Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Jason Beckerman, CEO and co-founder of Unified.
The social advertising space had an incredible 2017. The typical brand created an average of 1,906 campaigns, a 184% increase from last year. Those new campaigns also took advantage of the constant innovation that was seen throughout the industry — almost every week it seemed like each social platform released a new ad type or feature.
With this, a massive amount of investment and audience targeting data has been produced. Each platform only adds more complexity to the channels that are being utilized for a given campaign. As a result, marketers have slowly begun to not just ask for more data ownership and control but to demand it as numbers continue to skyrocket. That said, many are only now waking up to this issue, if they know about it at all.
This echoes common challenges facing nearly every organization that invests in advertising on social media: a lack of transparency, access and comprehension of the vast amount of data available — and how it connects to performance.
So, in the new year, how will marketers address their data ownership gap so they have a connected, cohesive view of their data sets? To start, they'll need to ask: "Do we own our social advertising data?" Answering "yes" to this question is imperative for brands looking to increase transparency and performance, and marketers need to know that it's 100% possible — no matter how many sub-brands, teams or partners they work with.
If 2017 was a big year for social advertising, next year should be a defining one. But before marketers can take the keys to the kingdom, they'll need to make sure they're addressing issues among these three key themes:
1.) More transparency
Today, more than half of marketers do not have transparency into or control of their social advertising data sets. This makes brands incredibly beholden to their ecosystem of agencies, publishers and media buying technologies — limiting data portability and putting their ability to effectively measure their return on ad spend (ROAS) at grave risk.
The ability to know what teams, tools and tactics are performing the best, and how much money is going into social campaigns, will be even more prominent as brands realize that a large chunk of their collective $50 billion in social investments could translate to massive waste for their businesses.
2.) Increased accountability
The overall issue of poor transparency is rooted in a lack of data ownership and ad account control. These accounts, which contain critical performance, audience and financial data, are being created at alarming rates, not just by brands but by their partners and agencies as well. And as more teams enter the mix, brands are left wondering exactly who can access their data — and who ultimately owns it.
With more transparency into where brands' budgets are going, marketers will have more power to hold the sub-brands, teams and partners that run these massive social media campaigns accountable.
3.) Data ownership, access and control
When you look at all of the agencies, partners and teams that may be running social programs on a company's behalf, it's no wonder most can't confidently say that they have access to and ownership of all of the data that's used in social ad accounts to execute campaigns.
And with an average of 52 ad accounts (and counting) being attributed to — but not necessarily owned by — a single brand, this challenge has slowly been moving to the forefront.
Not only is this expected to change as marketers realize that data ownership is a huge issue with potentially massive consequences as social media investments continue to rapidly increase, but there will also be a concerted effort to find solutions to this problem.
At the end of the day, social's evolving creative and audience capabilities have made it the most innovative media channel of our time. While advancements in tactics, technologies and measurement continue to arrive at lightning speeds, it's imperative for marketers to ensure they have control of the foundational data underneath it all. Without it, the gap between incomplete, unorganized data and informed decision-making will either make or break marketers in 2018.