting that, “Ads serve as implicit signals that enhance the appeal of the advertised restaurants to consumers.” In other words, the restaurants that advertised more, got better reviews and more business. While one might expect that, we ignore the inner workings of this cycle at our own peril. What’s even more interesting is that Sahni and Nair also randomized the ad-exposure group, with one group seeing the ad content tagged as “sponsored,” what they call the “disclosure” group. In the other group, consumers were simply shown the ad content without a tag. What did they find? Disclosing ad content increased calls to the restaurant by 77%! This statistic caused Sahni and Nair to conclude that “the act of advertising itself conveys information about quality.”

It really is another virtuous cycle of sorts, which brands can seize for their network, as Sahni and Nair conclude:

“Both consumers and advertisers seem to benefit from the signalling. Consumers shift choices towards restaurants that are better rated (at baseline) in the disclosure group compared to the non-disclosure group, and advertisers gain from the improved outcomes induced by disclosure.”

This suggests that paid advertising creates a positive feedback loop. They find that restaurants that advertise more, have higher ratings because of the implicit signaling of the advertising content (as they say in study, “the act of advertising itself conveys information about quality.”). Consumers flock to higher rated restaurants. The fact that restaurants are higher rated because they advertise (compared to the baseline non-ad group) is the key point. 

Whether it’s a network of local restaurants, or a set of chain stores, paid activation is an important pillar in the brand network.

Learn more about how collaborative advertising™ aggregates multiple forms of content to the benefit of the brand, channel partner, and consumer. Read The Indirect Majority – Why the Future of Social Advertising is Collaborative. 

White Paper: The Indirect Majority – Why the Future of Social Advertising is Collaborative

75% of global sales occur through indirect channel partners, yet many brands still rely on antiquated and ineffective methods of supporting and leveraging their channel partners. Today, success requires innovation and collaboration to drive local engagement, activation, and sales. Complete with use cases, this white paper demonstrates why offering collaborative social advertising solutions to your network of channel partners will dramatically improve the sales of your products/services, and in doing so, enhance the value and depth of your channel partnerships.

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Academic Study: Collaborative Content Increases Sales Activity

On social media, brands sit at the center of an interconnected network of brand intermediaries, partners, and consumers. The research outlined in this blog reveals that brand awareness, content quality, and consumer interactivity are the primary drivers (or mediators) of latent sales activity within brand networks. Brands that are proactive in establishing connections that empower their intermediaries have an advantage on social when it comes to driving online and offline sales activity with consumers

Regarding customer-level advertising, brands today not only must contend with an ever-fragmented media environment, but also ever-evolving consumer expectations on what constitutes appropriate brand communication by medium. While consumer engagement has emerged as a leading KPI for brand marketers on social, its definition can range from likes to comments to clicks to sales, with the key being return on advertising. An often patient process, the modern social campaign aims to engage and eventually convert to actual sales activity.

This article focuses on academic research that explores the elements of brand content on social media that positively impact business outcomes, most notably quality and relevance in the forms of demographic differentiation and personalization. These elements are achieved through a brand-guided, distributed social advertising program in which the brand provides high-level, quality creative that activates through collaboration with and empowerment of brand intermediaries. 

A recent study in  the Journal of Brand Management, Social Media Brand Engagement in the Context of Collaborative Consumption: The Case of Airbnb, outlines the benefits of collaboration. The notion of synergetic brand communication on social media reflects a more recent shift in industry over the last few years.

The researchers in this study (Schviniski et. al.), a mix of  communication, marketing, and economic professors, examined how Airbnb uses brand-to-consumer collaboration to drive bookings outside of direct transactional frames, where Airbnb resides at the center of a larger network of fractured peer-to-peer communication between intermediaries, using its considerable agency to drive sales. Airbnb’s user base is segmented into different consumer groups. The first group rents properties they own and have an interest in promoting these properties, while the other group comprises consumers who come to the platform to book properties and have an interest in collaborating with other users through reviews. Airbnb and its brand positioning sits at the center of this digital nexus. 

Through Airbnb, the researchers examined how brand equity affects consumer’s online brand-related activities (COBRAs). The researchers utilized a survey and behavioral-based approaches to examine a subset of Airbnb users on social media. Leveraging structural equation modeling (SEM) to place the results into context, they established brand content along two associations: hedonic and functional. 

