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6 Ways to Increase Facebook Organic Reach

Organic reach on Facebook is increasingly difficult but not impossible, even in 2022. Here are six pointers for extending your Facebook reach without advertising.

The post 6 Ways to Increase Facebook Organic Reach appeared first on Practical Ecommerce.

PostPilot Is Klaviyo for Postcards

Direct mail is back. The anti-tracking privacy changes of iOS 14 have forced merchants to seek alternatives to Facebook advertising. For Drew Sanocki and Michael Epstein, owners of PostPilot, a direct-mail provider, the fallout has produced a windfall.

“Last November was huge for us,” Sanocki told me. “We made several hundred thousand dollars in revenue that month alone.”

PostPilot’s postcard campaigns mimic email — integrate with an ecommerce platform, segment recipients, and create triggers for automated mailings. “It’s Klaviyo for postcards,” stated Sanocki.

I recently spoke with both entrepreneurs. The entire audio of our conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about PostPilot.

Drew Sanocki: Michael and I have 20 years in ecommerce. We managed brands, and then we started buying and selling companies. Throughout our careers, we’ve both used direct mail. We’ve found that it works well. Not a lot of direct-to-consumer brands are using it. Three years ago, we acquired what is now PostPilot, a software platform that automates direct mail. The goal is to make it as easy to use as email. We say it’s Klaviyo for postcards.

We’ve experienced a lot of success this year.

Michael Epstein: We were interested in the direct mail space and software-as-a-service. We had an idea of creating and sending direct mail as easy as email and doing it through a SaaS platform. We found this company, which shared a vision for the product and had a good start and understanding of how to execute.

Initially we used a printing partner. Ultimately, we realized we wanted more control over the quality, so we built a production center in South Carolina. We now do all the printing and production there. We also have more control over the supply chain.

Sanocki: You can mail almost anything, so it’s as much the message as it is the medium. We try to focus on three or four standard postcard sizes and get the customers to concentrate on the content. What’s the offer? What’s the target market?

Epstein: PostPilot natively integrates with Shopify and Klaviyo. You can segment customers based on transactional data from Shopify, similar to an email campaign. Then you can trigger an automated postcard flow. You can set the trigger to say, “Customer purchased product X. She has not come back within 35 days to buy another product. Let’s trigger a campaign on day 35 that’s personalized and goes out to her with an incentive to come back and buy.”

Sanocki: Most merchants focus on customer acquisition, but it’s expensive. Marketers should instead focus on retention and increasing the lifetime value of existing customers. Then turn to acquisition. You’ll get a higher ROI because you’ve built a better net. Everything that happens post-purchase will make your investment go further on the acquisition side.

Last November was huge for us. We made several hundred thousand dollars in revenue in that month alone. We did some digging. We found that iOS 14 privacy changes, allowing consumers not to be tracked, had hurt the Facebook ad performance of many direct-to-consumer brands. That drove a surge in interest in direct mail. Fortunately, we were in a position to capture that demand. It’s been off to the races since then.

Bandholz: How do merchants execute direct mail campaigns?

Sanocki: Again, they should start with retention. Identify and segment defecting customers, then send postcards to win them back. There’s almost always ROI with postcard campaigns focusing on post-purchase cross-sells, upsells, and even abandoned carts. An ROI of 14 for those campaigns is common.

If you identify the customers that have not bought from you for a while, bringing them back into the fold is always the most cost-effective and the highest return. You’ve already acquired them. You’ve got their email and physical address. So it’s a matter of re-introducing them to the brand.

We’ll move to up-funnel acquisition after addressing retention.

Epstein: Typical ecommerce open rates for email campaigns are around 20%. That’s from active subscribers. Eighty percent are not engaging, in other words. That’s a lot of potential revenue by adding direct mail.

Bandholz: What’s the cost?

Epstein: We recommend starting with a minimum segment size — 500 to 1,000 — to get relevant data and understand how it works. Typically, we charge $0.49 per card to send those — less than the cost of a click in most cases.

We also have our “Godfather Offer” — it’s hard to refuse. We’ll let you test for free if we think PostPilot will work for your company.

Bandholz: What are the best calls to action for direct mail?

Epstein: Basic messaging works well, such as “It’s been a while. We miss you.” We typically suggest an incentive with an expiration date. Getting them to come back takes a bit of a nudge. Adding a QR code reduces friction, sending recipients directly to the site, such as a landing page or even an abandoned cart. Our integration with Shopify automatically applies a coupon code.

A common mistake is having too broad of segments, such as targeting everybody that hasn’t purchased in 90 days. It’s better to segment those customers into cohorts, perhaps one-time versus repeat buyers.

Tracking the ROI of each segment helps direct where the money is spent.

Bandholz: How can listeners connect with you?

Sanocki: Our website is PostPilot.com. I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Epstein: I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter, too.

Behind-the-scenes Content Is Authentic Storytelling

Video content ranks number one in social media marketing these days. One of the best video strategies is behind-the-scenes storytelling.

Behind-the-scenes (BTS) content gives an unedited look into what is happening inside a business. Examples include posts highlighting employees, workplace culture, and company events.

