There’s another ‘meta’ marketers should be concerned with – their ‘most effective tactic available’

Though Facebook’s rebrand has seized headlines of late, there’s another ’meta’ marketers need to keep in mind when re-examining their social strategies, writes Joseph Antonucci.

Meta means many things. Evolving from ancient Greek, it can translate as a prefix associated with transcending, comprehending and encompassing.

This encapsulates what Facebook wants to achieve with its rebrand to Meta. “Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,“ Zuckerberg said. By stamping its vision on the metaverse, Facebook hopes to evolve from a series of connected apps to becoming the very fabric of an exciting new world.

But what about the world now? The plans have prompted some advertisers to revisit their media strategies. If this is a transformational moment for how we exist and interact online, is now the time to reassess how – and where – we engage with audiences?

In certain online communities – typically those focused on gaming – ‘meta’ is used as an acronym of ’most effective tactic available’. And this is the real meta that matters to advertisers. As Facebook enters a period of transition, how can advertisers effectively expand and engage new audiences on other platforms?

Community-based platforms

Every social platform is unique. Advertisers looking to expand into new social ecosystems need to understand specific nuances.

TikTok is the current social media darling thanks to its unique algorithm helping it generate an incredible amount of highly engaged and often very specific community groups. But Reddit has also built its success on its close-knit communities, though often overlooked.

When Reddit first introduced ads back in 2009, they sold for $20 and were marketed as ’advertising by redditors, for redditors’. Today Reddit still offers brands the opportunity to become part of the communities and subreddits they are associated with. While most brands might try to lean into super deep niche subreddits, it’s best to look at category takeovers, whereby a brand can choose from 29 possible categories spread over the nine Reddit verticals. By owning top communities for one to seven days, it is a direct path to engaged conversation with a community. Brands can also do trending takeovers that showcase as the second post in the ’popular’ feed, giving them a presence on the most-viewed part of the site. Though the caveat is it might not be around relevant or brand-safe content.

For community-based platforms like Reddit, and to a similar extent TikTok, there is a long-term strategy focused on authentically engaging with key communities and positively influencing brand equity over time. And the efficacy of these efforts is becoming easier to measure, as both Reddit and TikTok improve their advertising offerings with more granular metrics and intuitive ad formats.

It is worth also mentioning apps like Discord. The communication tool has soared to over 140 million daily users this year, and although it doesn’t allow advertising currently, there are still opportunities for brands to engage passionate communities and form tangible connections.

Platforms with a growing e-commerce opportunity

Beyond Facebook, other social media platforms are developing sophisticated e-commerce infrastructure.

Pinterest is increasingly interesting. The platform works as a ‘visual discovery engine’ to help users find recipes, styles, designs and more. But it is now reducing the gap between inspiration and action by adding a host of shoppable features — including its recent entry into the live shopping space with Pinterest TV.

Pinterest is also a great platform for smaller brands or smaller budgets, because it is specifically designed as a social marketplace where sharing and promoting products isn’t perceived as intrusive, but rather authentically encouraged. The platform is constantly evolving and adding new products, like AR Try-on and Idea Pins.

Buyable pins are probably the most efficient way into the platform for most retailers to add another revenue channel, while other sectors such as finance can seamlessly lean into the education arm of the platform.

Snapchat also offers brands unique routes to audiences and to direct action through shoppable features. Snap has pioneered the AR and MR space, rolling out self-serve shoppable ads as far back as 2018, before doubling down on the tool again this year.

To advertisers, it may appear that Snap has suffered as TikTok has stolen its spot in the limelight of culture. But the user numbers tell a different story with its user base (which includes some 306 million daily actuve users) still growing. Digitally native younger generations are comfortable existing across a myriad of apps and platforms, and the success of one does not denote the death of another.

What’s next?

As our digital habits and behaviors spread across platforms, the opportunities for advertisers are only going to proliferate. But this also requires some give from them.

When TikTok first started to get attention, the uptake from advertisers wasn’t quite as rapid, with the majority of brands tentatively engaging by simply repurposing TV and digital video assets. Brands that invested early on TikTok are seeing incredible success now, while others are still playing catch-up.

Focusing only on the biggest platforms is no longer the most effective route. Agency partners should help brands test, learn and expand their presence across multiple ecosystems.

The opportunities will only increase – likely before the gates to the metaverse are open to the majority. For example, Zoom recently announced it would pilot an advertising program for users on its basic free tier. While this is never going to be a service that challenges Google or Facebook in the short term, it does offer advertisers and the platform itself the chance to test and learn.

As Facebook transcends to Meta, advertisers should be asking themselves what is the ’meta’? As digital enters a period of transition, advertisers should not be afraid to test, experiment, fail and learn. Consumers are comfortable operating across multiple apps – and so brands should be too.

Joseph Antonucci is director of strategy and planning at Croud US.