However, social experts understand that generalising like this can be misleading and while these are platforms that facilitate social interactions, the audience reach and activity for each is considerably different.
If we consider the two biggest publishing platforms, Facebook and Twitter, it would be a mistake to view their respective ad platforms in the same light, or to buy and strategise for them in the same way. Niche environments are present in each, which is why marketers need to consider them as separate entities.
Generalising about the minute points of difference between the two platforms is difficult, but some variances are obvious and therefore present clear advertising opportunities that marketers can exploit to drive ROI across the channels.
Rather than repeating tactics used on Facebook Exchange (FBX) on Twitter, marketers need to realise key points of divergence between the two. Mobile is a great example. While consumers are increasingly accessing Facebook via portable devices like smartphones, FBX does not yet extend to these devices – though it’s recently-announced website and mobile app ad Custom Audiences does.
And what about usage? Twitter is based predominantly around trends and topics, so advertising beyond direct response is more feasible and successful on this network. For offline products such as cars and property, this affords broader opportunities for advertisers. Twitter is also a "moment-by-moment" network, reflecting current events and up-to-the-minute trends, and its users have a broad reach when it comes to influence.
Facebook however, is centred around the people that users know and the events in their own life, so the opportunity for advertisers here is that individuals can directly influence their friends and family. In contrast, Tumblr, Pinterest and Foursquare create a network based around interests, so the focus for users is on discovery.
If we consider the basic ad tech model, it provides a set of tools that free up marketers to engage in more strategic and creative thinking. Social is shouting out for more solutions like this, and it needs tools that connect first-party data to offline products and marketing campaigns.
The traditional cookie-based concept of targeting needs to be rethought, and marketers should move away from the practice of making assumptions about how individuals’ actions differ across social sites. The key to these solutions will be in identifying individuals’ common identities across these very different platforms and layering this with contextual data to reach these consumers.
Although new tools and methods are becoming increasingly available, we are still some way off addressing all of these problems.
As technology progresses and our social offering becomes more advanced, we will see the full scale of how programmatic buying on social media can deliver huge returns for brands. Yet ad success on social will only follow if brands can adapt in an agile manner to the uniqueness of each platform.
Frank Martin is director of sales at Adaptly