A Shoppable Future for Social Media

It seems that ads are everywhere. On every screen and on every piece of paper. And now it is no different for social media.

Facebook has been running paid adverts for a while now, giving brands the opportunity to manage and personalise their adverts allowing them complete control. They seem to be popping up on our news feeds more and more.

This is due to the fact that in January, Facebook announced that its algorithm would be limiting the reach of certain brand posts, specifically those they considered “overly promotional”. These posts are the updates you see on just your news feeds, that aren’t paid for. Which is why paid adverts are showing up more and more. It’s the only way brands can guarantee their posts are seen.

And what did Facebook designate as “overly promotional”? They specifically cited three factors:

  • “Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app”
  • “Posts that push people to enter promotions with no real context”
  • “Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads” 

Now even more social platforms are jumping on the band wagon, specifically Instagram and Pinterest.

The photo-sharing app, Instagram, announced in December 2014 that its worldwide user base passed 300 million, a leap of 50% from the 200 million milestone it had achieved just nine months before. Both the rapid surge in a short period of time and the fact that Instagram’s users now outnumber Twitter’s 288 million worldwide users has gotten marketers’ attention.

In their blog post on the 4th March, Instagram introduced ‘carousel ads’ that allow people to view multiple images of a product in a single post. ‘Carousel ads’ will also allow brands to link images to a website of the brand’s choice, which may be a move to allow consumers to purchase directly from the platform. Lots of brands are using new tools that allow brands to monetise their Instagram accounts. For example, tools including Like2Buy, Like to Know it and Tapshop are becoming increasingly popular.



The Instagram blog says:

We’ve heard from marketers that they want to tell sequenced stories in beautiful, compelling ways that lead to meaningful results for their businesses.

This signifies the first time that Instagram will allow web searches on its own platform, until now it only allowed users to browse photos on the app. Instagram says that the mini gallery feature is likely to benefit fashion, car and food brands, as multiple images will allow them to tell a sequenced story. For example, a food brand could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a meal. The new format will be introduced on a ‘limited basis’ in coming weeks, while the platform works out what performs best.

Another social platform that is introducing a new feature is Pinterest. They announced, also on the 4th March, that they would test ‘animated pins’ on its platform, which would allow a sequence of images in a single post.

The online photo-sharing platform held a two-day event in New York to discuss its ad-targeting services, according to reports by Ad Age. Eric Hadley, Head of Partner Marketing for Pinterest, told the publication that they will offer advertisers a more precise way to reach intended audiences than before. Previously, advertisers were able to reach audiences through the 30 different categories available on the website for pins, such as sports or hair and beauty, but now advertisers will be able to target users by audience, so brands can ask for data on “outdoor enthusiasts” for example.


Pinterest will also test ‘animated pins’, a new ad format where images within ‘pins’ will move as users scroll over them.


Last month, Pinterest released ‘Pinstitute’, a series of tutorials on how best to advertise on the platform. Videos on how to drive clicks and how to manage promoted pins are available on the site, although the service is only currently available in the US. The event hosted brands such as Nike, American Express and Target.

Earlier this year, a Forrester report questioned the platform’s value for brands due to its limited targeting capabilities and effectiveness. The report suggested that the platform has the potential to become valuable for brands once it uses the ‘intention’ data gathered from consumers.

Pinterest’s ad services are not currently available in the UK, although brands can use the service to create tailored ‘boards’ with brand content.

To stay ahead of the curve, and not drown in a sea of social advertisements, brands must adopt new ways of communicating with their customers on social media. The brands that will stand out are the ones who act quickly and understand how to use the tools fast. 

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