As we close November and are about to move into December — the peak of the holiday season — it’s now crunch time for brand marketers to attempt to capture the interest of new and returning shoppers. Where better to look than on the core social platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest?
While many e-commerce brands may already be spending a chunk of their budgets on these platforms, the key to success lies in understanding how to differentiate content and adapt it to each platform. What works in an ad for one platform or ad format does not necessarily work for another. While there isn’t a one size fits all approach, successful performance brands tend to be systematic about testing ad formats, placements, messaging and visuals for detailed performance insights. If you document your findings this holiday season, they can — and should — inform your upcoming sales campaigns in 2019.
Having said that, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest offer a variety of formats, and marketers must know how to work best with each of them in order to succeed this season. Here, we’ve broken down some best practices for each.
The Hottest Format Around: Stories
Perhaps one of the most distinguished features on Instagram is its Stories format. While Instagram introduced Story ads almost two years ago, marketers have only recently started to harness its power.
The key perk to Stories is that brands have the opportunity to take over the full screen for their message, or even three consecutive Story “cards” if they choose the carousel format. Whichever route you choose, remember that the benefit of Stories can often be incremental, meaning that it should be used to enhance your message instead of being the standalone placement in a campaign.
One way to make Stories feel more organic is to mimic user-generated content. These ads don’t need to feel or look as “produced” as a typical Instagram feed ad. Stories is also an excellent way for marketers to do more branding in their seasonal campaigns; perhaps you’ll showcase the behind-the-scenes from your holiday shoot or share reviews from real customers. Branding is an excellent top of funnel marketing tactic, and nothing allows for it better than the Stories format, which easily fits into the other content around it. Stories can also drive direct conversions.
Another excellent feature of the Stories format is that brands can and should be making them as interactive as possible. Instagram Stories offers a “Swipe Up” feature, and that allows brands to design their ads to include action cues, such as arrows or animations that draw the eye to the “Swipe Up” feature. Visual elements like stickers, text, GIFs, and overlays can further help engagement by making the brand feel more approachable.
Did you know that Stories is now available as an ad placement on Facebook, too? This holiday season is a great opportunity for marketers to start testing the waters there, as well (Facebook Stories isn’t yet saturated with brand advertising, as it’s still so new).
Facebook’s Storefront Formats
Stories aside, Facebook offers a number of ad formats that should have a place in marketers’ holiday budgets. Both Facebook Collection and Canvas ads give brands an opportunity to truly showcase their products, giving consumers that digital “window-shopping” experience, where products within the ads are actually browsable.
Canvas is like a mini-website or landing page on mobile; it inspires and drives sales at the same time. This full-screen ad also gives consumers a more immersive brand experience. Collection ads differ slightly in that they are set up more like an actual store window, featuring a main image or video with four-related product images set underneath that. While there is less creative flexibility with Collection ads, it’s great for direct-response advertising. These ads also offer a full-screen, multiple-product, shopping experience for consumers.
What’s also interesting about these formats is how valuable utilizing automation technology can be in helping marketers create thousands of variations of them, connecting the ads directly to a brand’s product feed or catalog. The technology will automatically update the ads with product images from categories like “best-sellers,” and replace out-of-stock items with new items.
Tackling the Pinterest Feed
Pinterest is a bit different from the other formats in that most users turn to that platform with the intent to discover brands. While advertising efforts across all platforms and formats should certainly be both relevant and personalized to the audience segment, this really holds true with Pinterest whose users are generally people who like to plan for specific moments in life (i.e. Pinterest boards). Keying into those life moments by being more relevant with localization and personalization — targeting creatives based on sports, specific holidays, the weather outside — make Pinterest ad creatives resonate better with Pinterest users.
Unlike Facebook or Instagram, Pinterest encourages strong, actionable copy as there are no limitations to how much real estate your message can take. Playing with beautiful fonts and creative messaging works wonders on Pinterest. Note that including a clear call-to-action in your copy doesn’t mean you have to rely on “See, Try, Buy” type messaging. Be playful, include seasonal puns if those align with your brand or even use the space to tell a short story. Think of what worked best during the golden era of print advertising, and bring those trade tricks online with Pinterest advertising. Pinners can spot non-native creative in seconds, invest time and effort into making your ads look as native as possible.