What social platform data can teach marketers about audience engagement

Social platforms just issued guides on how to earn better audience engagement. TikTok’s is especially worth reading.

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Social platforms have every incentive to help marketers be more effective with their ad budgets, and three of them just released reports on how to create better campaigns. We read the reports from Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, and break down the findings below.

The docs, in summary: 

  • Make your point quickly. Aim to grab attention and showcase your brand/product in the first five seconds of the ad. 
  • Make your ad vertical. Facebook and TikTok note that vertical ads perform better for mobile audiences. 
  • Make it personal and dynamic. YouTube suggests tight framing around a person/product, a fast pace with multiple shots in the first five seconds, inclusion of people and, of course, memorable imagery. TikTok suggests funny, informative or relatable storylines. 
  • Sound varies per platform. The docs diverge on whether to plan for sound or no sound; Facebook users typically don’t listen to ads and the platform encourages text, graphics and captions, while YouTube suggests planning for sound on. TikTok also encourages captions for context, but explicitly notes that TikTok is a sound-on experience. 
  • Production quality matters. TikTok’s doc offers an entire section on filming, lighting and editing for best results. 

Our take(away): Most of these findings won’t be surprising for those of us who work in digital marketing. Grab attention fast (of course), consider mobile viewing (duh) and put your budget into fewer and better creative assets

What was surprising to us was the lean from Facebook and YouTube toward technicality in creating ads. TikTok leaned into generality, but it was the only platform that nailed that with a thorough explanation of how to research audience trends and behaviors on its platform before committing to a campaign concept. Instead of only offering blanket tips for optimizing campaigns (i.e. “make it funny!”), TikTok suggests immersion in its platform, audience and existing content to create a concept that can earn attention. 

This is harder for marketers to do obviously, but as TikTok (and also Facebook and YouTube ) knows, the more a marketer considers audience research at the onset of the planning process, the better the campaign performance. 

Dive deeper: Here is how TikTok frames the process of audience research: 

  • Start with a search for keywords related to your brand/products
  • Follow content that’s related to your account
  • Find trending content on the Discover page 
  • Watch trending videos from business peers for inspiration 
  • Explore trending filters and effects 
  • Check out the Business Creative Hub, a curated video page for business accounts 

Applying audience immersion research to your marketing

Audience research is an ongoing effort that, like many things worth doing, delivers more return the more you invest in it. For marketers, it can be overwhelming: There are so many platforms, and each seems to have slightly different rules for engagement and community expectations. 

The key is to narrowly define your target audience, then develop a system to regularly surface insights into what your audience is consuming and what is performing best from others in your industry. 

And of course, you need to determine how to uniquely contribute to the conversation to earn attention. That part is hard — but it’s virtually impossible without audience intelligence. 

TL;DR: The rules of engagement on social platforms are not simple and not finite. To succeed with your campaigns, you need to integrate platform best practices with ongoing audience intelligence. 


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