The researchers note that “functional associations are related to utilitarian, economic, and rational aspects of the brand regarding, for example, reliability, competence, skillfulness, usefulness, and quality.” They define hedonic brand associations as providing “subjective meaning to the brand, encompassing emotional and affective image.” These distinctions are important to unpacking their findings that content “that [is] attractive, desirable, and strong in character and personality directly motivates CBE [Consumer Brand Engagement] behaviors toward Airbnb.” In other words, content that feeds emotional needs drives collaborative consumer brand engagement over content that simply informs. 

“This finding is in line with Kennedy and Guzmán’s (2016) finding that fun is on of the main consumer motivators to co-create, and thus, being a hedonic activity, consumers will place more trust on the information that has been co-created and is found on social media” (Reimer and Benkenstein 2016; Ruiz-Mafe et al. 2018).

That consumers would place more trust in co-created content on social media is an important finding, especially because it drives sharing and co-creation, the heart of collaborative social advertising. Contrasting with functional content, the researcher notes that “functional associations mainly lead to passive forms of CBE [consumer brand engagement] such as reading posts, while main effects on more active forms such as contributing and creating are achieved through hedonic aspects.” When brands are able to promote themselves in hedonic frames, consumer engagement increases, which is perhaps not all that unsurprising. 

It’s Airbnb’s active role in driving consumer activity with this content that gives it sales power. Schviniski et. al. note that, “in order to generate a hedonic brand image, managers should associate brands with other entities (such as people, events and places)” This highlights the importance of intermediaries in distributing brand messaging that’s trusted and valued by consumers in the consideration phase. This strategy speaks to human intuition – a trust in people over entities. In the Airbnb example, reviews on social media are a form of collaborative content that allow both ends of Airbnb’s “consumer base”, that is, the users who come to Airbnb to get bookings for their property, and the consumer who comes to Airbnb to book to interact. Through collaboration, these two groups help drive the Airbnb sales engine on social. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, Airbnb establishes itself as a trusted place to find verified bookings to fun and exotic places and provides the market with a platform to do so. But it’s made real through the users collaborating, as Schviniski and team conclude:

“If consumers find Airbnb attractive or desirable, they will engage with the brand on social media, actively contributing and helping to co-create Airbnb brand meanings, even if their intentions toward sustaining core transactions are only low influenced.”

Going on to note

“Yet, though functional associations proved to be less relevant in this study, its role in building OBE [Overall Brand Equity, or Brand Awareness] should not be overlooked, particularly considering the need to build a trustful Airbnb brand and ensure that guests will revisit.” (Schivinski, Langaro, Fernandes, 2020)

In a manner of speaking, Airbnb’s brand marketing is what places the reviews and other consumer-facing social content into context. You can’t have a virtuous collaboration across your users and consumers, if you don’t first firmly establish the centrality of your brand as being the genesis of collaboration

Schvininski and team magnify just how closely interconnected the concepts of engagement and brand awareness are. While you may think these findings only lend themselves to brands with user provided and reviewed products, with further interrogation, we actually learn that these findings hold true in other industries, even those that operate in the brick and mortar space. 

Hedonic Frames in Practice

With use of the intermediary (the bar) for publishing, the company facilitates sales by creating a community connection with the consumer versus simply selling product. Additionally, the company strengthens its partnerships with establishments pouring its brands and dramatically lowers its cost of advertising.  Read the Full Case Study

To further underscore the importance of a brand establishing and maintaining control over its core message, check out our blog Academic Research: High Quality Creative Unlocks Consumer Trust and Purchase Intent, where we examine Amal Dabbous and Karine Aoun Barakat’s work Bridging the online offline gap: Assessing the impact of brands’ social network content quality on brand awareness and purchase intention. Pairing these findings with our previous blog – looking at two different industries and independent studies – it is notable the similarities across their findings as it pertains to the centrality of the brand in distributed social advertising.

Learn more about how collaborative advertising™ increases sales activity for the brand and channel partner. Read The Indirect Majority – Why the Future of Social Advertising is Collaborative. 

