Social media is no freebie
LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – these are the big players in social media marketing for professional services. And when every firm from every industry started to utilise these social media platforms to leverage the power of digital marketing, one of the main reasons they were such attractive marketing tools was because they were free.
Anyone could easily create an account, as long as they had a valid email address. In fact, there was a time that people created multiple profiles across all the various platforms. It cost nothing to follow other users, and you didn’t pay anything for every time you posted a new status or added a photo to your album. And it certainly didn’t ask you to pay money to send a private message to your friends or followers.
It was the perfect marketing tool for being incredibly effective, efficient and free.
However, at some point, businesses realised that in order for them to reach their business goals, they needed to take their social media marketing to the next level. It was no longer a matter fitting a post in here and there – you had to pay a content specialist, or expand your marketing team, to generate creative content that would be shared.
We have now entered a new era where social platforms are commercial, with commercial goals and ROI requirements – and it’s now pay-to-play! If you wanted to grow your sales, increase your fanbase, better target new and returning clients, perform A/B testing, and gain insight with platform analytics, then paying is the way.
Does it matter? While it certainly changes our relationship with social media, it doesn’t stop us from using it. Sure, it’s not as ‘fun’ as it was when we first created the account to start building our social media presence. But because we know how business works, we knew that it was inevitable that we would have to pay if we wanted to stay in the game. And maybe paying is not that bad, as it may encourage a change in behaviour for some; to become more strategic and thoughtful in their presentation online.
Social media is still the most powerful channel for us to reach our target markets. LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform to deliver content (both paid and organic), with an 82% effectiveness rate. And according to the Content Marketing Institute, 32% of B2B marketers used paid ads on social media as part of their marketing strategy in 2017 with research by DMA predicting that social media will grow to 24 percent of marketing budgets within five years.
Can you still use social media without paying? You certainly can – but do remember to calculate your resource cost is administering and managing it. According to the brands studied by Forrester who said “no thank you” to paid ads and were still trying to grow their numbers organically, they were only reaching 6% of their fans.
Ultimately, social media marketing is going to cost you. But it doesn’t have to be painful, particularly since you know that it is currently your best bet at reaching the right audience and improving your exposure and reach. And the best way to prepare for it is by understanding your advertising goals, choosing the social media platform that is right for you, and being smart with your paid ad targeting strategy.