Adobe Digital Index examined more than 200 billion Facebook ad impressions, more than 1 billion Facebook posts, and more than 400 million unique visitors to social networks, including Twitter, in the first annual Social Intelligence Report (PDF), which reviews all facets of social media—paid, owned, and earned.
Some interesting findings emerged.
Social networks are finally having their moment in the sun. Marketers appear to be shifting spend from cost-per-click (CPC) to cost-per-thousand (CPM) media, looking for more value as the click-through rates (CTR) for paid advertising have nearly doubled this year. CPM rates are up 120% YoY, with the majority of that growth occurring in just the past quarter. Advertisers buying on a CPC still outspend those buying on a CPM, but with this shift they’ve seen their marginal CPC rates decline 40% YoY.
It looks to be a great time for Twitter as well. Twitter, which was already a major source of referral traffic for media companies, has improved its share of traffic to retailers by 2.5 times, outgrowing the other social media darling for retailers--Pinterest, which grew 84% this year. Just when we thought Facebook might be unstoppable, Twitter and Pinterest appear to be taking some of the referral traffic from the social media juggernaut as Facebook’s referrals to retailers has dropped 20% YoY.
Social Networks Become More Marketing-Friendly, Brands See Big Jump In ROI
In 2013, the major social networks became serious about making their platforms more marketing-friendly. Facebook led with the new Timeline user interface, the introduction of Graph Search, and improved audience targeting capabilities. Twitter also beefed up its targeting capabilities while acquiring Vine and MoPub to increase its video and mobile capabilities, respectively. Most recently, Pinterest got in the game with the introduction of Promoted Pins.
All of these changes, along with marketers' increased sophistication at leveraging the platforms, are paying dividends. On Facebook, ROI (defined as revenue/expense) has increase 58% over last year.
On Twitter, revenue per visit (RPV) jumped 300%. While still not as profitable as Facebook’s $0.93 and Pinterest’s $0.55, this notable jump puts Twitter more in line with the other major networks when it comes to delivering ROI.
Marketers Figuring Out How To Use Social Media. . .Sort Of
Brands' ever-increasing commitment to social media is evident, but the discipline is a long way from maturity. The amount of content published via brand pages jumped 79% year-over-year, and engagement with that content is up 115%.
This shows marked improvement. But marketers could be missing an opportunity with video. While not as strong as image posts (4.3%), video has the next best average engagement rate at 3.5%. That said, only 6% of posts contain video, while 70% of posts have an image. Considering the typically higher cost of video, it will likely never become as frequent as image posts, but with similar results, it appears to be an opportunity worth exploring further as a means to keep consumers engaged consistently with rich content.
What’s Next For Social Media?
Heading into the critical holiday shopping season, social media looks poised to take a much bigger share of marketing investments versus last year. Marketers are getting smarter with the ways they are engaging consumers on social networks, and they are ramping up investments in paid social to help amplify. With increasing CTRs, decreasing CPCs, and engagement on Facebook posts up YoY, this is an excellent time to ramp up ad offerings. And, with other platforms gaining share from Facebook, brands will expand social media programs to include a variety of sites.
Marketers should be cautious, however, not to overuse text posts; the abundance of these posts will likely have less impact over time. Although it costs more, video postings will be more engaging. Marketers will want to plan ahead and dedicate more resources to managing social media content. Tracking social ROI remains difficult because the data is still held in silos and attribution algorithms are nascent in their design and availability. However, the upside potential for social media is still tremendous, and we will bring you the results from the Christmas holiday shopping season on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.