 

Academic Research: High Quality Creative Unlocks Consumer Trust and Purchase Intent

High quality brand creative distributed through channels familiar to consumers drives exponential trust and purchase intent.

A recent study in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services proves this out through Amal Dabbous and Karine Aoun Barakat’s work ‘Bridging the online offline gap: Assessing the impact of brands’ social network content quality on brand awareness and purchase intention.’  Dabbous and Barakat explore the interplay between brand content quality, and brand interactivity on purchase intention. 

Dabbous and Barakat specifically examined how social content and offline purchase intent are driven by affective motivation, consumer engagement, and established brand awareness. The researchers sampled millennials, focusing on their interactions with sportswear brands. 

Their findings reinforce the primacy of the brand in establishing these interactions, even in an online-to-offline model.

  • The positive relationship between brand and consumer engagement is driven primarily through [brand] content quality
  • Furthermore, it was found that the aggregate effectiveness of brand awareness affects purchase intention at the greatest rate. 

Dabbous and Barakat find that “brand awareness and consumer engagement have a positive, significant impact on offline purchase intention.” Yet, their research reveals that engagement alone is insufficient, as it is actually the brand awareness and brand content quality that are the stronger drivers of purchase intention. In other words, distributing content collaboratively only works well if the content is of high quality. As such, brands with the highest quality content win out, and the contexts that allow for the greatest interactivity are driven by consumer’s established brand awareness. 

Learn more about how collaborative advertising dramatically increases content quality and brand awareness through a more personalized, localized approach to social advertising. Read The Indirect Majority – Why the Future of Social Advertising is Collaborative. 

The Secret Weapon Brands Need to Fight Against Facebook’s Rising Cost of Advertising

Facebook CPMs are rising once again, and it’s no surprise that as parts of the world begin to approach a more real sense of normalcy, brands are returning to the platform after many months of holding or reducing spend. While there has always been some seasonality to Facebook CPMs, both COVID’s upheaval and the social justice related black outs on Facebook posting in 2020 likely caused more dips and valleys than normal with ad delivery costs. Even still, AdExchanger is predicting that CPMs are going to continue to rise (and then some more once the holiday season hits). While it may seem like an unavoidable increase in cost due to increasing demand for digital advertising space, in truth, marketers still have much more control than one might assume to manage CPMs. 

Higher CPMs are nothing if not a signifier for increased competition, but in an ad auction system that factors ad quality and relevancy in its bids, you have everything you need to win – regardless of the competition. Facebook lays it out nicely, 

People prefer to see ads that are relevant to them, and when businesses show their ads to relevant audiences, they see better business outcomes. That’s why we consider how relevant each ad is to a person before delivering an ad to that person. Ads that are more relevant cost less and see more results.”

While all bidding systems have an element of variability, Facebook itself even warns against relying too heavily on relevance diagnostics alone. They do note “an ad that’s relevant to a person could win an auction against ads with higher bids.” As marketers, we need to consider our direct control over the inputs to our advertising campaigns. With increased competition on Facebook, it’s a race towards building the most clickable, relevant ads that consumers want to engage with. 

Tiger Pistol’s own data actually shows a different trend, from Q3 2020 to Q4 2020 our aggregate CPM did rise in the holiday period, but has been on a steady downward trend since, carrying into Q1 2021 as well.

In many ways, it is a story of the types of campaigns published through Tiger Pistol, which all tend to be brand focused micro-campaigns – hyper-local, highly-relevant ad campaigns that focus on specific consumers, products, and communities. The effect is a highly-focused ad unit, with a clear call to action and singular focus on driving a transaction at a point of sale.

Tiger Pistol campaigns, whether cross-channel or collaborative, are tightly focused on three key components: proximity, applicability, and transaction optimization – all of which contribute to better performing ads, as they are always constructed in a way that is most relevant for a consumer.

