Facebook Ad Clicks Surge During Back to School, Holiday Seasons [Study]

New Marin report shows strong sea­son­al lift in Face­book adver­tis­ing

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

A big ques­tion for many brands is how they can be lever­ag­ing the pop­u­lar­i­ty of social media to engage con­sumers in the pur­chase fun­nel. A new study from Marin Soft­ware has indi­cat­ed that, espe­cial­ly dur­ing sea­son­al peri­ods, con­sumers are look­ing to social media to seek out deals and offers from brands. With the major­i­ty of brand bud­gets being focused on organ­ic search, are brands miss­ing out on a oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­duct sea­son­al cam­paigns on social media and Face­book?

Social media adver­tis­ing can often be a source of divi­sion for brand mar­keters. Unlike search adver­tis­ing, which has been test­ed, mea­sured, and proven itself as a chan­nel over many years, social media adver­tis­ing has suf­fered from wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed reports dis­cred­it­ing the val­ue of the chan­nel, cit­ing the extreme­ly low ROI and even going so far as to com­pare the busi­ness to a Ponzi scheme.

How­ev­er, that isn’t the whole sto­ry. As a chan­nel, Face­book adver­tis­ing is rel­a­tive­ly untest­ed, and increas­ing­ly the data is begin­ning to show that the audi­ence and engage­ment lev­els are there.

The Social Media Seasonal Boost

New research from Marin Soft­ware has shown that Face­book ads expe­ri­ence a greater sea­son­al uplift than paid adver­tis­ing on Google. Analy­sis of $6 bil­lion worth of clients’ adver­tis­ing spends dur­ing 2013’s third and fourth quar­ters, has revealed that Q3/Q4 Face­book adver­tis­ing expe­ri­ences a greater jump in clicks in com­par­i­son to Google (in con­trast to their respec­tive Jan­u­ary fig­ures).

To be clear, the research does­n’t sug­gest that Face­book ads are out­gross­ing Google’s, just that there is a greater ele­ment of sea­son­al­i­ty in paid Face­book adver­tis­ing.

July, tra­di­tion­al­ly a slow time of year for retail­ers, was the only month in which Google saw a big­ger jump than Face­book, with the August/September back to school peri­od, and all-impor­tant win­ter hol­i­day peri­od from Octo­ber through to Decem­ber, see­ing a greater per­cent­age point change on the social media net­work.

What Does It Mean For Advertisers?

Bri­an Lee, Research Ana­lyst at Marin Soft­ware, offered his insights as to why the plat­form expe­ri­enced such a sea­son­al boost.

Face­book is a social plat­form, first and fore­most. Its user base oper­ates dif­fer­ent­ly from oth­er dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing chan­nels, such as search or dis­play,” Lee said. “As the sea­sons change, so do peo­ple’s activ­i­ties and con­ver­sa­tions on Face­book – per­haps even the amount of time they spend on the site. Con­se­quent­ly, it makes sense that Face­book ad per­for­mance would be affect­ed by sea­son­al­i­ty more so than search or dis­play,”

Ad clicks on Google and Bing tend to remain large­ly con­sis­tent through­out the year with a bump in the fourth quar­ter, he said. How­ev­er, Face­book expe­ri­ences some note­wor­thy shifts.

There’s a sig­nif­i­cant drop in ad clicks in Feb­ru­ary fol­lowed by a recov­ery in May and anoth­er drop in the mid­dle of sum­mer.” he said. “Ad clicks in July are 25 points low­er than the base­line (Jan­u­ary) and then sud­den­ly in August ad clicks jump to 13 points above the base­line. That’s a 38 point swing in a mat­ter of weeks and like­ly due to users shift­ing their focus from sum­mer vaca­tion (both school-aged users and par­ents with school-aged chil­dren) to either head­ing back to school.”

While Face­book ad clicks con­tin­ue to climb as back-to-school gives way to the hol­i­day sea­son, Google and Bing did­n’t expe­ri­ence these shifts, he said. Ad clicks on both search engines did­n’t start spik­ing till the hol­i­day sea­son, sug­gest­ing that Face­book is indeed affect­ed by sea­son­al­i­ty more so than search.

