November 8, 2023
June 25, 2020

What is Social Display?!

Casey Saran
Co-Founder & CEO

Social Display advertising unites social media with paid media. It’s crazy that we hadn't done this already.

For all its promise, digital marketing remains an unfortunately siloed business. Nearly every brand invests in both social media — teams of people who agonize about what content to place and promote on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms — as well as paid media — the ads you see across the “rest of the web.”

And here’s the crazy part: In most marketing departments, the teams who run social rarely, if ever work, closely with the teams who create traditional paid media. If that sounds crazy, well, you’re right. It is.

Although the metrics can be quite different, the goals of these tactics are essentially the same: Creating awareness and conversions against targeted audiences, building relationships with current and new customers, and driving engagement for the brand overall. Put another way, social media and paid media teams have the same goal: engaging customers and driving interest in purchase.

Each team tends to over index on certain skill sets. Social media marketers, who focus mostly on large platforms, are experts at creating high quality, engaging content that draws consumers into a consistent brand universe, one that aligns with the context where those consumers live — a perfect Instagram post, for instance, or a clever pin on Pinterest. And paid marketers, who play across the nearly infinite world of the open internet, are masters of data, insights, audience segmentation, ROI, and other programmatic arts.

Here’s our question: Why not bring the two further together?

Paid media campaigns can and should leverage the power of the engagement, social validation, and familiar experience of social media platforms. And social media efforts can and should leverage the scale and transparency of paid display media across the open internet to better inform what types of messaging and imagery drive real results.

We thought this was such a good idea, that three years ago we built a company around it. We call it Spaceback, and it’s the industry leader of an emerging digital marketing category we call Social Display advertising.

What is Social Display?

Social Display advertising is the distribution of social media posts outside the walled gardens of social media platforms, often using existing media buying infrastructure. The user experience is similar to encountering social media posts “in the wild” rather than seeing a banner ad, and as a result audiences engage at significantly higher rates.

Spaceback Social Display Instagram Animation

Why haven’t I heard of Social Display before?

Social Display is a new, and quickly growing, category pioneered by Spaceback, so don’t feel bad that you haven’t heard of it yet! We first began testing with this in Q4 2017 and quickly found that Social Display advertising outperformed standard display buys in every single test we ran (across various brands and categories). These initial tests showed an increase in CTR between 20 percent to more than 5x! Spaceback’s platform is certainly first to market, but given the ease of adoption and widespread benefits, we aren't surprised to see how quickly its taken off.

What are the benefits of Social Display over standard paid media campaigns?

1. Superior Performance

Social media posts look and feel more like entertainment than traditional ads. It’s a clever way to combat ad blindness. Data consistently shows that users engage with social media posts at significantly higher rates than standard banners.

2. Better User Experience

Social media posts are more about building relationships than driving transactions. This approach encourages organic engagement and signifies to the user that what they are seeing is content rather than an ad. This goodwill extends to the brand and contributes to superior performance.

3. Increased Insights

Brands that leverage Social Display have the unique ability to learn what types of social media posts best perform for driving more traditional KPIs. Brands can then use this data to inform which type of social media posts to create and reinvest in creating content that better drives engagement everywhere rather than looking at different media buys and content strategies in silos.

4. Cheaper and faster than traditional banner ads

Social Display campaigns can automatically be live in tandem with new social media content making for a much more real-time experience than stale banner ads offer. This means no more lengthy and costly turnaround times to build banner ads. Automatically building creative also makes it much easier to test and optimize many different posts and executions.

5. Increased control and transparency beyond social buys

Social Display allows brands to manage distribution of social media posts using their own media buying stack. This means that any and all attribution, tracking, targeting and bidding strategies, etc. can be used to easily compare performance of Social Display with other media buying tactics. None of this is possible through traditional paid social campaigns where the social platform also acts as the media buying system.

How can I incorporate Social Display into my media plans?

Whether managing in-house or through digital media agencies, most brands already have some kind of social media presence. Social Display platforms sit on top of the social media platforms, and automatically sync to the post and access all the information and metadata required to authentically rebuild the post in other environments. Brands simply receive an ad tag that they (or their media buying agency) can leverage as a 3rd party creative within any DSP or media buying system. This enables brands to maintain complete control of the media buying process and experiment with Social Display without the need to completely reallocate media spend.

How do I evaluate the success of Social Display ads?

Social Display represents a new tactic to better achieve traditional business KPIs. In other words, this means that you can use Social Display to better achieve whatever business objectives are important to you. Social Display has proven to be very effective at driving better CTRs, engagements, video completion rates, conversions, etc. — even directly measured ROAS goals!

Can I leverage Social Display with influencer content?

Yes! Social Display allows buyers to extend the reach of influencer posts beyond the limited number of individuals who follow on social media. This enables brands to get more value out of the content, while giving influencers a new way to increase share of wallet with their brand partners.

In conclusion, Social Display advertising carries the potential to break down the silos that marketers often lose sight of. Brands can use Social Display to unify social and paid media strategies to improve communications within internal teams and better connect with new audiences alike.

To learn more about Social Display and how to boost your social media visit

Social Display
Marketing Strategy
Social Media