  • Proximity: Even under COVID, geo-proximity remains an important component of digital advertising. Tiger Pistol campaigns always work to deliver consumers ad units that feature the point of sale that is closest to them, whether that is a vending machine or convenience store for a CPG brand or a local insurance agent who serves their town.
  • Applicability: What’s more, a consumer living in a small town in Ohio, might have two or three grocery stores in town to choose from. A cross channel Tiger Pistol campaign ensures they are shown an ad from their preferred store, the one they actually shop at. If their neighbor prefers the other store? That same campaign delivers them a focused ad unit from that store.
  • Transaction Optimization: Brand campaign performance is often judged on ROAs, which is why transaction optimization is so important to driving ad relevance and performance. Our campaigns often feature 1-click or fully-contained transactions that allow consumers to interact with ads quickly and purchase products or services.

It is when all these are factored together that a campaign ran through Tiger Pistol is able to show a BOPIS (Buy Online Pick-up In Store) ad unit to the customer that always likes to buy online and pick-up from the store, and a home delivery ad unit for the consumer who prefers to remain at home. Send a campaign like this to Facebook, and you never worry about being irrelevant. 

Taken together, they become more than the sum of their parts. Put simply, it’s all about showing captive consumers where to buy products – capturing micro-moments with an easy path to conversion. It’s a recipe with many different flavors yet with the common denominator of data. If your CPMs are still rising, consider taking a hard look at your creative, your target audience, and the buying paths you ask customers to take. If it’s not imminently obvious where and how they can buy your product or service when delivered your ad, then you very well might be losing out. Advertising is just as much about being inspiring and captivating in the high-minded sense as it is about making it easy for your customers to purchase from you.

Ready to collapse your funnel with Tiger Pistol’s Collaborative Advertising?  See how it works. 

3 Ways to Increase the Effectiveness of your Collaborative Advertising Creative

Collaborative creative permits brands to speak to communities by localizing messaging and media through local points of sale. These points of sale might be an independently operated SMB, a chain store, sales agent, or even a vending machine. No matter the front, collaborative creative is all about making the local merchant the hero of the campaign while promoting a brand product. Localization is a term used ad nauseam in ad tech these days, but what does it really mean? Is it just inserting a city name and tightening your targeting radius? It can be. But do it well, and it will be that and much more. True collaborative creative is scalable, relevant to the consumer, and still tied to ROAS.

There are three components to effective collaborative creative:

1. Locality and Community 

People like to buy things from stores and merchants they are already familiar with; therefore, it’s easier to move someone towards a transaction from a store they visit regularly than to try to convince them to buy something from an unfamiliar shop. This is why location- specific information is so important. The benefit of collaborative advertising™ is being able to connect a brand’s product to a specific place to drive consumer activity, this can only happen if you tell them where. 

Ads with recognizable brand creative launched from the location Facebook or Instagram Page offer the ability to dynamically adjust offers or other elements of the copy. Get Directions, button links to map applications to show exactly where to buy.

2. Relevance

Collaborative creative can also be used to ensure your featured products or services are presented most effectively to local consumers. This means allowing specific stores to choose which products to feature in their ads or running multi-variant campaigns which present multiple different products at the same time — enabling real-time creative optimization to discern which to display in each local market.

Text overlays compliment relevant imagery to further personalize and localize the advertisement. 

3. Proximity 

No collaborative creative is complete without the proper delivery vehicle. While the behind-the-ad targeting may not always be thought of as “creative” in the classic sense, social targeting should always be inextricably linked with your imagery and copy; therefore, targeting is an important element of collaborative creative. This means always linking hyper-localized images and text with hyper-targeted campaign concepts. An ad that says “Buy this product right here and right now” is only effective if it reaches consumers within a reasonable distance to do so. What’s more, the efficiency gains from collaborative creative come in part, from the hyper-localized targeting. 

Bringing Cohesion to Your Collaborative Creative

You can have all the components, but how does one take some localized components and make into a cohesive ad unit? Specialized analytics can help here. Understanding performance retroactively can guide future creative development. Furthermore, scalability is also of great import with collaborative creative because it works best with many differentiated ad units and campaigns that are based on your sales network of stores, merchants, and agents. With Tiger Pistol, not only can you get the best creative analytics for collaborative advertising, with analysis that crosses nearly 200 billion data points, but you also get a powerful publishing engine that can deploy thousands of localized ads with a single button click. Tiger Pistol’s platform allows you to speak to consumers in their local communities, pointing them to their nearest point of sale, with relevant brand messaging showing them products they desire.

