With two announcements made within hours of each other, Facebook and Twitter just changed the game for social advertising.
Previously, paid social had been more or less an informational black hole, providing none of the competitor monitoring available with other types of media: no ad spend tracking, no share of voice, and no visibility into competitor ad creative. Those well-versed in the nuances of social performance could make an educated guess at how competitors were activating paid social based on live tweets/posts, but this was an imperfect tactic that missed a potentially large chunk of “dark” unpublished ad activity.
That changed on June 28. Facing strong pressure to make social media a friendlier, safer space—one where misinformation cannot easily spread unchecked—Facebook and Twitter both took a huge leap toward increased transparency by making paid ads visible to everyone. On Facebook, anyone can now click to a Page and see all active ads that are running across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and its partner network. Twitter, in contrast, has created an Ads Transparency Center, where anyone can search for an advertiser and see all ads that were run in the past seven days.
This new transparency unlocks an unbelievably rich treasure trove of information for curious marketers. Through daily monitoring and tracking, we can access real-time information about how competitors are activating paid social to understand things like:
- How active are competitors with regards to social ads?
- How does ad activity on one platform compare to the others?
- How many ads are competitors running at one time?
- How narrowly are competitors targeting?
- What products are competitors focused on?
- Is competitor messaging about branding or sales or both?
- How are competitors geotargeting?
- Are competitors running dark ads?
- Is their activity seasonal?
- Are competitors running lead gen or conversion campaigns?
The key missing piece is total media investment on social, but marketers can guesstimate with much greater accuracy than before.
Overall, we see access to this information raising social advertising to a higher level of sophistication. By systematically analyzing what competitors are doing, your brand can play a more strategic game in what it chooses to advertise and how. Your brand can also get a better read of whether is are ahead of the curve, or far behind it, and act accordingly.
And of course, your competitors will be doing the same. Ads transparency has moved the goal posts, and the marketers who start leveraging this new data into their planning will get the winning advantage.