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    Where is the safest social dollar for advertisers right now?

    Wobbly Meta earnings; Musk tearing up the Twitter playbook; Instagram in an identity crisis… not much feels certain on social right now. So we asked a bumper crop of 10 social experts: which platforms are safest for social spend?

    Will Jennings, head of paid media, Tipi Group

    ‘Safe’ could be a safety net of forecastable performance, or a brand-safe environment. Either way, more established platforms have been shaken up, and while there’s still potential performance and plenty of data to fall back on, now’s the time to build momentum and get cut-through on newer market entrants.

    WeAre8 has the potential to draw a new, more responsible audience. Its Sustainable Ad Manager platform allows advertisers similar technical capabilities to larger platforms, with insight into the sustainability of advertising from a charitable and carbon-offsetting perspective.

    BeReal has wholesome potential from a content creation perspective; how brands can ride this wave will be down to the more creative minds. Outside of these outliers, LinkedIn has the shiny veneer of professionalism to filter out most brand safety concerns. As for the rest, tread carefully.

    Alex Carapiet, head of social, Seed (part of Amplify)

    It’s the end of the first social media era. Meta has replaced your network of friends with short-form video, ushering in a new phase of recommendation media driven by TikTok’s success.

    But if Mark Zuckerberg et al believe this pivot will address the slowdown in social advertising growth, they need to look at the headaches TikTok owner ByteDance faces.

    TikTok’s biggest 2023 challenge will be how it continues to monetize its inventory. The short attention spans of consumers on the platform leave little room for advertisers to deliver messaging. With a global economic crunch leading to more prudent ad spend, only brands willing to truly think outside the box will cut through.

    Advertisers will find that the best places to invest their social advertising budgets will be platforms that provide immersive digital worlds: Snapchat’s augmented reality (AR) stores, or Roblox. There consumers – especially gen Z – have a higher dwell time and are genuinely excited to engage with brand experiences.

    Jordan Fox, head, Laundry Service

    Meta. For ‘safest social dollar’? Still Meta by a mile. 

    Soft Q3 earnings don’t have anything to do with brand safety. Neither do they reduce the size of Meta’s 3 billion person userbase or the efficacy of its world-class moderation team.

    Twitter has entered a chaotic, strange zone now that it’s a private company run by the richest memelord on Earth. We’re keeping an increasingly bloodshot eye on that situation. Either way, it’s still Meta.

    We love BeReal and use it daily, but for ‘safest social dollar’? It has 20 million users and no advertising products. There’s no dollar insertion slot yet on the BeReal machine.

    TikTok is an amazing platform, but among many other factors, the geopolitical and regulatory risk associated with its ownership structure means Meta keeps the brand safety crown.

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    Ruth O’Brien, paid social strategist, Found

    Musk’s Twitter acquisition is causing much concern. Although his plans for monetization might benefit advertisers, the loss of talent at Twitter and the removal of moderation features are troubling.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a chunk of the audience ends up moving to Reddit. Once relatively niche, Reddit’s partnership with Love Island this year and the steady expansion of advertiser products have been making it a much bigger player for ad spend.

    Meta’s decline in performance and advertiser support is troubling, but it still does the business when it comes to e-commerce. The best approach for brands right now is to test different channels to assess the best fit for their goals. Channel diversification facilitates growth in new audiences and provides a bit of security if one platform has a sudden decline. TikTok, Pinterest, Snap and LinkedIn all offer great opportunities to explore.

    The best thing to do in times of uncertainty is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Instead, test new avenues to both grow and protect your social performance.

    Kathryn Green, paid media director, Tug Agency

    Musk’s Twitter takeover has sparked threats of a boycott; a drop in users will mean a drop in ad dollars. While Meta’s costs are comparatively higher, it still has the most users, and historically it outperforms its social media neighbors as well. Ad dollars should be safe here for now. 

