Since 2014, when the decline in reach of organic social content first began, and subsequent algorithm changes occurred, marketers and brands have increasingly turned towards paid social to reach users online. With limited space and more users joining social platforms every day, many marketers are competing for the attention of the same target audience on the same platforms, resulting in increased costs, and at times, campaigns that don’t quite get off the ground.

Paid Social Evolution

Spending on social ads has certainly evolved since the initial organic decline four years ago, with a 185% increase, and it’s projected to grow another 57% by 2020. At the same time, social media advertising revenue is forecast at a staggering $51.3 billion USD for 2018, and ad revenue is set to grow 10.5% annually. To meet marketers’ needs, unsurprisingly, social media advertising budgets are expected to almost double by 2023. This steady and fast growth is one of the many reasons why marketers’ and brands’ paid social is a vital part of any social and digital strategy.

How are marketers leveraging paid social to overcome declining organic reach, increasing costs, and competition for limited space and consumer attention? They’re reexamining targeting in comparison with the competition, refining and testing visuals and messaging, and most importantly, building a realistic strategy that’s on par with the business’ end goals—be it clicks and conversions, or acquiring new users.

And while it sounds as if the costs outweigh the benefits, the truth is that social ads are still relevant, and according to the Adobe Digital Insights 2018 State of Digital Advertising Report, social media ads drove three times more non-customers than existing customers to retailer websites as of the end of 2017. This means that people are not just looking at social ads, but they’re clicking on them more than ever before.

Preparing for 2019

With 2018 coming to a close, and marketers planning their ad strategies and budgets for the New Year, what can we expect in 2019, and where should we focus our efforts in order to be successful?

By 2019, 80% of what we consume online will be video content. Video content, including live video is dominating social media and will continue to dominate in the coming year.

In order to cut through the noise from the competition, marketers should utilize the variety of new and emerging content platforms like Stories and live streaming, in addition to media like photo and video. In short, think visual before text; think engagements before followers. This trend has been making its shift since early 2014 and there is no denying that the social algorithms have officially prioritized relevancy and engagements as primary indicators of successful social content.

Another area for brands to further explore in 2019 is influencer marketing—allowing brands direct access to an individual’s engaged community through that person’s trusted voice. With shorter attention spans and greater mobile use, it’s key to create a truly interactive experience, where users engage with the brand, and others experience FOMO (fear of missing out) on the experience. And while “influencer marketing” still sounds like an overplayed marketing tactic, brands whom engage with influencers are reaping the results.

Ultimately, when it comes to developing a paid social media strategy, before even spending a pennydetermine what success looks like to your business or brand, set realistic and achievable goals, figure out who you want to reach and how, set your budget based on those goals, and of course, test everything along the way.