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Should you pay to promote social media posts?

Written by Warren Davidson on 24 Feb 15
Should you pay to promote social media posts?

Head of Marketing Services Warren Davidson explains the current state of social media reach and what you can do to boost yours.

A recent article in the Guardian argued that free, mass social media reach never really existed. At a literal level, it carries weight but in the context of then-and-now, Jerry Daykin has got it wrong.

Brands never claimed to reach 40% of their audience or so (he never defines ‘mass reach’) via free social media marketing. What is being claimed is that the original organic reach – perhaps 15% or so – is now as little as 0.1%. That is as close to catastrophic as you can get and there is no sign of reversal. The free ride is finished.

Facebook's organic page reach has declined as advertising becomes more important. (Graph credit: Jay Baer, Convince and Convert).

Where does the blame lie?

Nobody can blame social media companies for monetising their platforms – it’s a capitalist world. Neither does the blame lie at marketers’ feet. An opportunity presented itself, it was seized upon, and now it’s gone. C’est la vie. In an industry as challenging as digital marketing, we need to adapt, stop moaning and eagerly find new ways to tap into nascent markets with untapped potential. Which leads me onto…

Paid social media marketing

It may seem odd to dance to the tune of social media platforms and do what they want so soon after falling out with them over free organic reach, but while everybody else rebels, an opportunity has emerged. Advertising on social media platforms – particularly Facebook – is cheaper than you think. With a highly targeted audience – you set the age, location, gender and interests, Facebook will tell you how many people your post will approximately reach. In my experience, it’s never under-delivered.

What’s more, Twitter is about to adopt the same strategy. Those theories you’ve based your Twitter marketing on? Post 5 minutes before/after the hour to catch people coming in/out of meetings? Sunday is the best day for engagement? 10am is better than 12pm? Forget about it. Twitter are beginning to roll out an algorithm that picks what content you should see in certain circumstances. The result? You can bet your house on paid posts becoming more prominent in your feed.

And when this is introduced, the hesitance surrounding it will be your chance to steal a march on your competitors.

Printing paper – Twitter's monetising strategy will change the way you approach social media marketing.

As with Facebook, the extra reach from paying to boost a post will be larger than it needs to be due to the combination of a lack of competition and the platform’s early attempt to entice users with high levels of reach.

A change of mindset

For the past ten years, we’ve all got used to social media platforms as being free. We loathe the idea of paying money, even for a company page (partly explained by the fact we used the platforms socially first). If reaching people and/or driving conversions in a social media marketing campaign is your key aim, then you will need to embrace the necessity of paying for that privilege.

I urge you to consider factoring in social media advertising into your marketing budget. We’ve seen increasing amounts of companies appropriating more of their overall marketing budget into social media, but, strangely, not with social media advertising. A scheduled campaign with small amounts spent on advertising will end up costing less and reaching more people than an organic social media marketing campaign run manually. I guarantee it.

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