Only Tiger Pistol’s collaborative advertising solution allows you to localize and personalize all parts of your social ads, from copy to media to call to action. Collaborative creative templates give brands the power to distribute personalized, relevant content based on their points of sale to effectively drive business. See how it works

What’s the Right Amount of Local for my Brand?

It feels like establishing a digital local presence has been the bread and butter of brick-and-mortar strategy for decades. With numerous specialized agencies and tools, listings management, Google Places, Facebook location Pages, etc., it can feel like there are a thousand different permutations you need to cycle your brand through with the aim of going local. 

Insurance brands can advertise locally through agents and advisors, as these representatives work out of local offices and service particular local areas.

“Going local” can mean many different things, depending on your industry and how you engage with customers in your buying flow. In some cases, like for a large national insurance brand, the value of locality is self-evident. The brand can advertise locally through agents and advisors, as these representatives work out of local offices and service particular local areas. For other industries, such as consumer products, “going local” might mean marketing through independent dealers or chain partner retailers. Even wholly digital brands, such as delivery service apps like Doordash and Uber Eats, have reason to drive value through local marketing of their partner merchants to their local consumers. The real power of local marketing lies in its flexibility to work across decentralized and centralized networks alike.

So while the buzz around “local” marketing may feel tired at times, brands continue to take the plunge. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that someone else’s version of “local” doesn’t have to be yours. Take Red Bull for example. Going local for them means hosting local events and building subcultural communities to promote them through. A quick search of their brand on Facebook reveals a distributed page presence, such as Red Bull Music, Red Bull Motorsports, Red Bull Gaming. From a marketing perspective, these fronts are reflective of their larger marketing tactics in play, as the product offered never changes. Red Bull simply sells Red Bull. 

Contrast that with a search for “Allstate Agents” on Facebook. You will see thousands of business pages returned from local Allstate agents.

Of course, retailers often use location pages, creating one for every one of their stores to contain their local presence and house store-specific information, namely geo-location, but also hours, WiFi names, and more that are location specific. Many chain stores now have a distributed store page presence across Facebook.

Facebook continues to be the first choice for social media marketing with a local presence. With the right tools, brands are able to take advantage of their local presence with paid media. It’s important to consider holistically where the value lies in paid media activations. At Tiger Pistol, we work with partners across many different verticals, from real estate, retail, consumer products, financial services, and insurance, in addition to digital re-sellers and franchise brands. Every one of our clients is taking advantage of a different flavor of local paid media.The core power of local marketing is truly it’s ability to connect brands, consumers, and everyone in between to holistic ROA-based advertising strategies.

For example, a global beauty consumer products brand leverages our technology to enable salons and retailers to promote themselves through the brand’s Facebook Business Page, with each merchant receiving their own individual campaign, designed and optimized to deliver sales to them. While also empowering their campaign through attachment and association with the global brand’s page. In effect, they use paid campaigns to take the brand to a local level, by featuring specific merchants in what would otherwise be a brand level campaign.

Tiger Pistol enabled Ben & Jerry’s to publish on-brand local social advertisements for scoop shops leveraging a local tie-in with Uber Eats delivery. Ads were geotargeted for Uber-Eats’ delivery area, with the call-to-action to “Order Now via Uber-Eats.” Each ad’s “Order Now” button drove to Uber-Eats’ online ordering page for the local Scoop Shop. 

In other cases, it’s about bringing together independent merchants through a distributed local presence, such as our work with AB-InBev where our technology allows merchants to connect their own business pages and receive curated ads, published through them.

There are even cases where the locality is no more than a deliberate messaging tactic. Our Real Estate partners often publish local recruitment ads through their brand Page. This gives them a means to propagate localized messaging quickly that both target hyper-locally and feature creative that is locally aware – allowing their brand to speak to local job applicants in particular locales and feature local office information as necessary. 

As you can see, there are many paths to “Go Local.” They may sometimes include multiple Pages and places, or locality can simply be a messaging tactic – a first touch engagement into a larger national buying path, when it’s important to feature your brand in a specific local community. The value is in being able to quickly get local when it makes sense to, and to complement national advertising efforts through local advertising dissemination. 

