You Get What You Pay For - With Social, That's Engagement

It’s not new news that reach on social platforms isn’t what it used to be. Last spring, brands reported a major decline in the number of posts that actually reached their fans and followers, particularly on Facebook. And they were right. Facebook’s organic reach has fallen over 25% in the past year. While this decrease has been the subject of countless blogs and articles, it still has not quieted the cacophony of complaints. The biggest gripe? Paying to have posts seen.

The perception lingers that brands are now forced to pay for something that used to be free, and herein lies the misconception. Social media was never free. Sure, a brand can set up an account for free -- but that’s where “free” ends. Someone needs to plan what content on which channel will garner the highest engagement. Then someone needs to develop the content. Someone needs to post the content and to respond to fans and followers (the true advantage of social). Finally, someone needs to measure and analyze all the social data for optimization. Even if that “someone” is just one person (as it usually is with small business), he or she isn’t working for free.

To take the “social is not free” notion further, brands must now factor paid social into their overall social approach in order to give their content the best shot of reaching the intended audience. In addition to increased exposure, paid social gives brands a leg up on the competition. According to Contently, paid social is a marketing frontier for many brands because their competitors have not yet entered or fully utilized it.

Another benefit of paid social is the ability to efficiently and economically target customers. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are continually introducing ad products, and newer networks like Instagram and Pinterest also offer paid options.

With all this talk about paying for social visibility, the conversation naturally leads to content. What content is worthy of a brand’s social marketing budget? Julie Fleischer, director, media and consumer engagement for Kraft Foods Group, said at this year’s Content Marketing World that Kraft is “relentlessly pursuing worthiness.” Kraft isn’t alone in this pursuit.

There is a shift among brands -- more of them are adopting content marketing. Along with Kraft, Master Card, New Balance, REI, Progressive Insurance, Western Digital and GE were in attendance at Content Marketing World. Each of these influential brands are not only examining what content is worthy of paid distribution, but also how to create worthy content.

As social platforms continue to mature and scale, increased focus on content will continue as social and content are inextricably linked.

“Content is fire and social media is gasoline,” content strategist and speaker Jay Baer has famously said. Is content marketing the next marketing shiny object?

As in the early days of social media, content marketing is undeniably consuming a lot of headlines. However, major brands are already embracing content marketing. If mainstream brands like Kraft are leading the way, it won’t be long before other brands realize the one-two punch of content and social to engage customers and prospective customers. That’s money well spent. 

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