How Are Social Media Platforms Making It Necessary To Pay To Play?
Evolution is the name of the game for social networks, but the most recent changes seem to hint at more of a revolution. Up to this point, most brands looked to social media as an organic way to connect and have a conversation with their users. Today, due to changes in the platforms and increased competition in the space, brands are finding it increasingly difficult to break through the clutter to find and engage users.
So how does a brand connect with its users today? What is the secret ingredient? Roads are leading to the incorporation of paid elements. Each platform is implementing its own system, but overall making it necessary to consider partnering on a paid level to maintain and support organic performance. While relevant and timely content continues to take center stage, if brands want their users to see their message, they need to invest.
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are included in my discussion today, but we know that Instagram and others are quickly following suit.
As competition to be seen and heard on Facebook intensifies, as well as the over-saturation of branded messaging, the social channel has responded. This year, Facebook has made changes to its algorithm that force brands to compete for time on users’ News Feeds, functioning very similar to Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Visibility for a user will be determined by the user’s interest in the brand, the post’s performance among other users, performance of past posts, type of post a user prefers, and how new the post is. The overall goal is to show users their most relevant messages.
While this can be helpful for a user, it is absolutely limiting brands. The only way to grow more valuable as a brand in a user’s newsfeed is to see consistent engagement (likes, clicks, shares, comments, etc.), and one way to build that engagement is through paid advertising like promoted posts. When a promoted post is targeted properly, a brand can achieve extended reach within its current fan base while potentially adding new followers, which leads to an uptick in engagement. If Facebook is an active tactic, strategies will now need to incorporate paid in conjunction with organic. Not doing so will result in decreased reach and engagement over time, making it more and more difficult to communicate with brand audiences. While content has always been king on Facebook, paid components have now become a crucial partner in the success of a brand on this platform.
Facebook is not the only tool that provides an opportunity for paid media. Twitter has a similar self-service platform that allows for targeted ads based on platform learnings. While an algorithm isn’t in place to limit post visibility, the social network has recently introduced a mute button to allow users the opportunity to cut down the clutter. When a user mutes an account that they currently follow, they will no longer see this account’s posts in their timeline. The muted account will not be notified and will still be able to engage and respond to the user’s tweets; however, that will not be visible to the user. To counteract this, brands are able to gain new followers through a promoted account, only paying when a follower is added. Additionally, brands can reach more users with their content through promoted tweets, only paying when a user engages. This cannot stop users from muting a brand account, but it does assist in building and preserving an engaged audience.
Fighting to be part of the conversation and to reach users is growing increasingly important across this platform. While we know advertising plays a role on Twitter today, it is likely that Twitter will follow the same path as Facebook and push brands to advertise in order to continue to reach users regularly – making paid executions that much more vital.
Recently, Pinterest has been making big strides in testing paid advertising through promoted pins in search and category feeds. While users won’t see the advertising within their own feed (as you would with Facebook and Twitter) they will be served relevant paid pins upon searching. This product is currently being tested with a limited number of advertisers. The tool has been announced as a cost-per-click rate that is a self-service set up similarly modeled to other platforms. Pinterest has modeled its efforts after Search Engine Marketing, providing brands the opportunity to be front and center in extremely relevant ways. Any active brand on Pinterest should be adding this to its strategy once the service is open to all advertisers. It is a relevant way for brands to be seen, as well as gain new like-minded followers.
Social media is ubiquitous, and while the platforms continue to grow and change the ways that brands connect with their audiences, the shared space must be woven into everything a brand does today. Doing it right means brands must develop a strong social strategy that allows them to be nimble and adjust with the ever-evolving platforms. This flexibility ensures that a brand will remain relevant and valuable to its audiences.