It’s easy to deploy a single national campaign. Anything more can be enormously time consuming without the right tools, and you may be missing out on not only happier consumers, but better performance too. Separate local campaigns and marketing tactics can offer marketing flexibility, such as when an insurance brand uses its corporate website data to retarget consumers through a local agent campaign or when digital brands leverage the locality of their partners to distribute their message into particular locales. “Going Local” is about building holistic, responsive strategies that connect consumers to buying paths and speak to consumers more personally, in recognition of where they live and shop. Beyond a closer consumer connection, local marketing can very much also be a means for brands to enable and empower their retail, merchant, and account partners who they rely on to sell their products. 

Let’s talk about a local strategy that best fits your brand. Contact us today!

Chris Mayer, a Solutions Engineer at Tiger Pistol, specializes in helping digital agencies, SMB resellers, and global brands build scaled Facebook advertising solutions with an emphasis on local activation.

Unpacking Facebook’s New “Leads Center”

Facebook announced a new feature on Business Pages called Leads Center. With this new feature, leads collected on Facebook through Lead Generation campaigns now auto-populate inside the Leads Center. New tools also make managing leads easier: 

  • Set reminders to follow up, assign an owner to your leads, or add notes to their contact information
  • Filter by category, owner, label, or date
  • Create Custom or Lookalike audiences based on how you categorize your customers
  • Directly email leads from the Leads Center

While Leads Center introduces some lightweight CRM-like management options of leads, data has shown that the primary success KPI on leads is response time:

  • Contact and qualification rates drop dramatically in just minutes and continue to decrease over the next few hours (Harvard Business Review)
  • Sales Conversions are 391% Higher in the First Minute (Vendasta)
  • 78% of Customers Buy from the First Responder  (Vendasta)

Facebook’s Lead Center solution does not entirely solve for response time, especially for SMBs and businesses that prefer to call leads directly. Doing so quickly is paramount, so the immediacy of follow-up is most important.

The Leads Center is a great place to organize and manage leads, but if you are most concerned with response times, it doesn’t offer much additional help in that area. Users are still reliant on Page notifications, or self-directing into Ads Manager, Leads Page Management, and the like to grab leads as they come in.

Tiger Pistol’s lead delivery system prioritizes immediacy, and offers advertisers flexibility across multiple different lead management systems. 

  • Automatic Lead Notification Emails : Our Platform immediately recognizes a new lead coming through on a campaign and emails the specified account contact(s) the lead information instantly, enabling businesses the ability to immediately reach out to leads when they come through. End-users can also customize the cadence and frequency of these notifications from instant, to once daily, or a weekly summary. 
  • Leads Webhook : For delivering leads securely into external and third-party systems, Tiger Pistol also offers a webook that can send leads anywhere using a callback URL in real time. This means that leads can also simultaneously be sent into CRMs such as Salesforce, Zoho, or custom built applications.

In truth, the best lead management solution is multi-faceted. With instant notification, you solve the most important issue of responding quickly. This is where Facebook Leads Center comes back in and can provide added value to advertisers regularly managing leads. Facebook Leads Center centralizes all leads collected and allows for aggregate lead management options, outside of the immediate first follow-up, such as a view of all historical leads, allowing you to categorize them or even build custom audiences to use in future campaigns. 

Tiger Pistol’s lead delivery options complement Facebook’s Lead Center, just as they complement connections into external systems. You can gain the response benefits of immediate notification plus a solid management solution with almost no barrier to entry. For SMBs looking to take more control of their leads, the Leads Center is sure to become a valuable tool. Yet tagging and categorizing leads will only take you so far. Their value is still very much concentrated on your ability to respond to them quickly and convert them.

Chris Mayer, a Solutions Engineer at Tiger Pistol, specializes in helping digital agencies, SMB resellers, and global brands build scaled Facebook advertising solutions with an emphasis on local activation.

