Emerging Opportunities on Facebook and Instagram

In order to maintain its dominance on the social media landscape, Facebook must constantly keep an eye on consumer trends and adapt accordingly. As technology develops and people flock to new and exciting user experiences, Facebook follows, designing products that tap into users’ creativity and allow them to explore older platforms in an updated way. Recently, the platform has come out with a bevy of tech-focused options, aimed at initiating action and engagement.

Engaging and Exploring with Instagram

After the rise in popularity of Instagram Stories, Facebook has finally begun to capitalize on vertically optimized content. A lot of new offerings from the platform revolve around Stories, as research has shown that people hold their phones vertically about 90% of the time; vertical views feel natural and allow people to enjoy videos and photos in a way that works for them – they can easily scroll through everything in their feeds with just the swipe of a finger.

In-story engagement became the next evolution as Instagram rolled out polling stickers for story ads in March 2018, allowing viewers to engage with content in real time. Thanks to the observed success of the stickers on static content, Facebook recently introduced polling capabilities for video ads in users’ mobile News Feed – the dynamic, personalized collection of photos, videos, links and updates from Facebook friends where ads flow seamlessly in the mix of what is most relevant to the user. These polls provide an interactive experience that allows users to express their preferences and become involved in the brand’s decision making. By having viewers choose one of two options from a customized poll within an already eye-catching video ad, brands can gain valuable consumer insights into users’ opinions, preferences, and tastes in an accessible and engaging way. For example, a fast food chain could ask its customers which discontinued menu item to bring back using a video poll ad. The responses from the poll would help the brand determine which item consumers would likely buy while simultaneously increasing awareness of and facilitating discourse around the brand’s exciting new business idea.

Another major announcement is the addition of ads to the Instagram Explore page. Explore is where users go for content that aligns with their interests, allowing them to discover accounts with content akin to their normal IG interactions. The ads won’t appear on the Explore grid itself – they appear once a user taps on a post in the Explore tab and begins scrolling through that topic-based feed. Advertising on the Explore page is an obvious fit, since it’s where people come to look through accounts – including branded accounts – outside of they ones they already follow. While it’s not currently clear whether this ad placement will be available in an interest-targeted capacity, it’s a great opportunity for brands to branch out and reach audiences searching for something new.

Expanding Advertising with Carousel Stories

With Stories becoming all the rage across the social platform, it’s only natural that Facebook would also increase the ways brands can utilize ad placements within its Stories space. As such, the platform has begun offering a new Carousel Stories placement: Expandable Carousel Stories. While the Carousel format has been available for Native Stories ads, the Expandable Stories Carousel allows brands to create a more seamless ad experience for users by automatically tailoring the number of cards each person is shown.

Native Stories can show a maximum of three cards in a Carousel and is exclusively available in Instagram Stories (with Facebook Stories rolling this out soon), while the Expandable Carousel can feature up to 10 cards and is available with automatic placements across both Facebook and Instagram. Expandable Carousels will show the user the first card in their Stories and will allow them to tap ‘Keep Watching’ in the top corner of their screen for the remaining cards to unfold. Additionally, Native Carousel Stories support videos and static images on Instagram (the Facebook placement is still image only), whereas Expandable Carousel Stories support more content and media options across the board. This new Expandable Carousel placement not only supports mixed media on both platforms, but also allows for both a headline and written caption field – previous Stories only allowed a ‘swipe up’ link and Native Carousel solely offering the caption field.

With all the extended creative options the Expandable Carousel Stories ad offers, it makes for another opportunistic placement for a brand’s story to unfold in the social landscape.

At Home with Augmented Reality

Another introduction aimed at increasing platform engagement is Facebook’s foray into augmented reality.

Augmented reality refers to a partially immersive overlay on real-life objects – whether that’s a face, building, or an outdoor landscape. While still in its early stages, AR is slated to play a big role in Facebook’s future and is important for marketers to explore. The company has already begun branching out into smaller-scale AR offerings as consumer preferences change but has significant plans to move into virtual reality in the future.

Though VR’s completely immersive experience is an intriguing prospect to consider, AR is currently the most widely used and available option for consumers to interact with. Most camera-based platforms have augmented reality options already with face and location-mapping abilities built in. Snapchat is likely the most recognizable AR platform because of its early adoption of biometrics-based filters that allow users to overlay different lenses onto their faces.

As technology has evolved, other platforms like Facebook have tapped into the trend. Recently, Facebook announced the rollout of Spark AR Studio, a portal allowing brands and consumers to create their own AR affects for Instagram Stories. While still an organic play, we would expect to see paid opportunities arise for branded lenses in the near future. 

Additionally, as Facebook continues to build out its shoppable ads capability, virtual try-ons in the platform are right around the corner. Facebook is already testing a beta opportunity that would allow brands to add AR affects to their product pages, letting viewers try on new products without ever leaving their homes. This could notably expedite consumers’ path to purchase, effectively taking them through the marketing funnel in a singular step. Until these offerings are available as an ad unit, finding ways to test organically is an easy way to get in on emerging tech and reach consumers where they’re spending their time.

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These sleek Facebook and Stories updates – and their constant evolution – are living testament to how critical emerging technology will be for advertisers moving forward.

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