Here’s what the major platforms Meta, TikTok, Twitter, others are likely wishing for this holiday season
There’s a lot that social media behemoths like Facebook, Twitter and now, TikTok could ask for if they were to send a letter to the North Pole. The last year has been a tumultuous one in light of mounting data privacy regulations, disgruntled investors and turbulent leadership changes.
Given the latest earnings calls, the explosive growth that digital advertising mediums have cozied themselves in over the past decade is seemingly losing steam, per previous Digiday reporting.
As the holiday season is underway, Digiday talked to social media strategists, marketers and a few of the platforms themselves to find out just what social networks would put on their wish list.
Meta: Legs and faith in the metaverse
It’s been a full year since Meta, formerly known as Facebook, rebranded itself amidst damning reports, a whistleblower, privacy changes from Apple threatening its ad business and young users flocking to TikTok. Last October, the social media giant barreled head first into the metaverse, launching its place in the digital world — Horizon Worlds, to convince users, investors and perhaps itself, that Meta would be a first-founder in Web3, the next iteration of the internet.
Meta declined to make an executive available for this article, but social media strategists who weighed in surmised that Meta would wish for younger users, happy investors and faith in Horizon Worlds.
“With the younger generations moving into newer platforms like TikTok, Meta has to be feeling like the old guy at a party amongst a bunch of teens,” Brandon Biancalani, head of paid advertising at social agency Modifly, said in an email to Digiday.
According to Pew Research, the number of teens who say they use Facebook has plummeted from 71% in 2014-15 to just 32% in 2022.
“Even with appealing features like Facebook Reels, the idea of kids wanting to be on the same platform as their very active parents does not have a great appeal to the younger generations,” Biancalani added.
Also on Meta’s wish list, as on many other social media platforms, is freedom from the effects of Apple’s iOS 14 data privacy regulations, which muddied targeting and tracking. It’s pushed advertisers to take their dollars elsewhere, creating a slow leak in Meta’s ad revenue, which has been falling year over year as the platform tries to recoup. (More on that here.)
“Facebook is going to wish that people would basically trust what they say in terms of performance and numbers,” said Duane Brown, founder and head of strategy at Take Some Risk, performance marketing agency. “They wish that people would just take what they say as gospel.”
Instagram: No more TikToks
Meta-owned Instagram has been in a video arms race with TikTok since its competitor gained popularity, releasing its own pivot to video with Reels. Again, Meta declined to make an Instagram executive available to comment. But social strategists suspect, “Instagram would ask for more original Reels and not just repurposed TikToks,” said Josh Druding, group social strategy director at Mekanism marketing agency via email.
Its pivot to video led to some pushback from users, including Kim Kardashian, who asked that the platform “stop trying to be TikTok.” As previously reported by Digiday, in light of Instagram’s prioritization of video over still images to better compete with TikTok, creators have had to “adapt or die.” (The platform, however, still has user interest from Gen Z, per Pew, which reports a slight increase from 52% of teens using the app in 2014-2015 to 62% of teens using the app this year.)
“Instagram’s number one holiday wish list item is almost a return to the olden days. We saw this year the backlash over the recommended content and the Reels taking over the main feed,” said Andrew Roth, founder and CEO of dcdx, a Gen Z research and strategy firm.
According to social strategists like Roth and Druding, if the photo-sharing turned video-first site could have its way this holiday season, it would eclipse TikTok, siphoning its users and ad dollars.
TikTok: Don’t make TikToks; Buy ads
As social media’s current golden child, TikTok wants authenticity, harking back to its 2020 campaign and challenge to advertisers, “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks.”
“This holiday season, I wish for brands and marketers to feel empowered to rely less on curated perfection, and more on creative marketing that expresses their brand voice and point of view,” Khartoon Weiss, TikTok’s global head of agency and accounts at TikTok, said in an email to Digiday.
Even as a newer platform, TikTok has quickly wooed advertisers, becoming a line item in many marketing budgets, eating into spend for YouTube and Instagram. However, there’s been a greater emphasis on an organic presence rather than paid media as brands have made it a habit to join the platform to take part in trends and create their own organic viral moment. That may have played a role in its parent company ByteDance’s operating losses “more than triple last year to above $7 billion,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
This year, the platform has made a push into direct response capabilities, upping the ante on its advertising capabilities. While TikTok itself is hopeful for brand authenticity this holiday season, social strategists say the right ask would be for better ad tech and audience matching. That may be a harsh critique of a relatively new platform, said Biancalani. But if TikTok wants to remain advertisers’ platform of choice, it’ll have to improve.
“Audiences that populate fairly well on Meta fail to be even targetable on TikTok,” he said, adding that TikTok’s algorithm needs data, time and patience for content to perform well. “That’s a formula not a lot of businesses have the budget to stick around for.”
Snap: Send ad dollars
Similar to Meta, Gen Z’s once favorite platform is pushing to diversify its revenue business, looking to make a profit off of its subscription offering Snap+ and get more advertisers interested in its augmented reality capabilities. Snap itself declined to make a spokesperson available for comment on what the platform would add to its wish list this holiday season. But if strategists had to guess, it would be ad dollars.