BTS content is effective because it provides businesses with an authentic way to connect with their audiences and build trust. Good BTS content focuses on revealing company processes over products. The more authentic a video, the more successful it will be.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the eyeglasses retailer, produces BTS content that shows followers what’s happening inside the company. For example, Warby Parker’s Instagram page recently featured a video with lifestyle influencer Katie Duke and her journey to find a new pair of glasses at the company’s physical locations.

Screenshot of Instagram post with Katie Duke Screenshot of Instagram post with Katie Duke

Warby Parker produces authentic BTS content, such as this Instagram post featuring lifestyle influencer Katie Duke shopping for eyeglasses.

The video works because it takes followers behind the scenes, showing them how the in-person eyewear selection process works while providing a human experience and an unscripted glimpse into the company’s brick-and-mortar locations.

Feelgrounds

BTS content can include even a tedious process, such as picking, packing, and shipping products. Feelgrounds, the German footwear company, did this on Facebook to good effect. The video is a sped-up version of the fulfillment process paired with a Benny Hill theme song. It’s both entertaining and shareable.

Screenshot of the Feelground Facebook postScreenshot of the Feelground Facebook post

Feelgrounds’s Facebook post is a sped-up video of the company’s picking, packing, and shipping process.

The video also states the Feelgrounds team is working “tirelessly throughout the weekend” to ship all pre-orders, creating a sense of excitement and “fear of missing out” around a new product.

Terrebleu

Terrebleu is a Canada-based online wellness business that showcases brand culture using Instagram Reels. The videos include the company’s farm horses, lavender fields, and staff. Terrebleu knows its audience (wellness consumers) and the types of content to connect with it — simple and effective to generate trust.

Screenshot of Terrebleu's Instagram Reel videoScreenshot of Terrebleu's Instagram Reel video

Terrebleu showcases its brand culture using Instagram Reels that include farm horses, lavender fields, and staff.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh shows off on TikTok its “day in the life” workplace. From following employees throughout their day to sharing what goes into a food stylist’s preparations for a photo, HelloFresh reinforces brand values by emphasizing the people that keep the business running.

Incorporating TikTok’s trending music and sounds is an added benefit — making the content relatable to potential customers.

Screenshot of HelloFresh's post on TikTok.Screenshot of HelloFresh's post on TikTok.

HelloFresh shows off on TikTok its “day in the life” workplace.

The Risk of Social Media Marketing

Ecommerce marketing decisions are difficult. Advertising, search engine optimization, social media, content marketing — all involve communicating a message to an audience. But depending on the channel, the marketer may not control the message, its distribution, or even the audience.

Thus a model of classifying media channels can help marketers think about communications in an integrated way. One such model is PESO — paid, earned, shared, owned.

By organizing tactics into paid, earned, shared, and owned media, you better understand who creates the promotions, who owns the audience for the promotions, and who controls the distribution.

MediaContentAudienceDistribution
PaidYour business creates the content, ad, or promotion.A third party developed the audienceA third party controls the distribution of your content.
EarnedA customer, company, or journalist creates the content.The customer or journalist developed the audience.The customer or journalist controls or influences the distribution.
SharedYour business creates the content or promotion.Your business and a third party co-developed the audience.A third party controls the distribution of your content.
OwnedYour business creates the content or promotion.Your business developed the audience.Your business controls the distribution of your content.

PESO vs. PEO

Social media platforms are an important part of “shared” integrated marketing.

However, some social-minded marketers disagree on the “shared” aspect, favoring three media distinctions over PESO’s four and lumping shared media platforms — e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok — into the “owned” category.

One could argue that reducing PESO to PEO still achieves the goal of helping folks think about communication strategies. But it’s a mistake to assume any company owns its social media content. And it’s harmful if it means a company overemphasizes a channel beyond its control.

Point of Distinction

When marketers apply the PESO model, it is important to consider the content, the audience, and the distribution. These three points differentiate the media channels and help identify how content and ads work together.

As the table above shows, “your business creates” the content for owned media and shared media. In both cases, “your business” worked to develop the audience. But your business does not control what social media platforms do with the content, and, despite growing followers, the business cannot take or easily transfer that audience to other channels.

In 2017 I wrote, “Shared media describes content your business creates that is distributed to an audience your business developed via a platform that someone else owns or controls.”

That control is the key difference, and it’s why social is not “owned” media.

Diagram of four overlapping circles: earned media, shared media, owned media, paid mediaDiagram of four overlapping circles: earned media, shared media, owned media, paid media

Organizing marketing media into paid, earned, shared, and owned provides an understanding of who creates the promotions, owns the audience, and controls the distribution.

Account Suspensions

As evidence that businesses don’t own their social media channels, consider account suspensions.

All social media platforms reserve the right to suspend, block, or remove accounts. Particular policies will differ, but any business could post mounds of great content, build thousands of followers, and suddenly lose access to the account, the content, and the audience.

This happens daily to small businesses.

Content Removal

Social media platforms can remove individual posts. This is common for YouTube creators, for example.

When a YouTube creator critiques content, it is common for the critiqued party to file a copyright complaint, instantly suspending the critique and forcing the creator to work through an arbitration process.

