Charting A Course For Growth: How Meta And Amplify Help Businesses Navigate Choppy Economic Waters

Charting A Course For Growth: How Meta And Amplify Help Businesses Navigate Choppy Economic Waters

“Economic uncertainty for people is clearly impacting businesses as well and they’re thinking about planning,” said Naomi Shepherd, Meta’s group industry director.

We spoke with Shepherd, as well as her colleague Andy Ford, the company’s head of marketing science for Australia and New Zealand, at Meta’s inaugural Growth Summit. Held in the company’s swish offices in Sydney’s Barangaroo, replete with stunning views over Harbour Bridge, a delicious selection of snacks, and ear-popping fast lifts, a looming recession felt a million miles away.

“In the conversations we’re having, it’s coming up more and more often with marketers but also with finance professionals and businesses, as well, thinking about how they’re investing to grow their businesses next year,” added Shepherd.

The Growth Summit, held first in Sydney and the following week in Melbourne, was designed to help spur businesses forward in their digital marketing efforts on Meta’s range of platforms — Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and, perhaps even, the metaverse.

Look closely and you might see a B&T staffer helping himself to a bacon roll.

“I think there’s a lot for businesses to think about as they’re going into a period of economic downturn and all of that puts a lot more pressure on where marketing budgets are spent and how they’re spent,” said Shepherd.

“We have a responsibility to help businesses grow when they invest in Meta platforms and we want to make sure that it’s really clear that we’re generating return for them and that they can measure that, and that we’re making their investment work as hard as it possibly can.”

While it is good of Meta to engage with advertisers and marketers to help squeeze the most out of every ad dollar, it is worth noting the position the social network finds itself in. Meta’s APAC ad revenue declined by almost AU$300 million in the three months running up to the end of September. The average revenue per APAC Facebook user — note, not all users of Meta platforms — dropped from  AU$6.99 to $6.81.

“With all the privacy changes over the last couple of years and the way that ad systems work now, they rely a lot more on AI and machine learning, and understanding those levers and how to use them can really drive down cost by efficiency and hopefully find those pockets of effectiveness,” said Ford.

“It’s a good time to raise up some of these levers, is the term we’re using at the moment, and help people move from everything being a bit stuck, no one knew what to do with cookies crumbling, etc. to really trying to get a positive mindset of ‘these are the things you can do which are in your control to drive down costs at a time when you might want to.”

Meta said that it had identified three growth levers that can help business during these difficult times — having a first-part data strategy, expanding data acquisition investments, and taking a test-and-learn approach to drive incremental growth using that data.

Meta’s Naomi Shepherd delivering a talk.

At the Summit, a range of execs from Meta and external companies discussed the merits of each growth lever and how companies can most effectively pull them. However, the levers will mean different things to different businesses, according to Shepherd and Ford, and might be easier for one company to pull, compared to another.

“In our conversations with larger, as well as smaller and newer businesses, they’re all looking for growth. So that is one thing that brings them together,” said Shepherd.

“It might be the case that those growth levers that we’re talking about today are quite intuitive to some of those digitally native businesses. They’re used to testing and learning, they’re used to experimentation. It might be because they’re only a single product, direct-to-consumer company, so it’s a little easier for them to do that.

“It’s not the case that larger businesses don’t want to look for growth and aren’t in-line with some of those levers. It’s just harder because they’re larger, more complex businesses with lots of different protocols and processes that are already in place. I think it’s our job to clearly define what the tools are, what the levers are that they can use, and then help them to operationalise that throughout their business.”

“The ecom guys are now thinking about new audiences and expanding your audience, audience saturation and diversification and that is a way of branding, right?” added Ford.

“It’s just performance wording. They’re all kind of blurring and borrowing from each other, which is interesting. They’ve got different skill sets but measurement sits in the middle.”

One of the most important emerging growth drivers for businesses, according to Meta, is engaging with creators.

“The differentiation between a creator and an influencer, for me and my agency, is that to influence is different to create,” Amplify’s Alex Reid told us.

Reid, just off stage after giving a talk and sitting on a panel discussing creators is co-founder of Amplify, an agency specialising in youth content, talent, and events, as well being the talent partner for a range of brands, including Instagram.

Amplify’s Alex Reid, flanked by Ashley Schuberg (AKA @MISS_GUNNER) and Kath Gildea, enterprise marketing & data director, Australia & New Zealand, The Estée Lauder Companies.

“Being a creator means that you create a product, whether that’s comedy or you’re an artist, or you create fun skits. Influencers have a bit of a dirty connotation to it because people think back to 2015 and lots of hot people holding up body scrubs.”

Rather than being aspirational beings on social media, giving consumers the chance to buy into a better life with a new teeth whitening kit, for example, creators allow brands to reach audiences they previously wouldn’t have been able to. Reid gives an example of Carlton Dry’s work with creators.

“It’s a beer brand, right? We get it. The demographic of beer drinkers are what you would assume it would be. And you would assume that if they were going to get creators, it would be sports players that would just talk to that 35-plus male audience.

“But what Carlton Dry did is they gave free licence to a number of diverse creators. And they worked with creators like Mitchell Coombs, who’s an LGBT comedian, to talk about beer — and he is not a hyper-masculine guy. He was allowed the freedom to create content that matched his audience with the beer and the brand message.”

“And it went off because it was a different audience, Mitchell Coombs audience are probably not your typical beer drinkers, but now Carlton has pushed into that market.”

In fact, rather than being simply another thing for agencies and brands to do to and trying to infiltrate other markets, Reid said that creators offer great return on marketing spend.

“It’s no secret, everyone’s going through a bit of a recession. As budgets are tighter, they’re going to look at what is the most effective spend and with creators there’s a great ROI. At the moment, it might be perceived as something you have to do but the brands that are having real success on the platform are the ones putting creators first and then building campaigns around them.”

This effectiveness is only set to continue, in Reid’s mind, as well.

“If you look into the habits of kids, where are they getting their content from? What is influencing them? It’s not traditional media. If you want to market to a 16-year-old, you’re not going to buy a billboard, you’re not going to buy a radio.

“[Kids] want to follow people, they want to follow creators, they want to know about their lives.”

Giving away this level of control might seem daunting for some brands, as R/GA’s Claire Waring told us. However, Reid said that, as creators have just as much interest in being brand safe as every other marketing channel.

“If you’re a creator, you understand that it’s a business. This is huge for a lot of people and it’s they’re sole source of income. They’re not going to kill that golden goose with one stupid post. Creators are their own business, their own mastheads.”

To be clear, there are challenging times ahead for businesses. That is not in doubt. However, there are just as many opportunities as there are hurdles for businesses to overcome. By using first-party data effectively and engaging with creators (on Instagram and Facebook — definitely not TikTok) Meta believes that businesses can not only learn to adapt to a changing marketing world, but thrive in it.

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