Audience Targeting Moves to Social Activity

The emergence of social media has caused a massive shift in online consumer behavior. Social networks, primarily Facebook, have gained near ubiquity within daily browsing habits and subsequently fostered the development of a thriving new ecosystem of games and applications. Both now command an increasing share of user attention and provide a growing number of ways to interact with, share and drive creation of online content. In fact, people now spend more time online performing social activities than they do on email, content portals and instant messaging combined.
Understanding this change in behavior gives marketers a host of new ways to socialize and has spawned a new segment of brand advertising within display: social activity advertising.
Social activity advertising enables brands to deliver contextually relevant ads based on what people are doing rather than what they are viewing. Ad impressions are delivered against events rather than content.  These ads combine brand messaging through video and interactive media with social calls to action such as sharing, following or Like-ing, and allow brands to capture both context and intent.
Over the last few months, we compiled and analyzed data spanning 170 U.S. social activity campaigns run in 2010 to develop research on the performance of social activity advertising, the appssavvy social activity index. The report finds that social activity drives engagement 11.4 times greater than display advertising, and more than twice that of rich media. Performance is measured in equivalent display impressions (EDI) – a metric that provides a cost-weighted measure of an ad format’s ability to drive brand engagement. It finds EDI by ad format as follows:
Digging further into the data reveals two common themes amongst high-performing campaigns. First, the most successful social activity ads run within highly interactive, social environments that typically enjoy a loyal and engaged audience. This allows marketers to leverage naturally occurring activity to drive significant engagement with their brand, and to deliver ads based on both context and intent.
Second, high-performing social ads offer a wider variety of calls to action versus other online ad formats. Along with clicks to URLs, video views and other interactive elements, social activity ad units provide several social calls to action such as sharing to Facebook or tweeting. Of equal importance, these branded calls to action often mirror functionality and styling present throughout the website, game or app, and can serve to enrich, rather than interrupt the user experience. Additionally, social calls to action presented at a time when consumers are accustomed to sharing drives an average share rate of 2.1 percent, resulting in significant earned media impressions.
The above is best illustrated by examining the performance of specific types of social activities. For example, advertising within games outperforms all other types of online advertising, at 15.4 times display. This performance is driven by exceptionally high rates of activity and a uniquely engaged audience. The average gamer may play a social game up to an hour per day, several days per week, during which time they complete multiple activities per minute. The highest EDI is observed on activities that are central to everyday game play and frequently prompt gamers to share accomplishments with friends. Such activities, like gift-giving, virtual good use and the completion of in-game missions and/or quests, outperform display by more than 20 times.
Similarly, apps and websites that drive the creation of shareable content, or encourage self-expression through activities such as interactive contest entries, provide advertisers the best opportunity to foster brand engagement and experience EDI of 16.6. Like social games, these applications deliver both high activity density and a core audience of repeat, daily visitors.
While online advertising has remained mostly unchanged, the emergence of social media has driven significant change in consumer behavior. Social activity advertising gives brands access to previously untapped ad inventory and provides a new way to engage with customers at a time when they are actively involved with relevant activities. These lean-forward events allow context and intent to be captured before ads are delivered and have paved the way for a new segment of display advertising that significantly outperforms other display media, including rich media and video, and indexes alongside search.
As the Internet continues to evolve and time spent online continues its shift towards social media and games, I believe that social activity advertising will become an increasingly powerful way to reach and impact online audiences.
Mark Kopera is a product  manager at Appssavvy.

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