The cliche goes things move fast online, and few areas run at the pace of commercial social media sales. As networks expand so too does their need for funding, meaning it’s becoming harder and harder not to pay as a brand-user.
There was a time when employing social media to promote a product, event or news piece was all about choice. You decided on the platform, and more so whether to focus down on achieving successful organic results, or instead use the once-rudimentary but now increasingly sophisticated paid-for features in order to extend reach and amplify the overall brand. While most of that is still true today the option to spend more on actual advertising within social networks is looking less and less like an option- companies and agencies alike are being forced down this path.
Tweaks to the way in which content is distributed on everything from Facebook to Twitter, and improvements on how content could be distributed, are making it increasingly difficult to be seen without spending significantly more cash than previously required. The organic reach of Facebook posts, for example, has fallen off the cliff in the last 12 months or so.
The number of your gained fans that see standard posts is now just 10%, meaning even if you had 100,000 fans it’s impossible to reach them with your message unless you pay money to advertise. Admittedly, the average user has a News Feed crammed full of so much information they no longer know where to look. But, realistically, the catalyst for this move is to drive companies to pay for additional advertising and in turn boost their exposure.
Twitter, which has always been visibly less ad-focused than Facebook, is also looking to bolster revenue streams by twisting corporate arms. Twitter Cards, as we covered on the blog not so long ago, now mean companies can pay to have bigger images, more introductory copy and a clearer preview of linked websites attached to tweets.
Add to that options to promote your overall account, or individual tweets, and it becomes pretty obvious that while you don’t have to opt-in, now these products have been introduced the firms that use them are likely to fair much better when it comes to final click throughs and conversions. And those are really just the latest developments. The process of merging social media public relations, marketing and advertising requirements has been going on for years for the simple reason such platforms are not commercially viable as businesses without corporate money.
It certainly calls into question the neutrality of information being passed around this particular digital sphere, which as the networks look to position themselves as news providers could spell a rocky road ahead. Nevertheless, from a PR’s point of view it’s difficult to argue with the notion that any and every social campaign now needs an allocated ad budget to stand a chance of achieving anything.