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Putting to Rest the Concept of “Organic” Social Media

There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.

Okay, so that’s not really original. Any opportunity to plug in a line from Gladiator, I’ll take it. Despite the overly serious tone of the quote, it plays well with the dream that was social media. The idea of having a set of free venues through which businesses could interact with consumers and the consumers could interact back presented itself as a grand concept to be desired and cherished. Unfortunately, the dream is dead. Success on modern social media requires one of two things: serious fame or cash invested.

Unless you’re Justin Bieber, your brand needs money in order to be relevant on sites like Facebook. There’s no other way to look at it. Even Twitter gets exponentially more useful when a little money is applied to it. LinkedIn, YouTube, and possibly Pinterest and Instagram are all heading down the road of pay-to-play if you really want to find success.

It’s not the evil plan of social media sites come through to their end game. In fact, most of the social sites outside of YouTube went in with the hopes of not having to apply advertising as a primary source of revenue, at least not in the formats they’re presenting themselves in today. “Advertising” was a dirty word in social media startup circles just four or five years ago. Today, they’ve accepted that their dreams of making money through networking and data are simply no long realistic. As their dreams died, so did ours.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the cost of playing the game right is, for now, extremely low when compared to the potential results. For a fraction of the cost of Google Adwords or display advertising, campaigns can be set up through social media that bring in similar results. In some cases, depending on the goals and campaigns, the results can actually be better despite the lower spend. Let’s take a look at the recent past, the way it works today, and the near future:

It All Blew Up

For better or for worse, the people muscled out the businesses. On Facebook, for example, the feedback from users was that they simply weren’t interested in seeing as many posts from pages as from profiles. They might like the show Game of Thrones and they might not mind occasionally seeing updates posted on their news feed, but for the most part they go to Facebook to see videos of little nephew Timmy sliding into 3rd base. Facebook obliged recently (and really, for a long time they’ve been creeping in this direction) and made it less likely that posts from pages were visible in news feeds.

There’s a silver lining to this, though. While users were not as accepting of posts in their news feeds from pages that showed up organically, they’ve demonstrated a tolerance for sponsored posts. In essence, they know instinctively that they have these services for free and that Facebook is a business. As long as they have some sense of control over what they’re presented, they don’t mind ads on Facebook any more than they mind television commercials. They tolerate them. At least on Facebook, they have the ability to let Facebook know which posts they don’t want to see on their news feeds.

Social media blew up. It got too big for brands, at least from an organic perspective. On Facebook and Twitter in particular, the feeds are too cluttered with personal posts to allow the business posts to come through naturally. That’s okay. We should be paying. If anything, this makes it to where the aggressive businesses can take advantage of the exceptionally low cost of entry without being muscled out by popular pages with their organic reach.

Today

Now that we know that organic reach is dead, we can move forward with the benefits of this. Facebook has done a terrible job at educating businesses about their advertising powers and Twitter has done even worse. Google+ – don’t get me started there. This is bad for them. It’s great for us. It’s great for companies that are starting to take advantage of it.

There are caveats, most notably that the ad types used to bring people to the table and try advertising are the worst ones. On Facebook, the “Boost” and “Promote Your Page” buttons are the easiest to get you started and the worst at achieving results.

Data. That’s the power of social media. Unfortunately, both of the basic types of advertising have trouble thinking about scratching the surface of the data components. This isn’t the place to go into details about how the data works, but suffice to say that it’s extremely powerful when used appropriately.

That’s today. Get involved and use the data that you have as well as the data that Facebook has. With that understood, what will the future look like?

Shifting Towards Mobile First

Everything is shifting to mobile.

Everything is shifting to mobile.

Everything is shifting to mobile.

It cannot be overstated and it doesn’t matter where you put the emphasis. Mobile will eclipse desktop soon for nearly all forms of internet browsing. It already does with social media. This is why, no matter what you think about social media, you must make sure that your digital marketing strategy focuses on mobile first and allows the desktop experience to happen as a secondary course. That’s not to say that desktops are dying or that they don’t need to be considered. They simply need to reside in a mobile world as if they’re big mobile devices without the touchscreen. Heck, there are plenty of desktops and laptops that already do have touchscreens.

As social media continues to evolve and mobile grows in eyeball share, so too do the advertising strategies need to match appropriately.

Social media is no longer organic, at least not for businesses. To move ahead, you have to either use social media from a defensive posture or go full force with the advertising component. The in-between strategies will do nothing more than waste time and energy.

Views: 40

Tags: Advertising, social, social media

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