September Digital Marketing Updates for CMOs

by | Oct 13, 2021

As always, Digital Marketing requires both micro and macro views. We’re excited to share our September Digital Marketing Update, which includerelevant news and updates from the digital marketing landscape, as well as implications for brands.

There were a lot of updates this past month; the below is organized by platform: Instagram/Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google, Reddit

Instagram Sheds More Light on the Reels Algorithm

  • Factors that increase a Reel’s visibility in both Feed and on the Reels tab:
    • Ensure your video is compelling enough so users watch all the way through
    • You also want to get users to Like it, and ideally add a positive comment
    • They’ll give your video more of a boost if a user rips the audio in your Reel to make their own Reel
    • The more a user interacts with your account, the more they’ll see content from it (including Reels)
    • Instagram confirmed that they reduce distribution of videos that have low-resolution or are watermarked—
  • Implication for Brands: content creation and audio are more important than ever—use audio that is going to inspire users to create their own version (TikTok, of course, being the best example). For brands, consider unique countdowns or ASMR-type audio, as music rights are tough to secure

Instagram Rolls Out Ads in Shops

  • Instagram is testing a new ad placement, which will allow single images or a carousel. The ads will appear as tiles on the Instagram Shop tab home page. Clicking on the ad will bring you to the Product Details Page, where you can learn more about the item, view additional imagery, and browse additional products from the brand
    • This will be auction-based, mobile-only, and will be rolling it out publicly over the next few months
  • Implication For Brands: This placement has been on ecommerce marketers’ wishlists for some time; it will add additional visibility and scale for brands to reach consumers who are already in a shopping mindset on Instagram

Instagram’s Swipe Up Era is Over

  • This was perhaps one of the biggest digital marketing stories of the past month—Instagram is removing the Swipe Up function from Stories and replacing it with a link sticker.
  • Implication For Brands: the Link Sticker offers greater creator control over their Stories—the sticker can be resized and placed anywhere on the Story for maximum engagement. Additionally, viewers will now be able to react and reply to posts that have the Link Sticker attached, just like any other Story
    • Notably, the Link Sticker will also be available to every account (eventually), not just verified profiles or profiles with more than 10k followers

Facebook Link Posts May Be De-Prioritized in the Feed

  • According to a recent Transparency Report from Facebook, the vast majority of content viewed in the News Feed during Q2 2021 (87.1%) did not include a link to a source outside of Facebook
  • Only about 12.9% of News Feed content views in the U.S. during Q2 2021 were on posts that contain links
  • Implication For Brands: This is a big one, as many posts from brands include either links to shop or to a blog post/editorial content of some type. Our recommendation is to instead try testing adding the link as a comment within a text- or image-based Facebook post to see how that affects Reach in the News Feed

Instagram Is Updating its Search Function

  • Currently when you search for a word on Instagram, you get a list of accounts and hashtags with that word in it. You have to tap into one of those search results to see the videos and images associated with the term
  • Soon, searching will show you the media right away—similar to how TikTok’s search function currently works
  • Instagram is also adding two other factors:
    • Accounts you follow, posts you’ve viewed, and how you’ve interacted with accounts in the past. Instagram says they usually show accounts and hashtags you follow or visit higher than those you don’t
    • Popularity signals: the number of clicks, likes, shares, and follows for a particular account, hashtag, or place
  • Implication For Brands: the hashtags and words used in captions (and location tags!) are going to become even more important. And keep in mind that your search for “SPF” might look different than another person’s, thanks to Instagram’s continued use of personalization algorithms

Reels Are Coming to Facebook

  • Facebook is testing Reels in the U.S., which will give users the ability to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or Facebook Groups
  • Facebook is also testing a new feature that will give Instagram Creators in the U.S. the option to have their Instagram FReels shown as recommended content on Facebook
  • Reels will be recommended ot users based on what people are interested in, what they engage with, and what’s popular
  • Implication For Brands: this will eventually give advertisers another ad placement and more opportunities for organic content—and further reinforces how important short-form video (with audio!) is

TikTok is testing “TikTok Stories”

  • TikTok is currently testing a Stories feature, which will disappear after 24 hours and would be displayed in a collapsible left-hand side panel in the main feed of the app
  • Users would be able to tap into Stories from people and profiles that they follow, and tap through the Stories frames (similar to Instagram Stories). TikTok Stories would also come with a dedicated camera and creation flow.
  • Implication for Brands: Short video (which TikTok currently specializes in) provides fewer monetization efforts. With a Stories format, TikTok could easily create pre- or mid-roll ad units (or both!).

TikTok Releases Creative Guide for Brands

  • This is definitely worth a look, but one of the most useful things here is a template showing TikTok “safe zones” for video clips – so much of the screen is covered by various UI elements (buttons, comments, captions). This will help brands (and creators) produce content knowing their captions or text won’t be covered up

TikTok is Building Its Own AR Studio

  • Similar to Facebook and Snapchat’s, TikTok’s AR Effects Studio will allow creators to build their own effects for TikTok
  • This will eventually be open to all Creators, providing more capacity for people to build their own visual effects, utilizing TikTok’s AR functions
  • Allowing Effects creation can drive incredibly strong in-app engagement. On Facebook, more than 400,000 AR Creators have published more than 1.2 million effects on Facebook/Instagram, which has helped drive massive engagement (think custom filters and lenses to enhance your Stories)
  • Implication for Brands: if brands are allowed to create their own AR Effects on TikTok (which it seems will be the case eventually)—the possibilities are endless. Create a glowing filter for a new highlighter, a filter that enhances eyelashes to promote mascara, or an effect that includes a sunlight-looking light to remind users to use SPF

