Remember how refreshing and novel Facebook once felt for marketing? The social networking behemoth allowed for open, free communication to a massive audience of potential fans, friends, and customers in a way that we’d never seen before. Its features enabled free-flowing dialogue and discussion between brands and individuals, and its chronological newsfeed privileged high quality, shareable content over canned, obvious advertising.
Social media was once looked at as a great equalizer for marketers, offering local businesses and massive companies more or less the same features and opportunities for reaching audiences, albeit at different scales. Increasingly, however, there is a feeling among marketers that what was once an open, equitable frontier is going the same way as print and TV advertising, becoming a narrower channel where convention - and the almighty dollar - are the law of the land.
Certainly, more and more marketers are shifting focus when it comes to Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, concentrating more heavily on paid advertising campaigns, rather than organic reach and discussion.
Research firm Gartner’s "Digital Channel Survey 2016” report highlights a growing trend toward paid advertising: According to the firm’s findings, 80% of the industry executives surveyed said “they would place paid advertising programs on social media within the next twelve months.” Of that 80%, 38% of industry insiders report already having paid social media campaigns in place, while 42% will be launching paid efforts for the first time this year.
The Decline of Organic Reach
Much of this push toward paid social marketing is in response to what Reuters calls “a decline in the reach and engagement from free marketing tools, such as posts,” a trend we’ve been observing for some time now.
Organic reach has rapidly been trending toward zero on Facebook, for example: According to one study cited by Hubspot, organic reach for the average Facebook page declined from 16.5% to a mere 6.5% between 2012 and 2014. Other reports paint a similar picture; research from Social@Ogilvy, for instance, found that total organic reach could be as low as 2% for pages with more than 500,000 likes.
So, what do these two trends tell us about the future of the medium? The Gartner report spells it out in clear language: "Sustained success in social marketing now requires paid advertising.”
The Advantages of Paid Social Advertising
If there’s an upside, it’s that paid social efforts, for the time being, are at least still relatively affordable. Facebook and Twitter users can “promote” posts to hundreds of viewers for as little as a few dollars a day; similarly, Facebook and Instagram’s native advertising is, on a cost-per-click level, relatively affordable, particularly compared to AdWords on Google, which can be highly competitive.
Paid social advertising is also less of an investment than other, non-digital forms of advertising. For a technology company, for instance, it takes about $9.66 for 1,000 impressions, or ad views, on Facebook, with a daily or lifetime budget that you can strictly set and control. Per a popular distributor, a bus ad in a “high income” market can run from $3000 to $6500 for a four-week period – potentially a vastly more expensive proposition, with less of a guarantee of success.
And then there’s the matter of audience. Facebook and other social platforms allow for extremely detailed “targeting” options, based on age, location, and demographic information; what this means is that you get more value for your investment, ensuring that your social ads only go in front of audiences most likely to want to engage with you. Facebook Ads also offers powerful “remarketing” tools, so that with just a bit of code, a reader who’s spent time on your site will receive advertising for your business on their social timelines, encouraging loyalty and retention. Try getting that from a bus ad or late night TV commercial.
Real World Success
Like many in our field, we here at Geek have been stepping up our paid social media marketing efforts over the course of 2016 and 2017 - and our clients are seeing some amazing results, in the form of increased overall traffic, higher conversion rates, and improved ROI.
For instance, one of our clients - a team that works in a fairly niche field, with several high profile competitors - came to us looking to secure more leads, at a better cost than what they were then spending for SEM and display ads. For reference, here's what the breakdown for their traffic looked like before we began running their social media marketing and advertising:
Once we began our comprehensive approach to social media marketing, however, we saw social take over a far more significant share of total traffic; in fact, their overall traffic actually increased - with them actually spending less to secure those leads, to boot:
Better leads, for less cost overall? That's the beauty of well-crafted, effectively targeted social spending!
Other Digital Marketing Channels
At the same time, it’s important to remember that social isn’t the end-all-be-all for digital marketing. There are plenty of other channels that have a proven track record for driving in leads, generating conversions, and inspiring engagement. Rather than fretting about the future of Facebook, take some time to redouble your efforts on other lead-capturing online projects! Rethink your approach to capturing organic traffic via SEO; try diversifying your content with video, infographics, and slideshows; and start sharing your content through a digital newsletter, if you aren’t already.
The future of social media and digital marketing may not be the city of gold that we saw in the halcyon days of 2007, but it’s far from over - if you and your brand are ready to be pragmatic and think strategically about the road ahead.
Looking for a guiding hand along the way? That’s where Geek comes in! Drop us a line today to talk shop about social media marketing for your brand, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in industry insights from around the web!