Gone are the days when social media was “merely social.” In today’s landscape, social media is now just another form of advertising, similar in many respects to traditional media. It’s a pay-to-play system, one that requires money to gain traction and to build a targeted audience. That’s not to say you can’t still build an audience organically, but it is probably about a gazillion times harder than it used to be. (Yes, we checked. Gazillion is a statistic.)
Once upon a time, with some good old grit and creativity, social media could be used to build a large following for free, and people could leverage that audience to build and promote their businesses and services. Because of this, businesses began using them more and more as a way to advertise and build brand awareness. Yes, people were still “social” on these platforms. But people were also using them to market.
With Wall Street projections for social media sites to increase their revenue far into the future and as users and advertisers, we realize they were developed as advertising and media ventures, not social networks—it seems only logical that the businesses that advertise with them must be succeeding with their marketing and advertising efforts? Not necessarily.
Realize that social media isn’t a standalone business marketing model that operates alone; you need many more well-oiled pistons to drive your marketing engine. Even for social media networks, social network isn’t their business model—most well known social media networks have an advertising business model, optimize every area of the experience on their platform to ensure that people keep paying them money through advertising spend.
Many organizations and business owners fail at getting results from their social media program because they expect “social media” to be a business leads machine. For these businesses, regardless of the success or the lack of success they put in place, they assume that all social media marketing will work well once they can commit lots of time and money into promoting their product or service on social media.
It doesn’t always work that way.
If measurable results from social media advertising is your purpose, you should realize that social media—no matter how much you are spending with the network—is only a means to getting you impression, clicks and brand exposure to end users, everything else from there on depends on you and the commitment to developing a strong content marketing system.
Build on the brand familiarity and trust principle
The “familiarity and trust principle” states that we tend to be more receptive and open to, and attracted too, to products, services, and content the more we are exposed to it. Depending on your industry and several factors, it can be difficult to effectively measure your ROI—or generate profit—if you only focus on people’s first exposure to your brand. A clear marketing strategy and a system are where the “familiarity and trust principle” comes in to play, which you can take advantage of through retargeting and other advertising methods.
The focus should be on getting your audience to also follow and connect with you in other places (like your website, newsletter, ebooks or blog posts) where you can create additional touch points and a trusted relationship.
Social Media Money
As a result, the creators of these social platforms saw that there was money to be made. Even though platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn may “seem” like they are there for people to share what they ate the night before and rant about their views on politics, the reality is these platforms are now businesses too.
The other reality is that people worldwide use social media almost daily. It is estimated there are roughly 1.59 billion users on Facebook alone. And you can bet that most of those people would mutiny if they were charged a fee to access their formerly “free” social media account.
But, these social media “businesses” have to make money if they want to continue to grow. Their user base is too large not to leverage it. Which means they have to charge something for people that are using their platform. So, these social media companies got smart.
They figured out the best way to monetize their huge audience is to charge other business owners fees for advertising to them so that they could keep general usage “free.” This would keep their core users happy. Then they modified their algorithms to make it harder and harder for people to grow or reach an audience organically and rolled out new features catering to businesses and solopreneurs looking to advertise.
What that means is that these days, social media campaigns are run much like traditional media campaigns, and businesses who use them to market, have to figure out ways to track their metrics and ROI just like they would with any other type of advertising medium. It also means that the more they are willing to spend, the more people they are likely to reach. That can hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are countless businesses and brands that spend countless dollars for very little return because they don’t know what they’re doing and are targeting their audience incorrectly.
Even still… though it is a pay-to-play model and many businesses are spending money with a poor ROI; social media is still probably one of the less expensive methods of marketing you can throw your advertising dollars at. That’s why it’s important to learn the platform you intend to advertise on thoroughly before spending even a dollar of your advertising budget. Each social platform comes with its own set of pros and cons and each platform has unique challenges. If you learn how to use your chosen platform properly and learn how to correctly target your audience, you can do very well on a significantly smaller advertising budget that might be needed for other, more traditional advertising mediums.
Sadly, we have reached the end of an era. Free advertising and videos and posts that go viral with no ad spend are largely a thing of the past. Social media sites have wised up. You now have to pay to reach your ideal market and social media is no longer, “merely social.” It’s big business and will likely continue to be big business long into the foreseeable future. Which means it’s time for you as a business owner to figure out how to leverage social media platforms successfully.
Let us help, a good starting point is a social media audit.