Tiktok is Testing a New Shopping Feature

  • As part of its partnership with Spotify, TikTok is testing a separate shopping tab on the profile of participating accounts, with a scrollable list of products that will click through to a Shopify store
  • This currently requires a TikTok For Business account and a Shopify storefront
  • Implication For Brands: this is still testing, but look for further Shopping features from TikTok, and hopefully an expansion to additional ecomm partners

TikTok may be rolling out even LONGER videos

  • TikTok recently expanded its maximum video length from 1 minute to 3, and may now be expanding to 5- or even 10-minute videos
  • Implication For Brands: this will likely allow for mid-roll ads (ads that appear during a video vs ads that appear between entire videos, and also allows for longer-form storytelling (similar to YouTube)
    • This will also allow TikTok to be able to offer its Creators more money, as right now, the comparative revenue on YouTube and Instagram is still much higher than TikTok’s

TikTok Officially Launches Promote

  • Promote is essentially TikTok’s version of “boosting” — pick a video from your account, then a campaign goal (such as more views, website clicks, more followers), set a budget and flight length, and some loose audience targeting (either Automatic or Custom)
  • Notably (and unsurprisingly) ony some audio tracks are able to be used in advertising
  • Implication For Brands: Promote makes it even easier to allow more people to discover your videos. As with most TikTok advertising, we recommend partnering with Creators to ensure your ads are as authentic/native as possible.

Pinterest Launches Search by Hair Pattern

  • Pinners are now able to refine hair searches by six different hair patterns: protective, coily, curly, wavy, straight, and shaved/bald
    • Pinners can search for a broad hair term like “glam hair” or “short hair” and then narrow down their results by selecting one of the six hair patterns to find hair inspiration that is most relevant to their style and preference
  • This builds on Pinterest’s industry-first inclusive product featuring skin tone ranges that launched in 2018
  • Implication For Brands: the top hair searches on Pinterest are already personalized (i.e. “best haircuts for thick wavy hair”), so this will (eventually) allow for even better ad targeting. It also represents a major milestone in inclusivity in tech!

Snapchat Launches Its Own Version of Google Trends

  • Similar to Google Trends (which offers high-level and sometimes interesting information about trending searches), Snap just launched its own version: Snapchat Trends
  • There is a Main Keyword Search Option, which auto-populates with search terms based on your entered text in the main field. You can then select several terms to view their comparative mention volume over time, with the graph displaying a year’s worth of data
  • Implication For Brands: The database is not particularly deep at the moment, but the tool could help marketers conduct research around specific keywords and terms (based on mention volume within the app) to determine their relative popularity and how discussion around such changes over time.

Snapchat Makes the Scan Function More Prominent

  • TikTok’s Scan function allows people to take a photo of things (food, plants, clothing) and Snapchat offers a variety of experiences, like showing a list of similar fashion items available for purchase
  • Soon, the Scan function will be more prominent (right on the main Camera screen of the app)
  • Implication For Brands: Snap has been moving slowly into ecommere, facilitating more direct buying options in the app. While this is easier for Fashion than it is for Beauty, it’s something to keep an eye on as AR becomes even more sophisticated  

YouTube Launches Chapters in Mobile Search

  • Chapters (the section markers you can list that YouTube creates mini bookmarks for) will now surface in searches on their mobile app
  • Implication For Brands: this allows viewers to find the content they’re looking for even more quickly. It’s easier to implement Chapters—you put in timecodes and a brief headline of each chapter in the video’s description.

Google is Removing Expanded Text Ads After Next June

  • This is part of a continued effort on Google’s part to move toward RSAs (Responsive Search Ads)—which are dynamic content where different fields of the ad (body copy, headline, description) will move around based on machine learning
  • Implication For Brands: this type of automation works better at scale, and not as much for campaigns where small budgets provide a small amount of data for the AI to do its work. This also allows for less control for advertisers, as the messaging points will be subject to machine learning and further automation
    • Google strongly encourages advertisers to begin transitioning to Responsive Search Ads sooner rather than later

Google Updates its Shopping Product Listing

  • Ahead of the holiday season, Google is launching some new commerce tool in Shopping and Search results
  • Notably, new shipping and return annotations in Google Search and Shopping results will be included
    • Shoppers can now see when their order will arrive, with shipping annotations such as “Free delivery by December 24,” “Get it by Dec 24,” etc
    • You can now indicate extended holiday return windows with return annotations like “Free 90-day returns” or “Free returns until Jan 31”
  • Implication For Brands: These annotations can help inspire even greater shopping confidence during the holiday season

Reddit Launches Conversation Placement for Advertisers

  • 42% of the average Reddit user’s time is spent in a conversation thread
  • Now, brands can place ads within a conversation thread, under the original post (and above the first comment), which allows advertisers to scale reach
  • This has been in beta testing with more than 600 partners – those partners saw an average 9% boost in Clickthrough Rate and 23% lower Cost Per Click
    • (These numbers do include both the new Conversation placement and the main Feed units)
  • Implication For Brands: Reddit ads have never before appeared in conversation threads, and this will allow brands not only to expand the reach of their campaigns, but also potentially reach a new, untapped audience—many Redditors land in conversation threads directly from SEO/organic search and are unreachable anywhere else on Reddit

And lastly:

LinkedIn Stories are disappearing (no pun intended) at the end of this month.

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