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How Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter Pushed Performance Marketing Forward in 2016

Written by: Carolyn Berk, Content Marketing Associate

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s already clear that this was a landmark year for social advertising. Ad revenue from US social advertising this year is already over $14.8 million, and future revenue is forecasted to double in the years to come.

Additionally, social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter unveiled many exciting new ad units and developments throughout the year, strengthening social’s role as a key channel for performance marketers looking to drive results. Here are a few advertising highlights from 2016, including developments that will impact marketing strategies well into the new year.


American Express Facebook Canvas Ad

In Q1 2016, Facebook rolled out several new developments that provided advertisers with new ways to reach their audiences. Canvas ads  allowed marketers to tell stories and showcase their products in a whole new way. These fast-loading mobile ads gave Facebook users an immersive and engaging full-screen experience to better connect them with brands and more effectively inspire action.

Lead Ad Example - Lead Ad Introduction

Meanwhile, developments in lead ads made it possible for advertisers to more quickly and seamlessly collect information from interested customers through lead generation forms built directly into the ad.

Facebook’s Dynamic Ads for travel

Facebook’s dynamic ads were already a hit with retailers in 2015, who used them to retarget shoppers with a real-time, personalized catalog built for the mobile age. 2016 saw the rapid development and enhancement of dynamic ads, which now more emily enable advertisers from all industries to leverage dynamically personalized ads served to audiences across devices. Travel, education, finance and other types of advertisers began adopting dynamic ads to drive leads, app downloads and revenue growth on websites and apps.


Instagram’s advertising API only became widely available in late 2015, but 2016 has been a year in which the platform has quickly leveled up its advertising offering alongside its parent company Facebook.

In Q2, Instagram revealed that its user base had reached an impressive 500 million Instagrammers around the world, with 300 million people logging on every single day.

Instagram Dynamic Ad

Advertisers quickly realized the power of Instagram not just for branding campaigns, but also for driving meaningful direct response results. Among many performance-oriented developments, Instagram introduced dynamic ads to enable marketers to reach new and existing customers in a whole new way. Like on Facebook, advertisers could now use this powerful retargeting solution to drive sales using a flexible new creative canvas.

Instagram CTA redesign GIF

As user growth skyrocketed, Instagram continued optimizing the platform experience to benefit users and advertisers alike. As one of many examples, the company updated the call-to-action (CTA) button in its ads. Previously, the CTA button lived below the bottom right hand corner of an ad. After the makeover, the CTA button appeared as a bar directly below the ad’s image, highlighting in blue in order to draw eyes and hight-intent clicks.

The redesign resulted in measurable gains for advertisers. In a study of Nanigans’ mobile game advertisers on Instagram, click-to-install rates on app ads on Instagram jumped 32% following the CTA redesign.

Instagram vertical ad

Instagram continued to expand its offerings in Q4 when it introduced a new vertical ad format. This format fits the natural shape of mobile screens, giving advertisers more flexibility to test how different creative elements can optimize downstream returns on Instagram.


In 2016, Twitter rolled out a wide range of enhancements built with profit-driven advertisers in mind.

In a move benefitting both advertisers and users, Twitter announced that it was eliminating restrictions that counted towards a Tweet’s 140 character limit. For example, media attachments such as photos no longer counted as characters in a Tweet, leaving more options and flexibility for marketers and Twitter users alike.

HP Twitter Carousel Ad

Twitter also rolled out a new ad unit called a Promoted Tweet Carousel. This ad unit gave marketers a canvas to showcase multiple Tweets within one ad. These Tweets could be their own content, or Tweets from other people, allowing advertisers to leverage social recommendations. These interactive ad units are also ideal for mobile, giving users the option to swipe through to see more content.

Twitter Audience Platform

Twitter also offered app advertisers a tremendous new opportunity to reach a wider audience through mobile app install ad campaigns on its Twitter Audience Platform (TAP). With an audience of more than 800 million, TAP enables advertisers to expand ads beyond Twitter itself to reach audiences in the fast-growing app ecosystem.

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