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Future of Social Media Marketing is a Path Paved in Payment


Successful social media marketing, if not now, then in the near future will require an investment. Marketers are going to have to pay to play.

It’s an idea that’s been in the corner of my mind for a while and was crystallized last week when reading a post by Edelman’s Dave Armano titled: What Comes After Social?  In the post, Armano takes a brief look at five predictions for the future of marketing, but there’s one that truly compelling:

“Social media increasingly becomes a paid game.”

Social Media as a Native Ad

As we watch Twitter begin the IPO process – the third of the big three to do so counting Facebook and LinkedIn – I can’t help but think he’s right.  Not too long ago community managers were ablaze over Facebook’s changes that filtered posts.

Why?  Organic engagement had plummeted.  I watched as the engagement on several Facebook pages, with thousands of fans drop off significantly, despite the best efforts of a rather charming community manager.

It used to be a good community manager could grow fans, engagement and referral traffic quite easily with useful posts; but no longer, and for community-minded companies, that is tragic. From Facebook’s perspective, it is solving an important problem:  those users with thousands of friends and perhaps as many “liked” pages, can’t possibly view them all, so Facebook now decides what they should see.

A brand that has built a community on Facebook is increasingly required to invest in social ads to reach that same community. Ads purchased are injected into the news stream. On a platform where the users are the product, social ads on Facebook may well be the ultimate native advertisement.


emarketer social media marketing

Data Says Marketers are Prepared to Invest

Two separate studies, one by Adobe and the other by Duke University, both of which were covered by eMarketer, suggests marketers are prepared to invest in social advertising.  The Adobe study found that marketers are uncertain about digital marketing priorities – but social media marketing still topped the list.

It was followed closely by personalization and targeting (something you can do very precisely in social advertising), creativity and digital ads.

The Duke study, which was conducted by the business school found that social advertising spending continues to rise, albeit at a slower pace, as traditional advertising declines:

“Social media continues to be an area of focus—and uncertainty—for marketers, as they continue driving up spending on the digital format. In August 2013, social ad spending accounted for an average of about 6.6% of marketer budgets. Within the next year, that share was expected to rise to 9.1%, and in the next five years, marketers expected social to account for 15.8% of spending.”

The End of Earned Media?

Fear not PR types, this is not the end earned media, but rather it is the beginning of brand new world and one you should be eager to adopt.  Why?  Because paid media can lead to earned media when organizations are strategic about selection, tone, style and context:  this is blended media.  The lines are blurred on all sides.

Typical hard calls to action for discounts and demos – a staple of direct marketing – are bound to fail on social media.  People accept these promotions in our inbox as the cost of having email connectivity, but they’ll simply ignore it on social media.  Worse still for brands, users will simply hide or mute such posts, which means marketers stand ZERO chance of every reaching them again. Ever.

What does work in social ads?  Content.  Useful, relevant, sexy content.

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