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2015 Paid Social Year in Review

The world of paid social is constantly evolving and 2015 has been no exception with Facebook alone predicting end of year ad revenue to be 36% higher than 2014. Advertisers love for Facebook hasn’t subsided. Like all whirlwind romances, there have been some lows - the decline in organic reach on Facebook being the big one but Facebook has introduced a huge amount of new features that other digital advertising strategies may soon fall behind. 

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The launch of paid for advertising on Instagram has undoubtedly been the most talked about topic in paid social advertising this year. In 2016, Instagram’s growth is expected to take off, increasing by 149% to $1.48 billion globally. It is interesting to note that Facebook made a conscious effort not just to position Instagram as a branding one trick pony. Click to website, app installs and video views are the only ad formats available at the minute. Adding to this are clear call to actions and the same advanced targeting capabilities as Facebook and suddenly Instagram is no longer just social’s golden child of brand awareness but a credible platform for direct response. Instagram’s self-service tool has been seamlessly introduced into power editor, with no disruption to the normal run of things.

Carousel ads have proved to be a top performer on the platform this year. According to digiday, 1% of users click through on carousel ads compared to a 0.1% on non- carousel ads. At iProspect we’re seeing between 30% and 40% increase in CTR when we use carousel vs single images. Facebook have recently released video to carousel ads and is now recently available on Instagram.

Reaction buttons were introduced in October to the Spanish and Irish market. Essentially, reactions are an extension of the like button which include "love," "haha," "yay," "wow," "sad" and "angry”.  What does this mean for advertisers though? We haven’t noticed any drastic changes in terms of engagement rates yet but over time, the new options will hopefully give brands a better insight into how people react to their brand and more importantly why.

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Facebook recently introduced a new feature which has largely flown under the radar. While it isn’t the most exciting of updates, it is extremely handy for anyone who works in the platform day to day. This new feature is called detailed targeting. Detailed targeting enables us to finally do away with the pesky ‘or’ rule when it comes to combining interest, demographics and behaviour targeting. Now we can be more precise with our target audience.

Lead generation ads were rolled out in the Irish market in September. How do they work? When a user clicks on a lead gen ad they are redirected to a native Facebook form, where you can customise your questions. For now lead gen ads are best suited for email sign ups, call backs or to get quotes. We have found the less information required from the user the better, preferably email and phone numbers, as this information will automatically populate. The majority of users are on mobile and lead gen provides fast and easy way to gain good quality leads. Most importantly, we have the ability to integrate these leads with a CRM database or Facebook’s API so leads can be responded to in real time.

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Local awareness was also released toward the end of this year. They were initially designed with local brick and mortar businesses in mind as it will serve the ad to a hyper targeted areas but is has been hugely effective for all types of businesses. When it was first released we were only able to use age, gender and geo location targeting but now we able to combine this with more enhanced targeting options to ensure we are reaching the right people.

In 2015 Reach and frequency replaced reach blocks and have proved very popular. Reach and Frequency isn’t auction based, it works more like an insertion order in that this format allows us to frequency cap and determine the exact amount of impressions that will be served by an ad. In 2016, Facebook will be introducing a few improvements. We will be able to run campaigns for 90 days, book campaigns 60 days in advance to ensure the lowest CPM possible, implement day parting and the format will soon be available on Instagram. What I like most about Reach and frequency campaigns is that it gives us a nuanced approach to sequential story telling, which will be a key proponent to our approach to social campaigns in 2016.

A new ad object Brand Awareness has just been released into the Irish market. This objective optimises towards reach and attention. So what does this actually mean? The ad will be served to a lot of people and to people who are more likely to pay attention. This format will boost ad recall and we plan to use brand awareness as an alternative to reach and frequency campaigns which can be too expensive for certain brands. Ad recall will be introduced as a new reporting metric. This will be measured by the number of people who viewed your ad, the time they spent looking at it (dwell time) and on other historical third party data.

So what do we see on the horizon for 2016?

If 2015 was the year of the GIF, 2016 will be the year of the cinemagraph and the 3D image.  A cinemagraph or ‘living images’ is like a GIF, where only a part of the image moves. It will surely appeal to the higher end brands hoping to stick out from the noise. Instagram videos are now set to play on a loop, allowing for cinemagraphs to play continuously. 3d images will definitely become commonplace in 2016 and 360 has been introduced to the US market where a select number publishers like VICE and GoPro have been sharing 360 videos. 360 videos are shot with a special camera that allows 360 degrees of the scene to be filmed at once. On mobile we will be able to watch certain angles by dragging our fingers or by tilting our phones.  

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Instant articles will be released in Ireland in 2016. They have already launched in the US with a select number of publishers like Buzzfeed, National geographic and The New York Times. The articles will be hosted natively on the platform. They will load 10 times faster than standard articles and the experience will be interactive, in that they will include video autoplay, 360 videos, the ability to zoom in and out of images, interactive maps and photo galleries. What will this mean for the current model of publishing?

In 2016 Facebook will be introducing new sections to Facebook Business pages to help them better meet their business needs. The most interesting will be e-commerce capabilities on Facebook business pages. The shop now section on the Facebook page will allow business to showcase their products and allow customers to purchase without leaving the platform. Facebook will be rolling out a similar feature for non-profits called fundraisers. With this, non-profits will be able to tell their story, collect donations and we will be able to track their fundraising progress.

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With all of these increasing in app capabilities, it will mean that in the near future a user could potentially meet a lot of their online needs without leaving the Facebook platform. The options presented by Facebook mean that social will become a more attractive prospect than previously more established digital marketing options. The future is bright!!