One recent study estimated that 13 million social-media influencers generated $7 billion in revenues last year. The hottest platform of late has been fast-growing Instagram, which seems to avoided much of the blowback that has so buffeted parent company Facebook.
Companies like Viacom unit WHOSAY are connecting brands and influencers with what CEO Steve Ellis calls “premium creative assets” that perform better than just an influencer’s hot take in the middle of a YouTube video or Twitter feed. The result is typically backed with paid placement on the big social platforms and across Viacom’s own web sites, streaming services and even TV networks.
“The beauty of these (social) platforms, to give Facebook and the others credit, is they’re designed to be paid-media platforms with effective targeting,” Ellis said. “So if you make good creative and you use those tools effectively, you can distribute those assets to anybody you think you need to reach as an advertiser.”
But running ad campaigns behind the assets is necessary because the big platforms have made organic reach nearly extinct, to extract more dollars from brands. Search ads, which have undergirded profitability for Google and YouTube, are also seeing some eroding popularity.
A recent Forrester Research study snapshotted the transition in digital marketing, away from traditional search ads and toward voice and voice-activated queries on, yes, Amazon’s Alexa and its competitors from Google and Apple. Alexa-powered devices already seem omnipresent (CEO Jeff Bezos said in a recent statement that the Echo Dot smart speaker was the company’s most popular-selling device at Christmas), but in a few years, voice-powered devices truly will be everywhere, transforming the way we search for and advertise about things.
Forrester pointed to forward-thinking brands such as Capital One, Domino’s, Humana and L’Oréal that already are incorporating voice search into their marketing strategies. Expect that to accelerate as traditional search-ad spending flattens out and other brands get comfortable with a voice-activated world and its consequences.
Cost-per-click, which dropped 28 percent on Google in Q3 of 2018, has fallen 14 straight quarters, the Forrester study said. That decline is a harbinger of digital marketing’s evolution, as people use other tools, many of them in Amazon's areas of strength, including voice skills, SEO, branded content and content on shopping-friendly sites such as Pinterest.
But what site is more shopping-friendly than Amazon, which now controls more than 50 percent of the e-commerce pie in the United States? The company is even winning business in search, because more consumers are beginning to research their purchases on Amazon rather than Google. As well, Amazon is now routinely host to ferocious price wars that can break out at any minute for a given product, sometimes forcing a brand to bid against its own channel partners for customers.