Businesses, too, experience suspensions. And, the fact that YouTube and other platforms have content restrictions and often remove individual posts confirms social is not “owned” media in the normal sense.

Creator Economy

Creators and the so-called creator economy also demonstrate that social is not something businesses or individuals can “own.”

While creators can monetize their content on a given channel, they don’t own their audience or the distribution of their content. YouTube does. Or TikTok does. Or Instagram does, and so on.

For example, in 2019, many YouTube creators complained that the platform’s efforts to comply with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act unfairly impacted creator income. YouTube could limit advertising and, therefore, revenue sharing on any content it deemed “made for children” regardless of what the content creator intended.

More recently, YouTube creators were worried that Google would let its contract with Roku expire, reducing views, ads, and income for many channels.

Creators often encourage their audiences to sign up for email newsletters or communities to counter this problem. If they want to grow their income, creators must break out of the platform. Hence another example of why social media is never “owned.”

MySpace

A final rationale against classifying social platforms in the “owned” category is that they can wane in popularity. MySpace and the now-defunct Friendster were significant Facebook competitors at their respective peaks. No more.

Nothing guarantees that Facebook, Instagram, or any other social site will survive the next five or 10 years. Some legislative bodies and Web3 advocates seek to break up and replace these platforms.

Not Owned

When companies start to think that they own social media content and audiences in the same sense that they own a blog or an email list, they risk losing control over content and customer relationships.

The PESO model aims to help marketers think about communications in an integrated way, to use all four channels appropriately.

Social media is most certainly an important part of the mix, but a company’s content should ultimately have a home on its website(s). The customer relationship should be direct, not via a proxy such as Facebook or TikTok.

The Best Ecommerce Content for Facebook

Facebook is the king of social media for businesses. Billions of consumers learn of brands and products via the platform. Despite what many believe, Facebook is a thriving opportunity for ecommerce merchants — if you can capture an audience’s attention.

In this post, I’ve collected seven types of content for merchants to stand out, connect with an audience, and grow a following — all on the world’s leading social platform.

Ecommerce Content for Facebook

Ask questions. The best way to start a conversation online is to ask your audience a question. It’s a powerful way to engage followers, provided it’s done only occasionally. Starbucks offers a good example. The company asks simple, short, and interesting questions that allow users to engage and share.

Screenshot of a graphic from Starbuck's Facebook page, asking questionsScreenshot of a graphic from Starbuck's Facebook page, asking questions

Starbucks asks simple, short, and interesting questions that allow users to engage and share.

Tell stories. Facebook, like Instagram, provides a unique way to tell in-depth stories that capture an audience. The best stories, in my experience, are personal. Zappos does this well, extending its brand through excellent behind-the-scenes content. Consider addressing how your business or product came about, the most difficult parts of your company’s journey, and how your products or services improve lives.

Screenshot of a video on Facebook from Zappos, showing a child in a wheelchairScreenshot of a video on Facebook from Zappos, showing a child in a wheelchair

Zappos produces compelling, behind-the-scenes stories. Click image to watch the video on Facebook.

Use videos. Facebook is made for short-form videos up to 10 minutes, not just 30 seconds such as on TikTok and Instagram. Whole sections of Facebook are now dedicated to video consumption. That’s because videos are easily created, consumed, and shared. Videos can be educational, informational, interesting, or anecdotal. Users, if attracted, will watch and share. For example, Chewy, the pet supply company,  produces fun videos that engage its audience.

Post branded graphics, which are images that include your company’s logo, fonts, and color schemes — think memes, quotes, motivational sayings, and product tips. All of your graphics should have the same feel. Create a brand graphic guide. Check out how Beauty Pro Distributor produced a unique style of graphic to use throughout its social media marketing.

Screenshot of a image on Facebook of a female with Beauty Pro Distributor's brandingScreenshot of a image on Facebook of a female with Beauty Pro Distributor's branding

Beauty Pro Distributor produced a unique style of graphic to use throughout its social media marketing.

Incorporate trending topics. Incorporating trending topics into your content can improve engagement and reach because it will help your post show up in followers’ feeds. Apparel retailer ModCloth is a good example. It combines simple photos and stories with trending topics for interesting and shareable content.

Image from Facebook of a photo from ModCloth's page showing a female outdoors in a city in front of a Christmas treeImage from Facebook of a photo from ModCloth's page showing a female outdoors in a city in front of a Christmas tree

ModCloth combines simple photos and stories with trending topics.

Create maps and infographics. Infographics generate engagement. Done well, they’re a concise, entertaining, and eye-catching way to share information about a product or service. Plus, they appeal to a big audience, improving the reach. Publish infographics on your site and then share on Facebook. It will push traffic to your website and drive sales.

Statista applies this strategy well. It produces excellent maps and infographics that are engaging, shareable, and housed off of Facebook. Users go to Statista’s site to view.

Screenshot of a map from StatistaScreenshot of a map from Statista

Statista produces excellent maps and infographics that are housed off of Facebook.

Display discounts, sales, and exclusive offers. An easy way to capture your audience’s attention on Facebook is by sharing info about upcoming sales and discounts. This type of content is productive because most consumers are on Facebook at some point during the week. But it only works well on Facebook in my experience. Unlike Pinterest, TikTok, and Snapchat, Facebook users are accustomed to sharing sales and discounts. Plus, it is an excellent way to reward folks who “like” your Facebook page.

