Paid Social Media Marketing: Welcome to the New Reality

Organic reach is dying. Social media posts that might once have reached thousands of people and generated hundreds of likes now linger in obscurity. That has far-reaching implications for your brand’s strategy. Businesses that once got by without spending a penny will now have to readjust their thinking – and their budgets.

The Death of the Organic Post

Organic content started to lose its power way back in 2014, when reach dropped by almost ten percent drop (from 16 percent to 6.5 percent). It took another hit in 2016, falling by 52 percent in the six months between January and July.

The 2018 algorithm change has brought even worse news for brands that rely on social media to reach new customers. Facebook has announced that it wants to focus on facilitating real connections more than promoting brand content. Executives say they’re returning to their original business strategy. Skeptics say they want an excuse to charge businesses for promoting content.

Either way, the change has already had an effect. Many brands are now getting just from their organic posts, and Facebook has sounded the warning: soon, that number may soon reach zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. In other words, the time has come. Social media is no longer a free broadcasting platform. From now on, businesses will have to pay for exposure.

Here are some tips for adapting to that new reality.

Find Your Audience and Analyze Your Data

The first rule of paid social media advertising is simple: Don’t waste money. The second rule? Don’t waste people’s time. When you have to pay for impressions, you better be sure your ads or sponsored posts are reaching the right audience.  

Use what you know about your target audience to craft buyer personas and design different ads for each group. These days, Facebook advertising tools let you choose who will see your ad based on amazingly granular demographics.

Finally, don’t just rely on your instincts. Test each ad with different audiences to see how well they perform and then use analytics to measure key performance indicators. In the world of paid advertisements, nice comments and vanity metrics aren’t good enough. You need hard numbers to justify the expense of a real campaign.

Inform and Entertain

People hate it when ads clutter their social media feeds. At the same time, many rely on social media to find new products or learn about new brands. That puts businesses in a tough spot. How do you engage potential customers without irritating them?

For one, you follow the next rule of social media marketing: Don’t intrude. People are open to brand content, but not if it’s irrelevant or annoying. When creating an ad campaign, remember why people use social media in the first place: to stay in touch with other people, to be entertained and to get useful information.

If you’re not a friend or family member, you better focus on producing content that satisfies the last two needs. Offer users fun, interesting or useful information and tie your product into current events in a way that’s authentic and appropriate.

Combine Organic and Paid

Organic content no longer has the visibility it once did, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. The only way to expand your reach and find new customers is to buy space on social media channels, but you still need organic content in order to establish your brand image.

Think of it this way: what happens when someone sees your ad on Facebook or Instagram? The first thing they’ll probably do is click on your profile. If they like what they see, then they’ll be more likely to trust your brand and actually go through with a purchase. If they find old or poorly conceived content, they’ll be more likely to leave and never come back.

While your ads are there to meet specific goals – awareness, leads, conversions, etc. – you should use your organic content to showcase your personality and inspire loyalty. It may not be measurable, but it is critical.

Focus on Quality, not Quantity

Back when organic reach meant everything, and social media advertising was free, you could get away with posting 50 times per day. The more you posted, the more likely you were to be seen and heard. Now, you’ll be shouting into the wilderness.

In the age of paid social, each post needs to pull its weight. You can no longer afford to shower people’s newsfeed with content of questionable quality. You’ll need to be much more selective. That means creating fewer, but better organic posts and instead pouring most of your energy into conceiving great ads that catch people’s attention.

If you really want to drive interest, produce more video content. People love videos. In fact, they like videos more than they like just about any other type of content.

Whatever medium you choose, you should design campaigns that mirror organic content and blend into people’s newsfeeds. You’re not trying to fool people into clicking on your ads. You are trying to attract them with content that’s just as interesting, useful and entertaining as the content on the rest of your profile.

Converse, Don’t Announce

In the early days of free social media advertising, the goal was to broadcast your message to as many people as possible and direct them to your site. It was all about wholesaling – the one-to-many relationship.

Now, it’s more about connecting with a select audience. Facebook’s decision to prioritize real-life relationships with family and friends over brand content is just one example of a larger shift from group-based interaction to one-to-one communication.

According to a SproutSocial survey, 90 percent of people use social media to communicate directly with a brand. Some want to vent frustrations. Others ask for customer support. In order to adapt, your business should move away from seeing social media as a means of driving of traffic, and instead use it as a way to interact with customers on a more personal level.

When someone complains, respond immediately. If they have a question, be there to answer it. Engaging with your audience can be just as important as the valuable content you post, so be sure to engage back!

There’s No Such Thing as Free Social Media Marketing

Change is hard. Businesses that grew up in the early days of social media, a world in which they could spread their message without spending a dime, may have a hard time adjusting to this new reality.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In the real world, we get what we pay for. When it comes to social media, the past few years have been an anomaly, but now the major tech companies are joining the real world of pay-for-play advertising. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to get serious about your online presence and hone your social media marketing skills.

You can start by reaching out to a that knows how to launch killer paid social campaigns.

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