Smartly.io was first started in 2013 as a solution to automate and optimize Facebook advertising at scale. When customer acquisition on Facebook began to scale up, the online advertising market shifted overnight – first gaming companies, then ecommerce began flooding advertising budgets to the social platform. Our founders saw the challenges that arose from this influx as well as a new need in the industry.
At the time Facebook’s native advertising tools were still rudimentary. Workflows weren’t optimized for advanced advertisers. While we weren’t the first company to offer automation and optimization tools for this platform, we were uniquely designed to grow with the changing market.
Our product vision has always been to scale, automate and optimize advertising across multiple advertising platforms. As we grew our offering and capability with Facebook, Instagram was a natural next step for expansion. Both owned by Meta, the two social channels are also accessible through the same API. In technical terms it was seamless to integrate.
We knew many of the tools we were building for Facebook and Instagram were relevant for other social channels. For example, solutions like reporting and creative templating could be plugged into other advertising platforms to make managing, optimizing, and automating advertising at scale easier and more effective. What really compelled us to pursue our multi-platform approach is the way larger, more traditional advertisers buy software. Their rigorous procurement processes signaled to us that an all-in-one solution covering multiple platforms would be what the large enterprises would be looking to leverage.
Once we had our product set up for more varied platform integrations, we started evaluating other platforms for Smartly.io. We leaned into our existing customers during this time – what platforms were they interested in and excited about? When we found a group of advertisers who successfully scaled their advertising in an emerging platform, we took note.
It was this thinking that led us to expand to Pinterest and Snapchat in 2020, then most recently (April 2022) onto TikTok. With 1.5B monthly active users and eyes on tripling its revenue this year, TikTok has become one of the most important platforms for reaching highly engaged audiences. As advertisers expand to more platforms like TikTok, being able to produce on-brand and engaging creative requires the right mix of best practice knowledge and creative bandwidth.
A multi-platform approach does have layers of added complexity in which we’ve had to remain flexible and nimble. Each social channel has platform-specific requirements that we need to understand fully — formats, metrics, and other specialties. Our Platform Integration teams are the experts here and have a close connection with their counterparts on the platform partner’s side. They need to understand where the advertising platform is going, its vision and roadmap. Maintaining feature parity between these platforms and Smartly.io is crucial in order to provide the full value of the integration to our customers.
On top of this, we have innovations — like our creative templates — which add value to what the advertising platform offers in its own tooling. These are often platform-agnostic, and we offer them across each platform we support. These solutions are owned by separate product development teams, who have the latitude to think beyond the one platform and explore ways to augment how advertising campaigns are created, managed, automated, optimized and scaled, across channels. We also don’t stop innovating once a platform has been fully integrated. The product development teams continue working with product managers, product designers and customers to build value-add solutions for each platform we support — from Facebook to TikTok and newer additions. And then there is an in-between layer of what platform-specific solutions we can bring to the other platforms. For example, tapping into the power of user generated content (UGC) on TikTok, or artificial reality in Snapchat.
When we started growing our creative capabilities and services, we saw the opportunity for expansion into the Google ecosystem. In 2020, we began offering tools for designers and other creative professionals to enable an end-to-end creative and media buying solution, helping marketers and designers collaborate better together.
Often designers aren’t working solely on paid social, but they also create ads for display and Google advertising. Our acquisition of Ad-Lib.io earlier this year (Jan. 2022) put us in a position to one day make it possible for designers to craft and use the same creatives across paid social and display as well as Google channels. This was a crucial step for us in our overall approach as the industry demand for solutions that bring creative and media closer together across all channels rapidly increases.
We’ve learned a lot from our platform expansions, particularly a well-functioning process for new integrations. Our goal is to produce value for customers fast and allow them to get going on a new platform as quickly as possible. We use this as a guiding principle for new integrations, following a tried-and-tested process that aims to maximize value for customers early on.
What is critical to our success as well, is ensuring the user experience runs smoothly and consistently across the whole product and all platforms. Customers gain a complete experience of the product when they use it end-to-end. They aren’t thinking about it as a set of smaller solutions or services. We must look at our product through this same lens, and by doing so, become naturally exposed to the big picture at which our users are looking. This means deeply understanding their workflows and needs on each platform.
In creating a consistent user experience, we invest a lot into product design, discovery and user research. We’ve been building a design system and component libraries to make sure all new designs are consistent across the board and the look and feel of the product stays consistent across different product areas and platforms.
Our journey from Facebook-only to multiplatform has been an exhilarating one. We are proud of what we’ve built and excited for the opportunities still on the horizon. Through our continued growth we remain laser-focused on helping advertisers gain unparalleled relevance and reach in the ever-changing social and digital advertising landscape.