Unpacking Discovery Ads with Google: What it Means for Facebook

You’ve heard it a million times since the dawn of social advertising, “search for is for intent, social is for discovery!” And for a time, all us marketers constantly reckoned with this fact. The ad tech industry quickly codified itself into specialized tools on either ends of the spectrum, with a few hybrids in between. Though the fact of the matter remains, no one goes to Facebook and just searches for something. They access their feed and view their friends’ content. It’s a more reactive experience by nature. Whereas when users hit the Google front page, the intent is always specific – I am going to search for something, or I am going to click into a specific Google tool, like my email, or calendar. These differing experiences made it easy to think of social and search advertising as separable.

That separability is about to turn on its head, as Google launched Discovery Ads globally just last month. The premise is a familiar one, “Discovery campaigns take their cue from Facebook’s success at exactly this type of visually impactful, native ad format targeted based on audience data rather than search intent”. However, Google is proceeding down this path with caution, only launching one ad slot to start. But Google’s intent is clear here, they are aiming their sights directly at the “discovery media” Facebook has been so effective at collecting. Google’s own documentation on the format positions it just as Facebook would a Reach campaign: “Reach more of Google with a single ad campaign. With the ability to reach up to 2.9 billion people monthly… you can now reach more potential customers as they browse… on popular Google properties.” The idea being that Google will optimize Discovery ads using their customer intent data, just deployed in a slightly different way, to find users likely to be interested in similar products and serve them ads in the Discovery slot.

Google also notes that the properties these ads will feature on: YouTube’s Home and Watch Next feeds, the Gmail Promotions and Social tabs, and Discover, which for them, is the right way to think about discovery tactics, placing those units on properties where users tend to spend the most time, or in other words, places where people are naturally inclined to search for and consume content as opposed to engaging with specific search intent. So on one hand, the logic is sound. Google does indeed have a ton of user data, and enough for certain, to be able to use machine learning to identify the “interested users” necessary for deployment of discovery ad tactics. 

Does this supplant Facebook? That’s probably not the right way of thinking about it. We have seen new ad networks and properties come and go, and evolve, but rarely are these ever more than evolutions of traditional tactics. Rather than complete re-inventions of digital ad products and strategy. Although, it does mean Google could very well be a bigger part of conversations on Discovery, and the search-social digital framework is going to get muddier in terms of now being able to deploy discovery and intent tactics across both networks. Really though, it’s just one more place to cross-target ads, whether that be off search data and tracking alone, or through combined retargeting efforts across social and search.

When considering SMB advertising, introducing another, separate, Discovery placement into the mix feels premature, especially on the brick-and-mortar side. Consider what a typical scaled social and search strategy looks like. One example is an integrated marketing software for SMBs. This client helps manage web presence and SEO, in addition to paid digital advertising, but they need a way to generate leads reliably through search and discovery efforts. Being that most of their customer base is brick and mortar service providers, shopper-driven, product-based discovery was difficult. They decided to double down on Facebook for lead generation, leveraging the Facebook Pixel to middleman between their inbound activity based on search intent and effective re-marketing on social.

Tiger Pistol worked to develop a full cycle approach to lead generation and lead nurturing:

  • The customer’s contact list is sent to Tiger Pistol via API for automatic creation of a Custom Audience, which is then used to create a Lookalike Audience on Facebook for targeting purposes.
  • Tiger Pistol automatically creates and publishes a Lead Ad, enabling Facebook users who look like their existing customer base to submit their contact information natively.
  • Leads are then automatically sent to the customer’s company contact list, where a lead nurturing track is triggered to drive conversion.

The integration provides the client’s customers a seamless, automated process to drive and nurture leads, allowing the client to spend more time managing its business. As their end-users find their customers on search, those customers are captured and used to find lookalikes. What’s more, each discovery-based lead also feeds the data loop. While one could imagine inserting some Google Discovery into this mix, it’s hard to pin down at this moment whether or not it’d be worth the effort, or if it’s best to wait for more data on the new Google placements. Google also lacks the journey driven lead collection that’s native within Facebook. As such, it’s also hard to imagine scaling a Google Discovery solution for SMBs given that it would require an offsite landing page to support lead collection- whereas Facebook does not, because Facebook enables direct lead collection across all its primary properties.

