Exploring New Media Channels for Your Brand | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Exploring New Media Channels for Your Brand

By Corey Haugen, Paul Her-Sturm

Many brands who invest in paid social media use Meta channels, Facebook and Instagram, as their go-to channels. These platforms reach billions of users, and they are mature in the sense that they have reliable data and tools for advertisers. That said, depending on your business goals and the audience you're trying to reach, it's worth exploring other channels to convert users to customers.

This doesn't mean you have to leave your tried-and-true channels behind, but as brands grow, target audiences (and marketing budgets) evolve, and digital marketers may encounter scalability issues on their current channels, so keeping your options open and testing new channels is a smart idea.

The first question to answer is, where is best to build your strategic foundation and major investment? This is particularly important for brands that cannot spread larger budgets across multiple channels. For most brands, Meta will be their foundation, as it is considered a tried-and-true channel when it comes to best practices. With the right strategy and content, you can confidently drive business objectives while also producing learnings you can take to a new channel for investment and growth.

For other brands, their core audience might have a stronger presence in a channel like LinkedIn (B2B) — or Reddit and Twitch (strong gaming communities). The more research and data you gather on your consumers to help guide your investment, the more confident you can be in the channel and audience you've chosen to engage with.

What comes next is perhaps the most important part – and something some brands struggle to accept. Once you have chosen a channel as your foundational investment, you need to commit to that investment. A brand must trust the process for what it takes to create a successful campaign. This means not only following channel best practices, but also dedicating time and resources to creating campaigns, messaging and content that go beyond one objective and one audience.

Limiting your campaign creative, or using a one-size-fits-all strategy for content, will significantly limit the success of your media investment. This isn't to say you need 20 different variations, but when you build creative that has only one objective, one direction, and one message, you limit the potential of the campaign and how your audience digests it. It may work in the beginning, but over time, the fatigue will set in. We must adopt a "one size does not fit all" mentality.

In order to succeed, you must also tap into the always changing mindset of your audience. When we are engaging with a social channel, our attitudes and state of mind are never constant, especially when we move from social channel to social channel.

For example, on Facebook, we could be checking up on old friends or family members before quickly loading Twitch to watch our favorite streamer for the next 60 to 90 minutes. Then later, quickly browse Reddit where we get our latest and most upvote-worthy news and content from our most active subreddits. Finally, later in the evening, we zone out on TikTok for an endless scroll of entertainment based on our inferred preferences and interests. Yes, we are one person visiting all these channels in one day, but our emotions, mood and attitude can constantly shift throughout it. As brands and marketers, we have to be mindful of these shifts and leverage campaigns and content to tap into their nuances at any given time.

Here's a closer look at some alternative channels and the pros and cons of advertising on them.

  • Reddit: Reddit is a unique channel because of its massive user base (1.7 billion monthly visitors worldwide) that is tech savvy and, subjectively, the highest engaged users on the internet. Subreddits, the 130,000 active communities where users engage in conversation, are topic-specific, and site users visit subreddits to be informed and share unbiased, honest opinions on many focuses.

    While there is a subreddit for just about any topic or interest, for brands, that isn't enough to build a strategy or media plan from. Your targeting should span a diverse selection of subreddits to capture the larger picture of who your audience is and where they engage the most.

    In addition, we've also found that taking full advantage of the extended character counts available in Reddit ad formats can significantly improve your performance. For redditors, saying more is a good thing, as long as you're adding value to their experience. Share technical specs and key product benefits.

  • TikTok: One of the most interesting platforms of recent years. Brands are continuing to explore how they can interact with users most effectively to exploit the most downloaded app of 2021 with 656 million downloads. This is 100 million more than its closest competitor, Instagram. While most users are searching for funny and engaging content, TikTok is also the top app for driving consumer spending.

    TikTok campaigns can be a great way to build brand awareness and tell a story about a product, especially for brands that follow TikTok's advice: Don't make ads. Make TikToks. Users expect authenticity and entertainment, and brands that deliver can garner an engaged audience. TikTok's AI-driven, endless scroll keeps the audience entertained, but it also puts an emphasis on a brand's ability to stop your audience mid-scroll by "speaking the native language" with something that doesn't feel like an ad. Brands should deliver ads that look similar to content their audiences enjoy watching and digesting.

  • Pinterest: A large community with more than 430 million monthly active users, Pinterest is a platform that many brands perceive as quiet, but it can deliver high-value conversions for advertisers wanting to engage users who are looking for inspiration. With the majority of users' boards built to reflect their personal inspiration for future projects, Pinterest ads provide a unique opportunity to spark interest and consideration with context.

    The planning mindset millions of users bring to Pinterest can align well with the sales funnel for specific brands, providing an opportunity to engage users in the early stages of an aspirational project. If you're able to tap into Pinterest users' forward-looking state of mind, you can create a foundation and move potential customers down the sales funnel. The key to driving success with your ad content is having a strong understanding of why audiences are on that channel and engaging with your product category, including their mindset when looking for new content to pin.

  • Twitch: This platform is best known for gamer livestreams, but the platform's 8 million active streamers comprise a wide variety of content creators, including artists, musicians, craftspeople, chefs and vloggers — that cover virtually every interest. Since the action happens live and viewers are highly engaged, it can be a great opportunity for brands to connect.

    Unlike other platforms where users are likely multitasking or using social media to "kill time," Twitch users tune in when their favorite streamers are live, similar to a live sporting event on TV. At the same time, most of them are in the chat, reacting with the community and the streamer. This provides a great opportunity to get eyes on your unskippable video ads. However, if it's not relevant or aligned to their interests, they can easily tune out until their streamer is back. This also makes a strong case for partnering with the streamer for live, in-stream opportunities like an unboxing. Even with those opportunities, the audience is there for the streamer, so the experience of the sponsored stream must match the tone and vibe of the streamer and the community.

The key to using the above-mentioned channels and others effectively is to have insight on the different ways these platforms engage users to craft unique strategies for each in support of your business goals. In working with an agency partner with deep digital marketing expertise across multiple channels, you can continue investing in the platforms you already use and test new channels to reach new audiences.

An experienced partner can also help brand managers navigate the costs with an eye toward value. The cost-per-click is higher on Reddit than other platforms, for example, but when the opportunity for engagement in a key moment of consumer research is considered, it can be well worth the investment. Advertisers are confident in Meta due to the history and data, but with testing, you can gain confidence across multiple platforms.

To reach your business objectives, keep the value you deliver as a brand at the center of campaigns. When someone scrolls through their Facebook feed, engages with fellow Redditors, views a board on Pinterest or watches a TikTok or stream on Twitch, what will they take away from seeing your ad? If you craft an ad that fits the platform and user expectations, you can convert users into customers.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Corey Haugen is senior manager of paid social at Hawthorne Advertising.

Paul Her-Sturm is SVP of digital content and strategy at Hawthorne Advertising.