Week seven of Digital Marketing was the most information dense session yet. Taught by Naomi Blackman, a Strategic Planner at John Street, it covered the ever-morphing universe of “paid social.”
The first planet we explored was Facebook. We stayed there for two thirds of the class.
Naomi began by outlining what she referred to as “the old proposition” for brands on Facebook: building an organic Facebook fan base by posting a lot, trying to make it engaging, and largely letting the brand take a back seat. Cue the cute cats.
“But that’s dead,” she told us, before we had a chance to get attached.
Facebook knows that it has a lot of data that are very valuable to marketers and advertisers, so offering brands free reach is not in its best interest. Now Facebook charges that reach.
A chart appeared on screen showing the negative correlation between Facebook’s stock price (rising) and business pages’ organic reach on the platform (declining steadily).
“Facebook is the largest voluntary, non-religious organization in the history of the world,” writes media strategist Jay Baer, the chart’s creator in a tweetable soundbite. “They are not dumb.”
In light of these new circumstances, Naomi continued, a brand’s organic fan base on Facebook has become little more than a measure of credibility. Once you’ve established a solid enough foundation of “likes” to show that you’re a real brand worth paying attention to, trying to grow your organic reach on Facebook is no longer a sound use of resources, because you can only reach that audience through paid advertising.
Facebook, in other words, has largely become a “pay to play” environment.
Naomi went on to decrypt the different types of ads available on Facebook, to give us an overview of best practices, and to teach us some useful tactics for tracking the performance of ads.
Eventually we moved on to Twitter, in whose potential as a paid social platform Naomi has what she diplomatically called “a personal lack of faith.”
So Facebook, for now, appears to be the more inhabitable of the paid social planets. Just don’t expect to make friends for free.