Facebook and its family of apps remain the destination for discovery-grounded marketing, not only because the idea of the Google network still feels foreign, but also because Facebook has a decade’s head start on developing specific ad tools within the discovery framework. Facebook offers over a dozen marketing objectives and has numerous properties suited to discovery such as Instagram, WhatsApp, or Messenger. It will take Google considerable time to catch up if they continue to go deeper into discovery-based ad optimizations. Place your bets now, I imagine they’ll find a way to make it work eventually. For now, Facebook should remain the focus for discovery, especially if considering a tight budget. Introducing a “third split” so to speak, of sending spend across search, social discovery, and search discovery could possibly mean not doing any of the aforementioned tactics well. Maybe in time, with more data, and evolution from Google, the calculus will change. But it is likely still the case that the most optimal means to focus dollars within the discovery/intent distinction would be to continue to emphasize Google for search-intent tactics with a separate focused discovery effort across Facebook

Chris Mayer, a Solutions Engineer at Tiger Pistol, specializes in helping digital agencies, SMB resellers, and global brands build scaled Facebook advertising solutions with an emphasis on local activation.

Beyond Store Visits: Better Objectives for Current Times

When the world is not under stay-at-home orders, it’s easy to gravitate towards Facebook’s Store Visits Objective as the best option to drive foot traffic into brick and mortar locations, but it’s far from the only option. Especially considering SVO’s setup requirements, now’s a better time than ever to consider how multi-location businesses can leverage other objectives locally. It also doesn’t hurt that Facebook’s overall cost of advertising is down between 20 and 40% (dependent on placement) across its family of apps, and previously passive users are becoming more active and engaged. This is the perfect recipe for businesses that want to re-engage their communities with social, gaining brand impressions while usage is at its peak and competition is at its lowest.

Locality, by its very nature, is a chief concern during the COVID crisis. As different states and countries have different responses to the COVID crisis, marketing campaigns must be flexible enough to shift to a highly volatile landscape. For large, multi-location brand clients, this might mean that some of their stores are open, some are closed, some do delivery, and some don’t. Therefore, preserving your execution flexibility is paramount. You don’t want to be caught with a singular national campaign that suddenly doesn’t work in certain regions.

Of course, given the COVID-19 situation, the very concept of driving footfall is more difficult. But this is exactly why you don’t necessarily want Store Visit Optimization to be the only tool in your toolbox. A more adaptive framework that allows campaigns to still operate with the hyper-locality of a SVO campaign, but without the specific objective requirements is timely, not only because of COVID, but also for your strategic flexibility overall. This framework can actually be replicated with other objectives too, especially with specialized tools. Developing campaigns across other objectives that utilize local pages and localized copy still provides the same local performance benefits as an SVO campaign, as well as the attribution models to ensure you can still prove ROAs.

For service-based businesses, Conversion or Traffic campaigns that utilize offline event sets to attribute footfall engagement is another means to achieve the same end. Especially when the buying decision is complex. Take for example car shopping, where there is value in driving users to view content and engage in top-of-funnel sales activity, while still preserving the ability to know whether or not these campaigns resulted in a consumer coming onsite.

A responsive local strategy that allows for different tactics ensures that you can more easily account for different scenarios.

  1. That local Conversion Objective campaign that facilitates online ordering for in-store pickup might also need to be a Conversions campaign, driving people to convert online purchases for home delivery for the state next door.
  2. Many businesses explicitly address COVID-19 concerns publicly, in terms of supporting donations and community efforts. Ads can cover content-based and awareness-driven needs, even in cases where stores are shut down, providing credibility and continued presence in the local community allows you to identify early stage micro-conversion events that can shift to full scale attribution as situations begin to normalize.

In either case, being able to do both at the same time ensures you can still deliver results for your partners, customers, or clients that operate and deliver the same results in aggregate as any Store Visits campaign. It’s not as straightforward as it was before, of course, but with the right tools, these sorts of scaled activations can be executed with just as much ease as a SVO campaign. It’s just a matter of thinking outside the box and utilizing the great toolbox of advertising options that Facebook offers.

Ready to discuss a scaled social strategy that helps your business stay ahead of the curve with the best opportunity for revenue growth in 2020 and into 2021? Contact us today. 

Chris Mayer, a Solutions Engineer at Tiger Pistol, specializes in helping digital agencies, SMB resellers, and global brands build scaled Facebook advertising solutions with an emphasis on local activation.