helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By head of the social media council, IAB

 You may have noticed, but here at the IAB we get excited about a lot of things.
But nothing gets us hot under the digital collar like the biannual IAB UK online adspend results, which hit the headlines today.  Every six months, in partnership with PwC, we measure the size of the UK market to help marketers understand the true scale of the medium and to provide the digital industry with the ammunition it needs to make the case for even bigger budgets.
And what IS the headline? Well, we hit a really-quite-perfect 10% in terms of year-on-year growth, with every format within online (search, display and classifieds) seeing an increase in advertising investment.  The medium hit almost £2 billion in just six months, with an impressive 24.3% market share. Good news all round.
You can read the official story on the IAB site, but what readers of this blog might be interested in is where ‘social’ fits within this online success story.
Just to be clear, the figures set out in the IAB/PwC study refer to advertising expenditure online, so no production or agency costs are included… this means that a lot of social spending – i.e. money spent on creative, budgets dedicated blogger outreach programmes, social media monitoring costs and so on – doesn’t feature amongst the results. That figure, I would imagine, is pretty damn big on its own.
But what we can measure in this study is the advertising that lives on social networks, blogs, forums, online communities and so on, and this is now a whopping 13% of all online display (all online display was worth £334.6 million in H1 2010, so you do the math!) Last year we estimated social to account for around 10% of all online display, and if you cast your minds back just a few years ago… well, it was barely on the adspend radar.  
Whilst the bulk of display’s bread and butter is still banners and embedded formats, and online video advertising saw a massive 82% jump in terms of spend in this period, the social media industry, today, has real cause for celebration. Because this is when things get really serious, people.
So what is it that’s boosting the social side of display, and seeing brands hop on over to the user-generated sphere? In my opinion, there are 3 key reasons.
internet hourBrands want time:  according to UKOM, if you take all the time the online population spends with the medium and condense it down to create one, average ‘internet hour’, we spend almost a quarter of it, 13 minutes, on social networks and blogs. I repeat, that’s A QUARTER OF OUR TIME ON SOCIAL NETWORKS AND BLOGS. When you examine it this way, it’s overtaken email as the most popular pastime online and along with games is a massively immersive, entertaining activity. And this is where many brands want to be.

 Brands want personality: not just their own, but they want to be associated with great personalities, too.  Positioning themselves amongst young, innovative and exciting platforms is a great way to refresh their communications in a social age – we refer to it as the ‘halo’ effect, where brands get that added element of cool, by association. And they also want that link with consumers’ personalities via recommendation, reviews and real action, such as ‘likes’.  Having ads anywhere near any form of user-generated content was once seen as a massive risk due to its sheer unpredictability, but now marketers are steadily getting to grips with the benefits of being in and around content shared by friends. 
Brands want bespoke: the World Wide Web is a damn noisy place and advertisers are increasingly looking for ways in which to stand out from the crowd, by creating bespoke assets for social media sites.  ‘Traditional’ online display advertising has been proven to both drive sales and build brand time and time again over the past 10 or so years, but with tailor-made ads on social properties, you can achieve that extra dose of interaction, relevance and engagement. With targeting capabilities on social networks too, for example, you can make your creative even more bespoke to whom it was intended… slightly more niche, yes, but likely to be even more effective.

People argue that one day everything will be ‘social’ – there’ll be no point separating it out because eventually search, display, affiliates, video, gaming and so on will all have that social spin at the very heart of every campaign. But for now, and for me, talking about social as an individual category within online makes sense, because it emphasises the real impact of the change and just how fast it’s happened.
The increased significance of networks, blogs and communities will rise, just as online adspend will continue to rise, because the medium offers marketers a unique portfolio of tools that can cater for every campaign need. But the message here for brands is – if what you’re after is time, personality and an even more engaged audience, then if you’re not contributing to that 13% just yet, you probably will be next year.

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[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mel Carson, Ciaran Norris, IAB UK, Chris Hyland, keano81 and others. keano81 said: My, haven’t you grown? Social rises to help boost online display adspend in H1 2010, by me on the IAB Social blog. ACE. [...]

Henry Elliss, Tamar
October 5, 2010

This is great news for everyone – and not just those of us in the industry, but brands and users too. Social Media is finally approaching the time and energy levels it deserves!


[...] may actually be understated, says Amy Kean, one of the authors of the report. She comments on the IAB blog: Just to be clear, the figures set out in the IAB/PwC study refer to advertising expenditure [...]

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