If not Facebook, then where? Advertising in a post-Facebook world

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2018 was a troubling year for tech giant Facebook, to say the least.

First, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a data analysis firm inappropriately used the information of 50 million Facebook users, dominated headlines throughout the year. CEO Mark Zuckerberg then faced tough questions about Facebook’s business practices during his high-profile testimony to Congress in April.

The hits to Facebook’s reputation were compounded by a number of bad indicators for the company’s future.

In July 2018, Facebook revealed that it expects revenue growth to slow down at least through the end of 2019, causing its stock price to sink by 20 percent.

Last year, Facebook-related properties such as Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp also lost 7 percent market share since 2017, and time spent per user in these apps fell by 20 percent.

These factors alone would make it considerably less attractive for many companies to advertise on the Facebook platform – if it weren’t also for the fact that many businesses are seeing decreasing return on ad spend (ROAS) for their Facebook campaigns.

Concerned about the future of your Facebook ads? You’re not alone. But the question you now have to answer is “Where should we go from here?”

Given the large user base and the ability to target specific audiences, Facebook is the easy choice for advertising campaigns. However, it’s not always the right choice.

In this article, we’ll discuss 4 Facebook alternatives for your digital ads, including both new platforms and new formats on existing platforms.

1. TikTok

Formerly known as Musical.ly, TikTok is a social networking app that has soared in popularity since the second half of 2018. TikTok fills the space formerly taken by apps such as Vine, allowing users to film and share their own short, often amusing videos.

According to Vox, TikTok is a “hugely lucrative Wild West,” and “brands have yet to sink their teeth” into the opportunities that it presents. Digital marketing magazine Digiday calls TikTok “the hot new app that ad agencies are eyeing.”

This hype is despite the fact that (as of January 2019) TikTok has yet to offer ad units for brands, or formal monetization opportunities for users.

Of course, TikTok’s user base skews younger, so it’s not the ideal platform for all audiences. Still, marketing director Chris Strong argues that TikTok is well-suited for “promoting record labels, artists, their albums as well as creating brand awareness campaigns.”

2. Instagram

Although the social network Instagram has been around for a while, it’s constantly introducing new features and formats. This innovation has helped Instagram thrive, even amidst the Facebook controversy.

Despite the total shrinkage in Facebook-related properties last year, Instagram’s usage increased by 41 percent in 2018.

In 2018, Instagram introduced shoppable “collection” ads that will be particularly interesting for e-commerce brands. Collection ads combine video marketing with product catalogs, linking directly to stores where users can purchase the wares shown in the advertisement.

The wide variety of options for Instagram campaigns – from photos and videos to multi-photo “carousels” and interactive ads – are appealing for any type of business.

According to digital marketing firm WebStrategies Inc., Instagram is “by far the most engaged social platform for brands,” with 2 to 7 percent of users interacting with each photo or video post. Migrating from Facebook to Instagram will also have a lower learning curve, since Instagram uses the Facebook Ad Manager.

3. Reddit

Facebook’s ability for users to self-segregate based on their likes and interests is one of the best parts of the platform.

Looking for a way to replicate this functionality on another website? Consider running an ad campaign on Reddit, a content aggregation platform that calls itself “the front page of the Internet.”

Reddit allows users to create and participate in “subreddits,” which are discussion forums for particular topics – everything from learning Spanish, to drinking coffee, to talking about technology news.

Pick the right subreddits for your campaign, and your ads could be seen by a sizable percentage of Reddit’s 330 million monthly active users.

In April 2018, Reddit redesigned its website and mobile app. Promoted and sponsored posts are now mixed in with user-made posts, giving them more visibility. To sweeten the deal, in 2017 Reddit launched a new self-service ad platform with improved analytics and ease of use.

4. Pinterest

Pinterest is a “visual discovery engine” that allows users to share and discover ideas and interests. The basic currency of Pinterest are “pins,” image or video posts that users can collect in one or more “boards.”

Users have created boards for everything that can be captured in visual format: cookie recipes, bathroom renovation ideas, fashion trends, inspirational quotes, and more. Thanks to this self-selection, Pinterest makes it easy for businesses to target particular user segments with Promoted Pins.

In contrast to Facebook, whose users are growing increasingly uncomfortable with how their data is used behind the scenes, Pinterest users welcome relevant advertisements.

73 percent of Pinterest users say that branded Pinterest content is useful, and 61 percent say that they have discovered new brands or products with Pinterest ads.

Other Pinterest statistics that may tempt you away from Facebook: 250 million people use the platform every month, including half of U.S. millennials. What’s more, 55 percent of users say that they come to Pinterest to shop and purchase products, a rate 4 times higher than other social media networks.