There was a large outcry earlier this Spring when Facebook began purposefully limiting the organic reach of the Pages feature used by companies as apart of their social media strategy. This change called for marketers to begin expanding their reach and online presence for a fee. Not thrilled with the decision, online marketers reasoned that Facebook would resemble a ghost town in light of the decision. After all, what companies would want to pay money to have their brand on Facebook when other platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Instagram were free? But months later, Facebook’s controversial “pay to play” initiative foreshadowed the future of online marketing and changed the way businesses think about their social media strategy.
Even before Facebook’s reveal, the numbers trended towards paying for a presence on social media. 65% of marketers in a study conducted in 2013 planned to increase their social media budget for the year. 23% said they would transfer their online budget to help build a social media strategy. But 58% of advertisers said they would increase their advertisements on social media once metrics on ROI were clearly defined. So in stepped Facebook, and to less controversy, Twitter.
Many companies built a vibrant community around their Facebook Page organically without the paid help. Many companies felt as if paying for an audience was cheating and a less genuine way to expand their brand’s reach. As time passed, the stigma of paying for reach on Facebook or Twitter wore off and many brands now actively pay for an extended reach online. For marketers there’s debate of whether you should create a budget for social media advertising for your business as a bonus to your social media strategy or if that budget would be more effective used elsewhere. But perhaps a more pointed question to ask to settle the social media strategy debate is “Where is your audience?”
Facebook’s Promoted Posts is a way to make posts more popular and accessible to an audience consisting of people who liked your Page. Success stories for Promoted Posts include Galen Ward, whose “37 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Seattle” post gained an audience of 30,000 people with 8500 likes – all for $100.
Twitter’s version of paid social media advertising is called Promoted Tweets. Promoted Tweets allow you to choose a wide audience for your content, specifying through geography, gender, and keywords, among other categories. Los Angeles based photographer Drew Ressler set aside a budget of $7 per day for two months. In that span, he gained 1300 followers, averaging 30 cents per follow. Other positive case studies include nutrition blogger Tom Corson-Knowles, who used Promoted Tweets to gain over 37,000 followers on Twitter.
Whether to pay for Promoted Posts and Promoted Tweets comes down to your social media strategy. Both will increase the amount of users who come across your content, and the number of engagements with your brand (whether in terms of “Likes” or follows). But you could aim higher. Marketing strategists recommend pointing to a call for action through social media advertisements. After all, you don’t want to engage users just once, the goal is for users to become customers of your brand. This may be the most important factor of social advertising – you get to narrow down your audience. So even if you aren’t reaching a wide range of people, you can reach a target audience more willing to engage, using a smaller budget and a targeted social media strategy.
The choice to incorporate promoted posts or tweets into a social media strategy really comes down to two factors: the quality of the content, and who you want to reach. If your company has a solid social foundation featuring a community and valuable content, a working website, and a product worth promoting, then a social advertising budget will pay off in an increase in engagement.