Screenshot from Facebook of Tula's page showing discounts of its skincare productsScreenshot from Facebook of Tula's page showing discounts of its skincare products

Sharing info on sales and discounts is popular on Facebook, such as this example from Tula, a skincare brand.

Facebook Lead Ads Lowered CPA, Boosted Results

When your marketing plan requires newsletter signups, event registrations, and resource downloads, Facebook lead ads may be a powerful tool at an attractive cost per acquisition.

Lead ads feature a mobile-first form already filled out with a Facebook or Instagram user’s name and contact information. The ads transform the registration or subscription path as less form friction results in more conversions.

Lead Ads

Facebook lead ads have two parts: the ad and the form. The signup or registration is captured on the Facebook or Instagram platform. Registrants do not leave Facebook or Instagram to find and fill out a form. The form, again, is loaded with information from the user’s profile, eliminating the need to type in a name, phone number, or email address.

Two smartphone screenshots: a Facebook lead ad and the corresponding lead formTwo smartphone screenshots: a Facebook lead ad and the corresponding lead form

With a Facebook lead ad, the signup or registration is captured on the Facebook or Instagram platform.

The ad is identical to any other Facebook ad. The difference is the form. It even includes a familiar call to action, such as “learn more” or “sign up.”

Keeping the registration on Facebook or Instagram is, for many, a better form experience. Facebook presumably prefers this, too, since the user is not required to leave one of its networks.

I have been a fan of this ad form for some time, but recently I tested it for a software-as-a-service company.

Facebook Ad Test

The test was aimed at two educational offers: a four-week course with live sessions and an unrelated, weekly live workshop.

The offers deployed two types of Facebook ads: one linked to an offsite landing page, and the other used an on-site lead form. Both groups used identical audiences and ad assets. The test ran for six weeks and garnered thousands of registrations.

The results were not even close.

For the course, the lead ads produced 80% more signups at about half of the cost per acquisition. For the weekly workshops, the lead ads generated about 100% more registrations for half of the cost.

What’s more, in both cases the CPA dropped over time, presumably as the algorithm improved targeting.

Fictitious Names

Registrations from lead ads were not perfect. The information loaded into the form comes from a person’s profile on Facebook or Instagram.

I observed a couple of problems with this.

First, some Instagram registrants did not have a real name in their profile, resulting in monikers similar to “Mrs. Magic Woman” in the lead form. This did not necessarily reduce the quality of the lead, but it didn’t help, either.

The second issue was more troublesome. Follow-up emails sent to registrants from lead ads had relatively fewer clicks and engagements.

This likely has to do with the email address associated with some user accounts. My own Facebook and Instagram accounts, for example, are associated with an email address that I have had since the 1990s. I check it once a week or so. Perhaps some of the registrants included similar secondary email addresses.

Moreover, the email address in a Facebook or Instagram profile is likely personal versus business, making it less desirable for a B2B SaaS company.

Nonetheless, the lead ad performed much better than the landing page version.

Lead Collection

Another challenge with using Facebook lead ads has to do with collection and automation. How does an advertiser get the leads created on Facebook? How are those leads added to marketing automation campaigns?

The SaaS company had two existing automated campaigns: one for the courses and one for the workshops.

Our solution was Zapier, which has integrations for Facebook lead ads and several popular form providers. A registration captured on Facebook or Instagram was automatically added via Zapier to the existing automated follow-up.

Other, more burdensome solutions include employing an application programming interface or manually downloading the leads.

Screenshot from Zapier showing the Facebook to Gravity forms zap.Screenshot from Zapier showing the Facebook to Gravity forms zap.

A simple Zapier integration can transfer the leads from Facebook to a marketing automation platform.

21 New Social Media Tools for Merchants in 2021

New and updated social media tools can enhance an ecommerce business.

Here is a list of new social media tools and platform updates in 2021. There are tools for shopping, influencer marketing, live streaming, payments, dynamic advertising, and more.

Facebook

Facebook introduces Horizon Workrooms. To help people work remotely, Facebook has launched an open beta of Horizon Workrooms, available for free to download on Oculus Quest 2. Workrooms is a virtual meeting space where you and your colleagues can collaborate from anywhere. Join a meeting in virtual reality as an avatar or dial into the virtual room from your computer by video call. Use a huge virtual whiteboard to sketch out ideas, bring your computer and keyboard into VR to work together with others, or have expressive conversations as if you are in person.

Home page of Facebook Horizon WorkroomsHome page of Facebook Horizon Workrooms

Facebook Horizon Workrooms

Facebook Pay expands to additional platforms. U.S. businesses that use participating platforms can now enable Facebook Pay as a payment option directly on their websites, giving their customers the ability to check out without re-entering their payment information. Facebook Pay uses encryption to safely and securely store payment card numbers, removing the need for merchants to manage that data. Facebook started the rollout with Shopify merchants and will be expanding to other platforms.