“Snapchat would wish for a user base that is more profitable, intent driven and mature for businesses to take advantage of from paid media,” Biancalani said in an email. “If they could move over the more mature users from Meta with deeper pockets, I’m sure that would be their holiday wish.”
Snap has been on the fringe with advertisers for a while now, only becoming more strained as TikTok eats up a portion of its ad dollars, per previous Digiday reporting. Things were looking up early last year as direct-to-consumer brands started taking a second look at Snap as efforts to diversify media dollars beyond Facebook reached a fever pitch.
“I bet they wished it was 18 months ago, where they were the darling of everything and they could do no wrong,” said Brown. “TikTok has really stolen a lot of their thunder in the last 12 months.”
Twitter: ‘An ejector seat in the CEO’s office‘
Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk came in like a wrecking ball, spreading misinformation, firing staff and scaring advertisers all within the first few weeks of the transition. (The platform didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.) Per social strategists, Twitter’s holiday wish list would look more like a laundry list, given its recent events.
“From antagonizing the platform’s biggest advertisers to picking a fight with the almighty Apple app store, it’s hard to recall a more catastrophic first month at a major company,” said Noah Mallin, chief of brand strategy for IMGN, in an email to Digiday. That being said, Mallin says at the top of Twitter’s holiday wish list would be “an ejector seat in the CEO’s office.”
With Elon Musk’s takeover, and following the revamp of its premium subscription service Twitter Blue, the social media platform will need to convince users and advertisers of its new business model, strategists say. Under new ownership, the social media platform is tasked with finding its North Star once again. Especially after reportedly losing half of its top 100 advertisers, according to a report by liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America. GroupM, the world’s biggest media buyer, called Twitter a “high risk” media buy. If advertisers will say sayonara for good is still to be determined. But according to previous Digiday reporting, it’s not looking good.
“Internally, it’s [figuring] out how to monetize the platform,” said Brown. “Getting those advertisers back would be a big thing.”
LinkedIn: Same as last year
When talking about social media platforms, LinkedIn is often left out of the conversation. But with experts forecasting economic uncertainty and mass layoffs, users (and thus, advertisers) may be reconsidering.
This holiday season, the platform itself is asking for the obvious: help people find jobs.
In an email to Digiday, Hari Srinivasan, vp of product management at LinkedIn, said, “If we can accelerate a skills-first labor market, imagine the possibilities for a more diversified and equitable networks, with the ability to help fill the most in demand jobs based on what a candidate can do rather than where they’re from or where they went to school.”
Social strategists, however, are taking LinkedIn’s would-be holiday wish list a step further, ruminating that the platform known for networking may want to strongly be considered a people-to-people platform as opposed to one that’s predominately business-to-business.
“They want people to think of them as a platform to reach people and not as a platform to reach B2B people,” Brown said. “It’s a different way to think about the LinkedIn platform. I’d say that was their wish because, obviously even owned by Microsoft now, they want to make more money.”
Pinterest: Use all the features
For some advertisers, Pinterest has been considered a quiet underdog with Q2 results showing progress thanks to shoppable ads and video content, as per reporting from Digiday.
To keep users among light-hearted content, the platform released its so called compassionate search tool to promote safety and positivity on the app, according to the company. It even banned ads about weight loss from the site.
“I wish everyone who needs it knew compassionate search existed,” global head of content at Pinterest writing, Celie O’Neil Hart, said in an emailed statement to Digiday.
Social strategists were quiet about Pinterest’s so-called holiday wish list, pointing to the idea that the platform may not be as much in need as the others, given the platform is more brand safe with ad capabilities compared to Meta, per previous Digiday reporting. Since last year, it has been quietly flying under the radar as a less notable social media advertising channel. But this holiday season and beyond, it may be fair to expect more of the same from Pinterest.
Reddit: Participate in relevant communities
Reddit has long since been the wild west for brands and advertisers as the platform’s users can be particular about community engagement. That being said, Reddit this year says it’s asking brands to give the platform a chance, becoming active and authentic users themselves.
“Brands have already learned the power and value in advertising on Reddit,” said Rachel Weber Callaway, head of consumer product marketing at Reddit, in an email, “but they can make an even deeper connection to their audiences and customers by joining and participating in communities that are relevant to them and their audiences.”
Over the last year or so, especially as Apple iOS 14 data privacy has made performance marketing trickier, advertisers like Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Tushy DTC brand and others have found a way to build brand loyalty and even drive sales using the platform. (More on that here.)
Here, social media strategists and the team at Reddit seem to agree. “Reddit wishes more people view them as a legitimate advertising platform and also a place that’s used by millions of people every day,” Brown said.
As the social media advertising landscape continues to be a turbulent one, with rising CPMs, data privacy and more, Reddit could stand to siphon ad dollars from other platforms. “Amidst all the chaos and drama that’s going on social media, on all these platforms, if Reddit can be that recognized source of truth, that would help to bring them back [to the forefront of advertiser’s minds],” said Roth.
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