For runners, pacing is essential to distributing energy throughout a race in order to achieve the best result. If you go out too quickly, you’ll suffer in the late stages, while if you go out too slowly, you won’t be able to make up the lost ground.
Like running, keeping pace is a crucial piece to the success of digital marketing. With social media in particular, ad campaigns are even more challenging because consumer behavior is erratic. People don’t engage or act consistently from day to day or week to week to make sure advertisers can spend budgets evenly throughout campaigns.
In a programmatic media world, advertisers know the times of day, days of the week or weeks of the year when their audience is most engaged and when to reach them at those precise moments. Advertisers also know that if their budget is spent too quickly, they risk missing out on potential conversions later in the flight.
The ability to understand, in real-time, what’s being spent, how a campaign is performing and what changes need to be made are core to the value of programmatic versus other channels.
The significance of pacing is nothing new for teams who buy and manage social media. In fact, it’s so important that social teams have taken to building their own workarounds for monitoring spend and key performance indicators to ensure that they hit their goals.
The process today entails pulling a report from each social platform every morning. The effort is compounded by having to pull reports through different tools, each with unique formats, and sometimes repeating the steps for multiple brands.
Next, the data from the reports is added into spreadsheets where formulas calculate how a campaign is pacing toward its budget and performance goals.
Finally, the advertiser decides what changes need to be made to factors like bids, budgets or targeting and applies the necessary changes in each social platform.
This process can be extremely time consuming, especially for advertisers spanning all social platforms with multiple brands and campaigns. Some advertisers spend up to seven hours per week managing pacing—that’s nearly an entire business day spent on manual tasks when that effort could be directed toward strategy, optimization or identifying the next opportunity for the brand.
Relief through tech
Many of today’s leading brands look to machine-learning tools to pace social ad campaigns across publishers. With a purpose-built pacing tool that lives in the same platform used to manage campaigns across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, advertisers can reduce the inefficiencies of manual pacing in Excel and automate bid, budget and other adjustments to drive optimal campaign outcomes.
Here are five things to look for in technology to master campaign pacing
- Illuminating visualizations: It’s important to be able to understand at a glance where campaigns are performing against their goals. A visual overview of your campaigns can quickly inform you if things are on track or if additional attention is necessary. Hours of upfront crunching and interpreting data to find out if campaigns are pacing correctly are eliminated by monitoring campaign pacing and KPI trends from a smart dashboard.
- Cross-platform features: Brands take a cross-platform approach to any significant campaign. Since each social platform has its own nuances for pacing and KPI trends, it’s important that the technology you select can assemble performance from each social platform into a single location. Just because a campaign on one social platform is pacing well, it doesn’t mean the others are, so getting a complete view is imperative. Since the process of pulling reports alone can take hours—especially for large advertisers with multiple ad accounts across multiple publishers—a holistic view is a big time-saver.
- Predictive capabilities: Skilled social buyers are adept at reading pacing reports and making the right adjustments so that a campaign will pace correctly. However, even the best buyers can’t compete with machine learning, which evaluates current performance compared with a database of historical performance across all campaign variables and goals. That’s why it’s important to select technology that implements data-driven, predictive adjustments to best optimize campaigns. Leveraging machine learning that considers all your campaign variables and goals to recommend bid and/or budget adjustments based on current campaign performance makes an immense difference to achieving successful pacing.
- Variable pacing: Not all campaigns should have the same pacing—some should have evenly distributed spend over the course of the flight, while others should heavy up or slow down spend aligned with seasons or tentpole events. A flexible tool with options for managing spend regardless of scenario is key to a brand being able to achieve its campaign goals. Unless a brand is only running one type of campaign, it’s important that the technology is flexible enough to adapt to different spending scenarios.
- Cross-org functionality: Another advantage of a well-designed pacing tool is the transparency and collaboration it offers across the team. When spreadsheets are used, a single person typically holds all of the pacing information, which inhibits other team members from collaborating on the campaign. Good pacing technology will ensure that the entire team can track a campaign and that everyone is on the same page, enabling anyone to make optimizations. Team members can change, people take vacations and managers like line-of-sight into team members’ work. Ensure that these scenarios are accounted for with a collaborative tool.
Purpose-built pacing technology can be a game-changing component to strengthening your digital marketing practice and ensuring that goals are met.
Imagine runners pacing themselves with nothing, versus using a GPS watch that provides real-time distance, wind, speed and time measurements. It’s undeniably clear that smart watches enable amplified performance for runners.
Just as in running, marketers need to adopt smart technology that ensures a steady cadence to maximize performance across all campaigns.
Katie Dettman O’Brien is product marketing manager at advertising insights platform 4C Insights.