Facebook expands Shops. Facebook has made it easier for people to discover and buy from Shops. In the U.S., businesses can bring Shops products into Marketplace. Facebook has also expanded ratings and reviews to products in Shops on Instagram, including photos and videos from the community. Also, Facebook has introduced Shops ads based on people’s shopping preferences.

Facebook introduces Bulletin newsletter app. Facebook has launched Bulletin, a standalone newsletter platform for free and paid articles and podcasts. To launch the platform, Facebook has recruited prominent writers, including Malcolm Gladwell, Erin Andrews, and Mitch Albom.

Instagram

Messenger API for Instagram opens to all developers and businesses. Facebook has opened the Messenger API for Instagram to all developers and businesses to integrate Instagram messaging with their preferred applications and workflows.

Home page of Messenger for InstagramHome page of Messenger for Instagram

Messenger for Instagram

Instagram introduces ads in its Shop tab. Instagram has launched ads in its Shop tab globally, making ​​it easier for people to discover and shop from brands. These ads appear as tiles on the Instagram Shop tab home page. Clicking on an ad takes users to the product details page.

Instagram introduces affiliate and shop features. Instagram has launched new ways to help creators monetize their digital efforts. Creators can now tag products from the brands they work with or use Shops for their own product line. Instagram is also testing a native affiliate tool to allow creators to discover new products available on checkout, share them with their followers, and earn commissions for the purchases, all within the Instagram app.

Instagram launches Live Rooms. Instagram’s Live Rooms gives users the ability to go live with up to three people. With Live Rooms, viewers can buy badges for the hosts and use other interactive features such as Shopping and Live Fundraisers.

Home page of Instagram Live RoomsHome page of Instagram Live Rooms

Instagram Live Rooms

Instagram introduces Content Publishing API. Facebook has launched Content Publishing API, a feature on the Instagram Graph API platform to make it easier for businesses to publish content. Instagram Business accounts can now schedule and publish posts to their Instagram feeds from third-party platforms. With the Content Publishing API, businesses can easily plan campaigns and build internal processes around publishing content using the platform of their choice. Content Publishing API will support scheduling and publishing single-photo or video posts to Instagram feed for Instagram Business accounts.

Pinterest

Pinterest launches Shopping List and expands shopping features and merchant tools. Pinterest has launched Shopping List, a method for pinners to have their product pins automatically saved in one place. Pinners are also informed of compelling deals on products they’ve saved with price drop notifications. Pinterest has also expanded its suite of merchant tools with the launch of (i) the verified merchant program in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, and Germany, (ii) a shop tab on profile, and (iii) product tagging in Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.

Pinterest introduces Idea Pins. Pinterest has released Idea Pins, a multi-page format to help users engage and explore videos directly. Idea Pins make it easy for creators to publish quality, long-lasting, saveable content directly to Pinterest via a suite of publishing tools, including video recording and editing, voiceover recording, ghost mode transition tools, detail pages for instructions or ingredients, and interactive elements such as people tagging and stickers.

Home page of Pinterest Idea PinsHome page of Pinterest Idea Pins

Pinterest Idea Pins

Pinterest introduces new ways for creators to earn money and partner with brands. Pinterest has launched new ways for creators to build their business and earn money with the ability to make their Idea Pins shoppable, earn commissions through affiliate links, and partner with brands on sponsored content. Creators can tag their Idea Pins with any Product Pins. Creators producing branded content have an easier way to disclose paid relationships with a new tool to add a “paid partnerships” label.

Twitter

Twitter launches Shop Module to let users shop from profiles. Twitter is testing Shop Module, a new ecommerce feature that lets brands, businesses, and merchants showcase products directly on a business profile. Followers can scroll through a carousel of product images and tap on a product they’re interested in purchasing. That tap opens the business’s website inside Twitter for additional product info or to make a purchase.

Twitter tests new ecommerce card and Shop button. Twitter is testing a new card format that links to ecommerce product pages. The experimental new tweets include a prominent Shop button and details, such as product name, shop name, and price.

TikTok

TikTok launches AR development platform, Effect Studio. Joining Facebook and Snap to support third-party developers via augmented reality, TikTok has launched Effect Studio, currently in private beta. The experimental resource seeks new ways for creators to bring their ideas to life for the TikTok community.

Home page of TikTok Effect StudioHome page of TikTok Effect Studio

TikTok Effect Studio

TikTok releases Creator Marketplace API. TikTok is helping brands and agencies work with influencers by rolling out a new Creator Marketplace API. Marketing companies can now integrate more directly with the application’s influencer platform. The new API allows partnered marketing companies to access TikTok’s first-party data about audience demographics, growth trends, best-performing videos, and real-time campaign reporting for the first time.

Shopify introduces in-app shopping on TikTok. Shopify has announced a new way for entrepreneurs to reach consumers on TikTok. Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account can soon add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles and sync their product catalogs to create a mini-storefront that links to the ecommerce store for checkout. Shopify and TikTok have also partnered to tag and link products in organic TikTok posts. TikTok users can shop directly from a merchant’s mini-storefront or click a tagged product in a merchant’s TikTok video to shop directly on the merchant’s Shopify store.

Web page on Shopify Blog announcing new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok.Web page on Shopify Blog announcing new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok.

Shopify Blog: Introducing new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok.

