With millions of people walking around with their heads down on their phones, it’s no surprise that mobile advertising on social media platforms has experienced significant growth in the past 12 months. Social media platforms have been continuing to develop ad capabilities to maximize offerings for brands and growth in the social media marketing space is ever expanding. Statistics from a report commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, however, show that marketers only spend between 2% and 8% of their total ad budget on internet video and mobile internet advertising, respectively.

With the amount of time people are spending on their mobile devices and perusing their social media accounts, companies will probably be increasing their social media advertising presence. Aside from the instant reach, brand awareness and engagement, social media advertising has expanded the culture where customers are choosing to associate themselves with the brand through hashtags, “follows” and “lenses.” Attorneys reviewing these ads should understand the impact of recent changes made by the platforms on which advertisements will be appearing

In this blog entry, we summarize some of the recent changes affecting advertising on the popular social media platforms.

  • Instagram – Instagram started introducing sponsored posts in 2013, and has used a “most recent” chronological style image feed until recently. Instagram changed to an algorithmic feed in Spring 2016, which aggregates the image feed to bring the most relevant posts to the top of the feed based on the user’s interests. The stated purpose of the change was aimed at reducing clutter and providing more relevant and engaging content to its users, but brands and marketers may need to revamp ad campaigns and strategies used on this platform. Posts are no longer shared organically, meaning understanding your target audience and investing the time and money to create quality engaging content that will actually reach followers’ image feeds will be key.
  • Twitter – “first view,” to allow brands to purchase prime-mobile-screen real estate for placement of their video ads.
  • Snapchat – Snapchat, a recent entrant on the social media advertising block, has made waves with the “lens” feature on the app. Following the implementation of animated overlays in the fall of last year (which let users distort their selfies making it look like they were speaking rainbows or letting out steam from their ears), Snapchat started allowing paid sponsored lens ads that let users edit and distort their selfies with branded content. Lenses are one of many ad products offered by Snapchat, but may be one for companies to consider. For example, during the 2016 Super Bowl, Gatorade sponsored a Snapchat lens (the #GatoradeDunk) that gave users eye black and made it look like a tub of Gatorade had been dumped over their heads. Afterwards, Gatorade announced that the lens received more than 100 million views. Along with the potential impact, however, sponsored lenses currently cost companies a substantial sum. According to an article by Recode, it costs roughly $500,000 (U.S.) to advertise using a sponsored lens on weekdays and $750,000 (U.S.) on weekends and holidays when user traffic is high. Whether customers are using the sponsored lens to associate with the brand or are just trying it for fun, Snapchat lenses offer companies a unique way of generating brand buzz and customer engagement, and may have hit gold with this stream of advertising. Brand attorneys may want to consider the impact on their trademarks for certain uses of lenses.

To stay trending, companies may want to take a look at their current advertising practices and consider the social media ad capabilities that will work for their brand.   These changes may also affect factors considered by attorneys reviewing these ads (such as trademark impact, longevity of ads, length of ads, etc.).