    TikTok is closing in on Twitter. User numbers are high, time spent is up – and so is influence on audiences. I expect more brands to view this platform as a safe, impactful investment. 

    Keeping an eye on emerging platforms such as BeReal is also necessary. If a new platform engages your target audience and is a good fit for your brand, then experiment. It pays to be one of the first to direct budget toward new platforms. ‘Safe’ isn’t always the key to success.

    Tom Ruff, head of social, Journey Further

    The safest thing to do with your social spend? Diversify it.

    We have been recommending this for some time now, with Meta becoming more expensive; tracking and targeting becoming more challenging; and emerging platforms such as TikTok providing new ways to reach users.

    There’s a much clearer divide between audiences on different platforms than ever before. Broadly, TikTok is more effective for reaching a younger audience; Facebook is for engaged communities of older audiences. Brands not using different platforms are essentially closing the door on large sections of their core audiences.

    Meta is still an effective way to spend most of your social budget right now, but it’s no longer the most effective way to spend all of your social budget.

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    Caroline Gosney, client and content director, Make Honey

    There was always going to be a backlash to recent social changes, with challenges around free speech, a growing distrust for ‘mega platforms’ and platforms changing hands. General Motors pausing Twitter activity until it understands more about what the platform would look like under its new owner is a normal, even sensible, reaction.

    Where should brands be putting their money? No one is sure. The social crystal ball is foggy, but there are some spaces where brands can continue to add value and disrupt.

    Platforms providing deep data insights are adding maximum value. Instagram is going big on this.

    LinkedIn, the sober big brother of the other platforms, is a solid bet if your brand can create thought-provoking and engaging content.

    But we’re not in Kansas anymore. New platforms that either do good or are more real (Wunder; BeReal) are successful because of their differentiation from the norm, bringing opportunities for brands willing to take a risk.

    Emily Charlton-Smith, social director, Anything is Possible

    Want a smart bet? Don’t sleep on Pinterest. Pinners are here to spice up their everyday lives (recipes), celebrate special moments (parties, bucket list trips) and plan for what’s next (renovations, college, a new baby). It’s great for meeting users at critical moments throughout the decision-making process.

    The platform has seen positive change this year. It is thinking smart, combining social with out-of-home (OOH) to target cultural hubs across the UK. And its supportive community keeps above the fray and avoids toxic publicity. Right now, that’s the most valuable asset for any social platform.   

    Mark Byrne, head of paid search and social, Brave Bison

    We’ve seen major social players taking heavy hits for different reasons – Meta’s plummeting share price and the metaverse’s false start; Twitter users leaving following Elon Musk’s acquisition. All of this has been happening while TikTok has grown into the highest-grossing social media app globally, with the most in-app purchases.

    TikTok is not immune to controversy, dealing with data privacy concerns and a recent push from the US to stifle its growth.

    Often overlooked in this conversation is YouTube. Influencer content is at home on the platform; you can reach 84% of the UK; and it’s part of Google’s ecosystem, allowing for full-funnel delivery, performance-based ad formats and advanced measurement to prove that your investment into the platform is impacting the bottom line.

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    Nadine Smith, paid social specialist, Rawnet

    In users-per-month, Facebook still reigns supreme despite issues and controversy. But Facebook’s demographic has shifted over time (and continues to). For some brands, it may no longer be effective because age is a significant factor for marketers choosing ‘safe’ platforms. Facebook’s largest demographic group is 25-35 years old. TikTok’s largest demographic 10-19 years old, making up 25% of the total user base.

    It’s impossible for marketers to predict which platforms will continue to flourish and which may fall from grace, so brands must be as agile as possible, and never invest all their resources or budget into one platform. 

    All social media platforms can serve a purpose for brands, but TikTok is becoming the go-to for many in 2022. Its growth doesn’t look like it’ll slow soon, and it has the highest engagement rate per post of any social media platform. If TikTok works for your target audience, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

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