YouTube

YouTube unveils brand extensions. At its Brandcast Delivered event, YouTube previewed a new interactive feature for advertisers called brand extensions, designed to make the platform more shoppable. Brand extensions, available globally later this year, invite viewers to learn more about a product with one click, without interrupting their viewing experience. Brands can measure conversions in Google Ads.

YouTube introduces Super Thanks, letting creators monetize video content. As its fourth Paid Digital Good function, YouTube launched Super Thanks, allowing viewers to pay for pre-recorded or uploaded content. Similar to Super Chats, a monetization tool for YouTubers who live stream, Super Thanks lets a fan contribute to any uploaded video, as long as the creator is a YouTube Partner and has monetization enabled. There are four price points for viewers to purchase a single Super Thanks: $2, $5, $10, and $50.

Snapchat

Snap expands Dynamic Ads. Snap has announced the global rollout of Dynamic Ads. The product lets advertisers automatically create ads in real-time, using a product catalog. Snap provides various mobile-ready templates for advertisers to choose from, then serves the ads to the platform’s 229 million daily active users based on their interests.

Snap launches Creator Marketplace. Snap has launched a Creator Marketplace to help businesses discover and partner with Snap’s creator community. Snapchat’s Creator Marketplace is available via Business Manager to users with a Business Account. It will initially focus on helping businesses discover and partner with AR Lens creators. The marketplace will gradually extend to different types of creators (e.g., video creators and Snap Stars) and launch additional features to make it easier for brands and creators to work together.

Home page of Snap Creator MarketplaceHome page of Snap Creator Marketplace

Snap Creator Marketplace

Shopper Privacy Could Boost Contextual Ad Targeting

Consumer privacy concerns could prompt advertisers to find alternatives to tracking-and-behavior-based ads, giving contextual targeting a boost.

Contextual targeting is not new, although it’s becoming more sophisticated. It is based on a tried and true concept: Place your ad next to relevant content.

Context vs. Behavior

Hearken back to decades past, pre-internet, and imagine you are responsible for promoting a brand of golf clubs. You need to figure out how to get your brand’s golf club ads in front of folks who were likely to buy.

How would you do it? You’d probably buy an ad in a magazine, such as Golf Digest, Golf Illustrated, or The Professional Golfer. Your prospects would be likely to read one or all these popular magazines. That’s contextual targeting.

Cover of Golf Digest magazineCover of Golf Digest magazine

Magazines such as Golf Digest were once a primary method of reaching enthusiasts.

Fast forward to today. You need to promote the new and improved version of those golf clubs. This time, you shoot a few photos, write a snazzy headline, and go to Google Ads, where you target keywords and topics for your Display Network campaign. That’s contextual targeting, too.

Google Ads and most digital ad networks offer some form of contextual targeting, often keyword phrases.

So what is the difference between contextual targeting and behavioral targeting?

Contextual targets an article, video, or podcast. And the targeting mechanism is a keyword phrase or entity.

In contrast, behavioral targeting aims at each person’s private behavior, including past searches, social media activity, or even visits to physical stores. It could include the apps someone has installed and used, the purchases someone has made, or the personal preferences and opinions shared with a friend in a private message.

Bad Behavior

Behavioral targeting has been in the news. Many consumers did not understand the extent to which they were being identified and tracked or how information about them was being stored and shared.

Privacy advocates shouted.

For example, scientist Jaron Lanier argued that social media advertising algorithms were not just targeting human behavior but altering it, in his book, “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.”

Governments took notice.

Privacy concerns sparked new laws, such as the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation and California’s Consumer Privacy Act.

Tech companies responded, too.

Apple, for example, has already changed its Identifier for Advertisers. It now restricts third-party cookies in its Safari browser (as have most browser makers) and limits tracking in its email app.

This might be good for privacy. But it’s impacting one of the most successful forms of advertising. Behavioral targeting placed extremely relevant ads in front of consumers most likely to engage.

Many direct-to-consumer brands have built their businesses on Facebook advertising because of its ability to target shopper behavior. Similarly, many shoppers prefer ads relevant to them versus context alone.

New Context

The balance between personal privacy and behavioral targeting is tilting toward privacy. For example, in the most recent version of its mobile operating system, Apple began asking users to share trackable information with each app specifically. Before this change, users had to navigate a series of non-descript menus and settings to opt out of tracking.

In May 2021, Flurry Analytics reported that only 15% of iPhone owners had opted-in to tracking. In contrast, performance marketing agency Tinuiti reported that about 70% of iPhone users were being tracked before Apple’s changes.

With relatively less tracking data, behavioral targeting may be more difficult. So some advertisers could choose to include more contextually targeted ads and platforms in their marketing mix. This, in turn, might lead to some contextual targeting innovations or changes.

Conversational Ads

What BeOp CEO Louis Prunel calls “conversational ads” could be an example of contextual targeting innovation.

“Advertisers get much better results … by having conversations that are placed contextually at the end of an article on premium publishers’ [websites],” Prunel explained, adding that “conversational ads” may get as many as 70% more clicks than standard display ads.

While the BeOp platform gives advertisers creative control, one way of using it is to blend a display ad or video with guided selling to engage in a customer “conversation.”

