Programmatic for Social Media: Vocabulary & First Steps

By: Colleen Lutolf

October 30, 2019

Programmatic advertising is not new, but as machine learning gets more sophisticated, automation is of increasing importance to social media marketers. But one thing standing in the way is of them harnessing the potential of programmatic is the process itself.

And it’s an area in which social media marketers need to get up to speed: The programmatic industry is projected to grow to $81 billion by 2021 in the U.S. alone.

That growth is due to the multiple opportunities programmatic presents: a reduction in transaction costs, the ability to monetize a broader spectrum of digital media impressions and the opportunity to leverage consumer data at scale to improve the efficiency of ad campaigns.

“Programmatic, in general, offers advertisers, including on social, a lot of benefits,” said Susan Borst, vice president of mobile at the Interactive Advertising Bureau. And with most of social media being consumed via mobile devices, “this is a mobile conversation, which dictates everything in terms of creative and what the consumer is expecting on a mobile device.”

Targeting has become so sophisticated that advertisers can provide a number of different headlines, images and texts as assets served up in real time based on a slew of criteria, Borst said.

Take a woman traveling to Seattle with rain in the forecast during her visit; she could be presented with an ad of a woman in Seattle wearing a raincoat. Social media platforms are user data treasure troves, and as they develop new ad targeting tools, those platforms capture marketers’ imaginations, effectively becoming demand-side platforms themselves.

Unfortunately, a lack of understanding about what programmatic is and how it works gets in the way of social media marketers leveraging the potential programmatic provides.

So first, some definitions you’ll want to become familiar with:

Supply-Side Platform (SSP): Another word for the publisher: a website or an app.

Demand Side Platform (DSP): This is the advertiser (most likely you), or the buyer of inventory.

Exchange: Tech platform that conducts real-time auctions for advertising inventory. SSPs operate exchanges.

Bidder:  Tech platform that purchase inventory on ad exchanges. DSPs operate these.

Real-time Bidding (RTB): RTB allows an individual ad impression to be put up for bid in real-time through an on-the-spot auction, and provides the ability to serve ads to consumers directly based on their demographic, psychographic or behavioral attitudes.

Once you have a better understanding of the terms, you’ll need a strategy. Borst suggested social media marketers take these three steps before delving into programmatic advertising:

  1. Be very clear your strategy. “Define your creative strategy and objectives and stick to that because your plan could change significantly based on your objectives,” Borst said. If your objective is reach and awareness you may develop a completely different strategy than direct response, which attempts to drive the user to conversion.
  2. Evaluate your content solutions. “You want to understand your content options; do you have content that already exists? And how do you want to distribute it? Stick to your original KPIs, so that if you are launching an awareness campaign, you may opt for shorter format at a higher frequency,” said Borst.
  3. Disclosure Compliance. Before you activate your campaign, ensure you are in compliance with Federal Trade Commission disclosure requirements. Got to the FTC’s website to learn more.

At The Social Shake-Up