Pay to Play: Social Media Isn’t Free Marketing

Social Media Isn't Free Marketing

Social Media Isn't Free MarketingOne of the most common misconceptions we run in to when talking to small businesses about social media is that social media is a free tool at their disposal.  Sometimes those managing Facebook pages believe that if they write it, they will come.  We’re here to tell you: social media marketing isn’t free marketing.

Facebook in particular has developed an algorithm that prevents your posts from being seen by all of those that like your page.  Ever notice it’s some of the same people that like each of your posts or otherwise interact with your brand on Facebook time after time? That’s because Facebook has “learned” that they are engaged with your product or service and want to see more.  Also, Facebook has learned that their tool needs to be free to end-users, and businesses will pay big bucks to reach those end-users.  In comes sponsored, boosted or advertised posts.

Last spring we attended Facebook’s Boost Your Business seminar in Nashville.  When we asked a Facebook rep what the actual percentage of people reached organically through our pages is (even after we’ve potentially paid to get those fans…) she said basically less than 1%.  So unfortunately, that great post you just made is reaching 1% of your fan base.  Sidenote: See some of our content posts about catchy content and viral posts – and as content-crazed as we are, you know we’ll revisit that another time.  Social media’s cost isn’t solely in boosted posts or sponsored ads, it’s also the time put in to craft content and analyze your audience and their behaviors.

Shifting to Instagram, if you have been on Instagram at all in the last 48 hours, you’ll have seen all of the “turn on notification” messages as brands simultaneously panic as they see a Facebook-like algorithm in their Instagram futures.  Stay tuned, but we suspect as Facebook has had Instagram ads integrated in their Facebook Ads Manager for some time now, a shift in the organic results of Instagram news feeds are coming.

So what can you do?  While yes it’s frustrating that there is no such thing as free marketing, it is true that Facebook and social media can be very inexpensive tools for the results they produce.  When you’re paying cents for an engagement and less for an impression, highly targeted social media ads are a great way for businesses to target their customers and potential customers.  And it allows you to get down to the smallest details that may influence buying behavior.  And for the data geeks (hello, Sarah Whitaker), there are reports and charts and cross-referencing options within the ad management tools that will allow you to do more research about your target demographics than you may have done before.

So yes, you have to pay to play. Social media marketing is not free marketing.  It certainly is nice to have a platform to engage with the individuals that are likely in to your brand rather than waste your marketing dollars shouting at the masses that don’t care, don’t you think?