The idea is to ask prospects a question so intriguing that they interact with the ad and eventually convert.

Prunel said that the combination of keyword-based contextual placement, the position of the ad on the page, and good copywriting make these conversational ads effective for both conversion and branding. Only television has a lower cost per impression, according to Prunel.

Screenshot from BeOp of a Microsoft Surface ad campaign with a question, "What character trait suits you the most?"Screenshot from BeOp of a Microsoft Surface ad campaign with a question, "What character trait suits you the most?"

BeOp, an ad platform, uses keywords and topics to place ads in context. Advertisers can use these ads to ask questions and spark a “conversation” with potential customers. Image: BeOp.

Shoppable Video

Shoppable video is “a video experience with products and information about the products wherein you can take action, and this action is usually a purchase,” said Amit Erental, senior business line manager at Cloudinary, a SaaS platform for streaming video and image management.

“Shoppable video had its start as one of the use cases of interactive video, but over the past three years, we have seen it grow into its own category,” Erental said.

Social networks such as Instagram offer full-fledged shoppable video ads. But given the aforementioned privacy concerns, don’t be surprised if we see shoppable video and contextual targeting combined.

For example, Cloudinary’s offering would allow merchants to create videos, add shoppable links, and place those videos on their own site, a blog, or, potentially, on other sites, such as a cable television channel, shown below.

Ultimately, both behavioral targeting and contextual targeting are approaches advertisers can use to place relevant ads. If one approach wanes in popularity or effectiveness, the other could rise.

Screenshot of E! Entertainment Television commercial with shoppable video.Screenshot of E! Entertainment Television commercial with shoppable video.

E! Entertainment Television used a shoppable video to show off holiday items in 2020.

What’s the Future of Social Media Advertising?

Many businesses recognize the need for social media advertising. But describing social media ads is a bit like counting raindrops in a thunderstorm. The trends are many, fast-moving, and often gone in a flash.

At least one industry practitioner believes social advertising is growing in acceptance despite tracking concerns and may soon be a full-fledged ecommerce channel.

Let’s take these three trends one by one — acceptance, signal loss, and shops.

Acceptance

A segment of the commerce industry that includes ecommerce, omnichannel, and B2B has had a long and successful relationship with social media advertising. But this is not the case for everyone.

“I think a lot of brands, retailers, grocers have finally accepted that social is the best platform upon which to reach their customers at scale with personalized messaging,” said Conor Ryan, chief information officer at StitcherAds, a social media advertising platform

Ryan believes the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the acceptance of social advertising. Companies that may have been planning investments in social advertising were forced to take action.

The pandemic “put so much pressure on so many businesses to move quickly that [digital transformation] was crammed into [a few months],” said Ryan during a live interview with the CommerceCo by Practical Ecommerce community on July 8, 2021.

The brands that made this transition accepted that they needed to use social advertising out of necessity, “but then it started performing as it was always going to do. Lots and lots of advertisers have come to the platform — many of them have played around with it before — but now really embraced it as one of the core pillars to achieve marketing and advertising goals,” Ryan said.

The long-term impact of this acceptance is unclear. But it could be that if more and larger brands enter the social ad space or increase their investments (sometimes spending millions of dollars), there could be more promoted products and more competition to promote.

The most impacted segments could be digital native direct-to-consumer brands that used Facebook or Instagram advertising, for example, as the foundation for their business growth and success.

Signal Loss

The businesses having success on social media advertising platforms are concerned about signal loss — the absence of tracking data that has made some social ads work so well.

“There is a lot of concern about the ability to track conversions due to some of the changes” coming from Apple and various web browsers, Ryan said.

Apple dramatically changed how tracking works on its iOS devices. App makers had unfettered access to Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers, which allowed Facebook and others to track individuals across apps, networks, and (when combined with cookies) across websites. But recent versions of iOS allow iPhone owners to decide if they want to be tracked.

Depending on the source, between 65% and 90% of iOS users choose not to be tracked. Thus, the signal loss.

This trend has driven “a lot of focus on attribution models, measurement, reporting, and the accuracy of that reporting,” Ryan said.

Shops

Social networks and their advertising platforms are embracing ecommerce and launching “shop” solutions.

Examples include “Facebook shops, Instagram shops, shops moving to WhatsApp and other social networks,” said Ryan, adding that the trend toward shops helps address signal loss.

“I mentioned the challenge of measuring conversions … but the ability to retarget is also impacted [by the new privacy settings]. So if you show somebody a product in a shop on Facebook or Instagram, Facebook knows what product they saw and can retarget them for you. But, if that happens off of the social media network, there might be no way to track them,” Ryan stated.

While the value of having a shop on a social media network is not limited to solving for signal loss, it wouldn’t hurt businesses concerned about social advertising performance as third-party tracking is restricted.

What’s more, social media shops may extend a commerce company’s portfolio of sales channels, allowing sellers to reach consumers where they are.

Social Media Updates for Commerce, Live-streaming, More

Social media sites help businesses build a brand, engage customers, and sell products. Many popular networks continue to innovate with new features, particularly around ecommerce.

Here is a list of social media updates to explore in 2021, including commerce, content monetization, interactive live-stream video, and more.

