The average UK consumer now spends 1 hour 20 minutes using social media each day. That’s double the time we spend eating.

Brands are responding to the power of social to retain the attention of increasingly distracted audiences, with UK social media ad spend rising by more than 50% in the last year to reach £574 million. According to the latest CMO Survey marketers plan to double budget allocation to social media during the next five years, meaning it will account for 20% of marketing spend. The major attraction of social media advertising is the ability to use the networks’ vast stores of first party data to target consumers by interests and past behaviour, as well as demographics, reaching highly specific audience segments at scale.

So, as it becomes an integral part of digital strategy, how should brands be making the most of social media?

Think mobile first

Mobile dominates social media use and over 80% of UK Facebook users will access the platform via a mobile device this year. Mobile is the ideal environment to reach consumers any time, any place, without being disruptive, and marketers must take a mobile first approach to social media campaigns.

And platforms are increasingly providing the advertising technology tools for them to do so, for example Facebook has recently launched Canvas, an immersive full-screen ad experience designed specifically for mobile, which delivers fast-loading ads within the Facebook app.

Although a mobile-first approach is essential, social media users still use a variety of devices to access their accounts. Marketers should make the most of social platforms’ ability to attribute every interaction to the specific device it originated from to help them target users more effectively.

Va-Va-Video!

With online video expected to account for 80% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2019, video ads are becoming an essential part of any digital strategy. Video is a particularly good fit with social and Twitter has recently released First View which places brand videos at the top of news feeds.

Short micro video ads are increasingly popular, and YouTube has launched six second, non-skippable Bumper ads to reflect this trend. However, research from YuMe shows that while short ads do perform well as a quick reminder of established brands, longer ads – at least 15 seconds – are required to impact persuasion metrics and deliver a more complex message.

Live video streaming is the latest emerging technology in social media with the imminent launch of YouTube Connect expected to rival Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope. Brands such as Land Rover are already using live streaming on social media to create an immediate, authentic channel of communication with audiences.

Know the new social media kids

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the networks that spring to mind when the conversation turns social, but there are a variety of other platforms providing access to unique audiences across global markets with their own ad tech offerings. Pinterest – which has just made Promoted Pins available to UK advertisers – could be ideal for reaching a female audience, while Snapchat – recently used to advertise Cadbury Creme Egg – is a great choice for communicating with the younger generation.

The growing influence of social media makes it an advertising channel brands can’t afford to ignore. By planning their strategies carefully, brands can ensure they capture the attention of distracted audiences during the most social two hours of their day.