How to adjust your paid social strategy for ‘Scroll Free September’

A new initiative is being encouraged by the Royal Society For Public Health (RSPH), aptly named 'Scroll Free September', in a bid to improve people's wellbeing through giving up or cutting down on their social media consumption levels. And I'm sure that many of us can admit to spending too much time glued to our phones, and feel we'd benefit from the exercise - I know I would!

The main social media platforms being called into question are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. But how might this impact advertisers' paid social campaigns?

What happens if fewer people are on social media?

If fewer people are on social media platforms, then will there be fewer impressions available for ads? Quite possibly. The number of impressions the campaigns served could be lower if fewer people are logging in, or fewer people are scrolling down, which may lead to lower levels of clicks and conversions (and a negative impact on cost-per-clicks). With a smaller audience pool, competition for showing an ad would increase and lead to bid increases to secure those impressions.

Will people really take part in 'Scroll Free September'?

Some demographics are more likely to respond to this initiative than others. Let's start with older generations: we know they're active on social media platforms, with Statista noting that 36% of Facebook users are 35 or over. However, their consumption levels may not be as high as for younger consumers. Therefore, they may not be concerned about whether they're spending too much time on social. On the other hand, younger users are possibly more aware of the fact that they spend a lot of time scrolling unnecessarily. This could make them more likely to give 'Scroll Free September' a go, making them the core audience that would affect paid social campaigns' performance.

So, some people have decided to cut down, but will they keep it up?

It's very probable that some will be able to stop using social media completely for the whole month, but many may just last a day or a week. As a result, the impression volumes may only see an impact in the first week of September, as opposed to the whole month. However, this will depend on how the initiative takes off.

Will consuming less social media affect user engagement with content?

Changes in the way people use social media could influence their perception of different content, making them more or less responsive to ads. My theory is that if they're not consuming as much content, users will be more engaged with the ads that are in front of them. 

What should advertisers do?

We cannot be sure what the impact, if any, will be from 'Scroll Free September'. The main thing we can do is consider the possibilities and plan ahead.

1)      Be aware that there may be a drop in impressions at the beginning of September

2)     Consider weighting more budget towards the end of the month to balance potentially lower performance at the beginning of the month

3)     Look at opportunities through other channels which are in line with the goals of the existing paid social activity should the campaigns be limited

Instagram also recently introduced the "you're all caught up" messaging once a user reaches a post they've previously seen. This means that consumers scrolling endlessly is even being picked up by the platforms, and not just mental health bodies such as the RSPH. The impact of these measures on paid media will be interesting to see, as will the ongoing adjustments required on paid social strategy as a result.

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