It is impor­tant to keep in mind search is a more mature medi­um. Adver­tis­ers have a sol­id decade and a half of expe­ri­ence tweak­ing cam­paigns to max­i­mize sea­son­al shifts,” Lee said. “Face­book is still a rel­a­tive­ly young adver­tis­ing chan­nel. The ad land­scape and inven­to­ry is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent on Face­book than it was 2 to 3 years ago. Refin­ing ad cam­paigns to max­i­mize sea­son­al­i­ty is like­ly an untapped tac­tic when it comes to Face­book.”

How Can Brands Best Use Facebook Advertising?

We spoke to Kevin Spi­del, direc­tor of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency, Voice Media Group, who offered his advice on how brands can con­duct their Face­book adver­tis­ing.

Patrick Hong: What are your thoughts on why Face­book adver­tis­ing expe­ri­ences a greater sea­son­al uplift in clicks (par­tic­u­lar­ly in the August/July and win­ter hol­i­day peri­od) than paid adver­tis­ing on Google?

Patrick Hong: We have sea­son­al cam­paigns that revolve around tourism and home ser­vice. For HVAC we tend to shift tra­di­tion­al SEM mar­ket­ing in the sum­mer months to Face­book, because the CPCs go way down, and inven­to­ry is more avail­able on Face­book. For our tourist des­ti­na­tion clients, we also are very aggres­sive on Face­book dur­ing the win­ter months for mar­kets like Den­ver, Aspen, Lake Tahoe, etc. We tar­get feed­er cities from LA to NY to these venues in these ski/tourist des­ti­na­tions. We also tend to dip into Face­book a lot in Decem­ber when inven­to­ry and search­es for “gifts” and “hol­i­days” become very demand­ing on SEM.

Patrick Hong: Are brands max­i­miz­ing their oppor­tu­ni­ties on the chan­nel?

Spi­del: Brands, more than ever, are look­ing to paid media experts to dri­ve their reach as Face­book locks down organ­ic reach. Brands don’t want to waste mon­ey, but know they have to pay to play. So they want a pro­fes­sion­al to help. More and more brands are com­ing to agen­cies to bet­ter their Face­book game.

Patrick Hong: What’s the most com­mon mis­take that brands are mak­ing in the way they approach Face­book adver­tis­ing?

Spi­del: They approach tar­get­ing lit­er­al­ly. If you are a piz­za brand and you are tar­get­ing piz­za eaters, then you tend to spend too much and dri­ve a lot of clicks with lit­tle con­ver­sions. You need to think of the buy­er per­sona and build your cam­paigns around behav­iors, not lit­er­al intent.

Understanding Intent on Social Media

The say­ing that has been mak­ing the rounds in mar­ket­ing cir­cles is that “peo­ple go to Face­book to inter­act with their friends and to Google to find some­thing they need, and pos­si­bly to buy” and for this rea­son the chan­nel is fun­da­men­tal­ly less valu­able for brands. How­ev­er, Mar­in’s research sug­gests that it may be time to revis­it social media adver­tis­ing on Face­book, espe­cial­ly dur­ing sea­son­al peri­ods.

Stephen Croome, founder of social adver­tis­ing agency Firstconversion.com, sug­gests that in many cas­es brands may sim­ply have been approach­ing Face­book adver­tis­ing with the wrong approach from the out­set.

There are two mis­takes I see over and over,” Croome said. “The first is putting up pic­tures of their prod­ucts rather than the sto­ry of the prod­uct and the sec­ond is not test­ing enough.”

A per­fect exam­ple of how a brand can express sto­ry rather than prod­uct, as well as lever­ag­ing the sea­son­al Face­book boost, was Coca-Cola’s ‘Sweater Gen­er­a­tor’ 2013 cam­paign. By com­bin­ing excit­ing brand con­tent with sea­son­al dri­ven engage­ment, they showed how Face­book, and indeed social media adver­tis­ing can tap into user intent and build brand aware­ness and equi­ty. Per­haps rather appro­pri­ate­ly, the con­tent formed part of Coca-Cola’s EnjoyEv­ery­thing cam­paign ini­tia­tive.

Per­haps brand mar­keters need to learn from Coca-Cola’s cross-chan­nel mar­ket­ing ambi­tion, and give sea­son­al adver­tis­ing on Face­book a sec­ond look.

This arti­cle first appeared on the Linkdex blog.

What’s your take?

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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