Pinterest

Screenshot for Pinterest Business

Pinterest Business

Pinterest is a platform to promote things, especially products. For ecommerce businesses, Pinterest can help grow a brand. Pin an image, video, or link to promote your content and products. Create Story Pins, Rich Pins with product info, and Collection Pins to tag products with links. Use augmented reality to let people virtually sample your product using Pinterest Lines. Link your site’s RSS feed to create Pins automatically. Use your account’s analytics and audience insights to get useful metrics.

TikTok

Screenshot TikTok business

TikTok Business

TikTok is a platform for short, viral videos — and an opportunity for ecommerce marketing. Use the Creator Marketplace to connect with content producers and influencers. Businesses can also create TikTok ads. TikTok has recently partnered with Shopify, allowing merchants to create and connect their TikTok for Business account and deploy shoppable video ads directly in Shopify.

Facebook

Screenshot of Facebook Business

Facebook Business

Facebook, with 2.7 billion monthly users, is the most popular social network. Businesses can create and develop their Page to promote a brand. Facebook has a variety of additional tools for businesses. Facebook Shops now makes it easy to sell a collection of products from a customizable store within the platform. Facebook Live offers real-time shopping. Facebook Marketplace lets businesses sell and communicate with buyers at a local level. And Messenger helps businesses communicate and connect with consumers.

Instagram

Screenshot of Instagram Business

Instagram Business

Instagram is a platform to share images and videos. For ecommerce businesses, Instagram can drive product sales. Businesses can now set up a shop across the Facebook platform to sell products on Instagram using Checkout. Tag products in images, videos, and Stories. Use Swipe Up in Stories to simplify the shopping experience. Turn shoppable posts into ads. Use Reels to create short, entertaining videos.

Twitter

Screenshot of Twitter Business

Twitter Business

Twitter remains a go-to resource for real-time news and to share links. Businesses can promote tweets, videos, or accounts. Twitter continues to develop the platform and make acquisitions to build out its features, such as its voice-based Twitter Spaces for meeting areas and the recent purchase of Revue for monetizing newsletters.

YouTube

Screenshot of YouTube Creator Academy

YouTube Creator Academy

YouTube can help develop your brand through video and connect with your audience and creators. YouTube Live can live-stream content to your followers. Use the YouTube Studio dashboard to manage your presence, grow your channel, interact with your audience, and monetize your content. Creator Academy provides training in all areas of production, distribution, and monetization.

Snapchat

Screenshot Snapchat Business

Snapchat Business

Snapchat is a social app for sending images and texts that self-destruct, highlighting the importance and fun of the moment. For businesses, Snapchat can promote events, such as a product launch, which could include location-based targeting. Use (i) Single Image or Video Ads to showcase your latest products or discounts, (ii) Collection Ads to create a shoppable experience, and (iii) Story Ads to highlight products or services.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn Business

LinkedIn can help build your brand, find and engage the right candidates for your positions, develop sales leads, and develop skills with over 16,000 courses from LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).

Reddit

Screenshot of Reddit

Reddit

Reddit is a network of communities based on people’s interests. With over 100,000 interest-based communities, Reddit is a helpful resource to learn about a niche group and its interests before developing the right marketing content. Reddit also accepts advertising.

Houseparty

Screenshot of Houseparty

Houseparty

Houseparty allows up to eight people to video chat in a “room.” Users can play in-app games, access infinite rooms, and float between rooms. Houseparty has been around for a while, but its popularity has exploded recently due to the pandemic and socially distanced happy hours. Houseparty can facilitate private marketing events.

Medium

Screenshot of Medium

Medium

Medium is a platform for insightful thinking. Companies, brands, and organizations can publish from a single user account under one name or set up a publication and have multiple people in an organization write as themselves, or both. Each user account has a public profile page that can be used as a persona on the platform. Medium is an easy way to publish or re-publish blog posts. Brands can create a collection of content around a particular theme to establish authority and expertise.

Nextdoor

Screenshot of Nextdoor Business

Nextdoor Business

Nextdoor is a social platform for neighborhoods. Claim your free Nextdoor business page. Set up shop in a neighborhood hub where consumers are searching for and recommending businesses. Business Posts let you start a conversation with the neighborhood — post twice monthly for free. Access marketing tools to target ZIP codes and neighborhoods.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp Business

WhatsApp is a free messaging and voice-over-IP app for voice and video calls and for sharing information. Its business app lets you create a profile to help prospects find your company’s description, website, locations, or contact info. Create a catalog to showcase your products and services. Communicate efficiently with your customers, and automate, sort, and quickly respond to messages. Use quick replies for frequently asked questions. Create greeting messages to introduce your business and away messages when you’re not available.

Amazon Live

Screenshot of Amazon Live

Amazon Live

Amazon Live is a live-streaming service. When they view your live-streams made with the Amazon Live Creator app, consumers can shop the products you’ve added. Using Amazon Live, merchants can chat and engage, highlight products in a carousel, and share promotion codes and deals. Stream for free across various placements where Amazon shoppers browse. All live-streams can be found on Amazon.com/Live and in the Amazon mobile app under “Amazon Live.”