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Is Pay To Play The Future Of Social Media Marketing?

Small Business Owners Suffer As Big Networks Monetise


It should come as no surprise that old-fashioned social media marketing (if such a concept is possible) is under threat. Organic reach on the big players like Facebook and Twitter just isn’t what it was. Critics decry Facebook as little more than a glorified advertising network, but one which is struggling to bring about robust marketing profits for all but the largest brands, who, frankly, we all know about anyway and who can afford to pay their way. So will this be the norm – is the free social media marketing of old resigned to the back pages?


David Moth, deputy editor at Econsultancy, wrote in The Guardian at the beginning of the week about the demise, and potential end, of free social media marketing. He charts these growing grumbles over the past 12 months, looking at the stats to show how the figures for organic reach are dwindling. Forrester research published in October last year began with the bold statement that ‘Facebook is failing marketers’. Based on a survey of nearly 400 marketers, the data shows that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity, with Twitter and Google+ faring only marginally better, in second and third last place respectively. (Onsite ratings and positive reviews are what you want to be aiming for, by the way).

Facebook, despite assuring us that the user’s experience is at the centre of their business plan, is at the forefront of squeezing every penny from paid social media marketing, and other networks, such as the once-innocent Twitter, are following the trend for news feed algorithms and sponsored ads. Twitter is set to become a ‘pay-to-play’ network too, as the announced algorithm changes mean that no longer will users see the continuous live stream of tweets, but will be shown the content that Twitter deems the most important – and those willing to pay will quickly become the most important.

In theory, everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page is volunteering to receive messages, promotions and content from that brand – on average however, Facebook algorithms mean that each brand’s post reaches around 16% of its fans. More recently in March this year, Ogilvy found that organic reach on brand pages had fallen to a pathetic 6%, compared to (a still somewhat measly) 12% the year before. For pages with fewer than 500 fans (small business or startups) organic reach fell from an already pitiful 4% to just 2.1%. How long will it be before this figure flat lines completely?

It’s not just on Facebook that the figures are looking ominous. On average, tweets only reach about 10% of followers as they quickly lose out to other posts, and Pinterest is also moving towards monetisation with the introduction of ‘Promoted Pins’.

Facebook have responded to these self-explanatory stats saying that they ‘expected’ this gradual decline as they ‘continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site’. Top marks for predicting this decline, but what are they going to do about it? Well, not too much for the foreseeable future.

Brands and small businesses are being crowded out of social media platforms as content from verified publishers and people’s friends is given priority in the news feed. One option is to pay up. The other option is to look elsewhere. Facebook, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, represents the old in new media. For the big established brands it is still worthwhile, but for smaller businesses it seems that free organic reach is wishful thinking these days; whilst you sit and wait to see how the big social networks decide to develop their revenue streams, you may want to look into some of the many other social media platforms and emerging marketing channels.

Katie Rowley 

Recent graduate and now interning as content editor, when she's not writing articles Katie can quite likely be found festival-ing, holiday-ing or reading a book (dedicated English student that she is). Follow her @KatieAtSMF.

Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info http://socialmediacambridge.co.uk/.
Is Pay To Play The Future Of Social Media Marketing? Reviewed by Katie Rowley on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Rating: 5
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