Social media has become a playground where businesses must pay to take a turn on the swingset.
Unpaid organic reach of online content is not completely gone, however, its effectiveness has drastically diminished thanks to sophisticated algorithms that give preference to paid content, serving it up with ease to the audiences advertisers are now forking out cold hard cash to reach.
What does that mean? That if businesses want to ensure their content is seen, shared and engaged with, and hence, has some form of measurable, meaningful ROI, they too must get out their credit card and make room for Mark Zuckerberg on the payroll.
“Last year, a survey fielded by small business directory Manta showed that 59 percent of small businesses hadn’t seen any ROI from their social media activities.”
— Marketing Lead
“Social media has changed the game for many small businesses, providing platforms for developing and engaging audiences and creating stronger connections to customers and potential customers.”
— Bluehost Blog
As social platforms evolve in their features and functionality, they must also carefully nurture and protect their precious (and fickle) user base, and thus, charge advertisers to be there. And by advertisers, we mean organizations, brands and businesses big and small.
Why is this is reasonable? Because if these platforms did not protect the user experience – and keep in mind why most people use social media in the first place, which is for fun and entertainment – their audience would cease using the platform. This exit would be quickly followed by businesses (a.k.a. advertisers), and shortly thereafter, the financial legitimacy and overall value of the company.
Consider what has happened with television commercials. As we, as demanding modern day viewers, increasingly come to dislike the disruption that commercials inject into the tv-watching user experience we are expecting to have, advertisers not only have to pay more to reach us, but become much more clever than they have in past. Finding new methods and madness to capture our attention and steal us back from the disruption-free experience our Netflix or PVR provides.
Quite simply, whether paid or unpaid, free or ‘easy’ content reach is no longer a luxury any business can rely on.
So how can we use our advertising dollars in the most effective way?
1. Target: Facebook and Instagram allow you to be mind-blowingly specific when choosing your audience. You can target based on geographics, keywords, lifestyle, job title and more, allowing you to connect with a specific demo like never before.
2. Put your money where it performs: Google AdWords and Facebook both allow you to pay only for what’s working via cost-per-click spending rather than cost per impression. This means that you only pay when the user completes the action you desire, be it an e-newsletter sig-up, website click-through, page Like, etc.
3. Analyze and adjust: Through built-in analytics like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics, you can easily see which ads are performing and which posts are resonating and which ones are not, and adjust accordingly. Build, test, adjust.
While the numbers can certainly be confusing, if you take the time to familiarize yourself with your social platform’s built-in tools, watch a few tutorials, learn what content is working and what’s not (and perhaps even attend our Digital Advertising Course!), you can create a highly effective and affordable digital marketing plan for your business.
And if you still aren’t convinced of the benefits of a paid social media, check out this article from Social Media Examiner.
Whether you’re on board with paying to have your branded content shown on Facebook, Instagram and Google or not, the social media landscape is forever moving in this monetized direction, and those businesses who do not properly invest in the opportunity to engage with their audiences will most certainly pay the silent price.