The Ins & Outs of Paid Social Media: How, What & Why?

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Last July, I wrote a post discussing the large outcry of from Facebook’s newly introduced (at the time) Promoted Posts concept. It was controversial at the time. Social media up until then was founded on the idea of organic reach. The “free as in beer” price gave social media a marketing meritocracy that engaged brands small and large.

But how things change in a year. The “pay to play” measures didn’t kill social media advertising and marketing. In fact, brands and companies began budgeting for paid advertisement, and other social networks implemented their own version of paid advertisement.


Digital marketers saw this coming. As far back as 2013, 65% of brands were expected to create a budget for paid social media advertisements. Currently, 70% of marketers surveyed said they would increase their social media budget.

The trends are clear: paid social media is the future of digital advertisement. And taken in the right framework, it can benefit both the social network (they can pay their bills) and the digital marketer who creates content specifically for this realm.


An essential detail that brands must understand is that paid social media posts are different than organic posts. Two different approaches are required.

Social media approached organically – let’s say in the form of a tweet – isn’t necessarily selling a product. Your brand’s Twitter or Facebook account could be used to answer customer questions or engage otherwise. Not every one of your customers needs to see your tweet answering another question, thus it is referred to as permission-based marketing.

But everyone will see your paid social media post. The goal is to grab the attention of anyone scrolling through their feed or timeline. This is more akin to interruption marketing.

Interruption marketing must be loud. It must be direct and get to the message that builds your brand. If the traditional use of social media is about building a unique brand voice, then paid social media puts your voice squarely in front of customer eyeballs.


Like with Promoted Posts (and most movements in social media), Facebook lead the way in not only creating a blueprint for paid advertisement, but making it acceptable and essential for brands. They are the biggest driver of social media traffic.

You can be exposed to as many as 1500 stories every time you log on to Facebook. So imagine the clicks and eyeballs your brand can get by paying for a post. Castrol Moto increased their reach from 2.7 million to 14 million on Facebook by creating a budget for promoting posts.

Outside of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest have each introduced their own version of “pay to play”. With so many options, it essential for your brand to hit the right demographic.

Instagram delivers 120 times more engagement per paid post than Twitter, and of course, we know how visuals drive engagements. But the millennials who make up Instagram are a far different group than the older professionals of LinkedIn.

Regardless of how you feel about paid vs. organic social media, the future is clear. Paid social media must be not only incorporated in every digital brand’s budget, but brands must also understand the specific level

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