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Suckered into Social Media Advertising (and that’s not a bad thing)

Today, using the “free” social media platforms as a marketing tool without spending money on them is about as useful as playing the first level of the freeware version of iPad game.

It used to be so exciting to think about how to market a business on social media. We would read articles, watch videos, go to conferences, exchange ideas, try things out, and come up with the very best way to reach the people. Just a few years ago, it was exciting to be in the social media marketing world.

Things have changed. Many of my contemporaries who have been working in social media for nearly a decade have talked to me lately about how it’s all going downhill, how organic reach is gone and that the pay-to-play model has ruined the industry. They say things like “money makes the crap float to the top” or “there’s nothing creative about paying for exposure.” I agree with them during these conversations, not because I believe what they are saying, but because I’ve found that the exact opposite is true. I’m just trying to avoid an argument.

The reality is that the death of organic reach on social media sites is the best thing that could happen to creative social media marketers. Does it mean that some of the bottom line dollars must be spent in order to get the content the exposure it needs? Yes. Does it also mean that the crap that once filled news feeds across sites like Facebook have been yanked in favor of a proper mix of profile posts with a sprinkling of important, targeted, and paid-for exclusive posts? Absolutely.

It was once pretty futile. Sure, a few posts could get some pretty good exposure, reach, likes, retweets, shares, +1s, or whatever, but there were times when the best content didn’t reach the audience at the degree it deserved. Relying on organic when organic was still an option was a poor strategy. Now that there needs to be a budget (a very small budget, mind you), the potential exposure for high-quality content has actually increased due to the shift in need towards social media advertising.

Facebook and Twitter are the two obvious choices for embracing the paid model and in both cases, the shift was a very positive thing. Our messages can’t get muscled out by the big players just because they’re more popular. Paying to get the attention to the best content or most important posts is a sure-fire way to make certain that the message reaches the right people every time.

The thought that it killed creativity is ludicrous as well. In fact, the dollars attached to the campaigns mean that more care must be put into them. Nobody wants to waste money, so embracing a higher standard of post quality is now at top of mind. As much as we’d all like to think that we were putting out incredible content every time before, the reality is that everyone has days where they’re going through the motions. It’s on those days that a free post can slip through that is terrible. With the paid model, we must pay more attention. It’s better for everyone involved.

We all got suckered into it. We didn’t want to pay for it and for many of us, the reason that we got into this game in the first place was because we could gain exposure for our own pages or our clients’ pages by being good at the game. The paid model doesn’t change that if you really think about it. By paying, we are more invested and will perform better across the board. It’s part of human nature.

They got us to try it. In many ways, it’s like the freeware games that we download that try to get us hooked so we’ll pay for the full version. We got addicted to this world of social media marketing and now we can’t get out of it. Thankfully, the shift is starting to weed out those who are ineffective at taking advantage of what’s given to us all. If you’re not willing to pay to play this game, you should probably find another. Organic reach is dead on social media. Perhaps getting better organic search rankings is better suited for those who can’t play in social media anymore.

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Tags: Advertising, social, social media

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Comment by Carl Maeda on July 16, 2014 at 1:10am

I 100% agree.

The pay-to-play model also made people invest more in understand the more technical aspects involved in social media.  I was pretty amazed when a friend of mine that is a social media consultant explained to me some of the things that go into ranking Facebook posts (including the original 3 factors in EdgeRank).

Comment by Mark Frost on July 15, 2014 at 2:57pm

Couldn't agree more, JD! In fact, the whole "pay-to-play" shift should make more businesses want to produce higher quality content since they'll be paying for the traffic. Have to get your money's worth!

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