The Rules Have Changed: Paid + Earned


This year it’s become abundantly clear that social media no longer exists in a silo. Everything is social, and social is everything else. This comes with opportunities as well as challenges—one of which is the fact that using Facebook to reach your fans with just an earned approach is become less and less effective. Success is now found when earned and paid approaches work together.

A Group M Next research study found that the share of Facebook users seeing organic posts from a brand they “like” was down 38% over the course of five weeks. Even though reach is down, engagement (likes, comments and shares) are up.

Brands are getting more out of fans when they get them to their Facebook Pages, but paid ads are becoming more essential to maintain the level of reach marketers have gotten used to with previous versions of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.

The Rules Were Never Set in Stone

This change is consistent across most social platforms. Facebook started out by building a user base then giving brands the ability to create a “free” presence. Facebook then introduced advertising options and slowly but surely made changes that force brands to reevaluate their efforts and consider paid advertising.

Twitter has followed a similar path with the introduction of its Promoted Tweets, and Pinterest is also moving in this direction with the all-new business pages.

The cycle is consistent across platforms, proving that nothing is set in stone, especially on properties we don’t own—Facebook Pages, Twitter profiles, Pinterest Pages, etc. They can change the rules, which means a brand leveraging social platforms should balance them with owned platforms such as websites and email lists. Don’t just be prepared for changes. Expect them.

Marketers have expressed frustration by the changes, especially because no clear monetary value has been assigned to fans. But we cannot argue the inherent value in building communities of advocates.

Paid + Earned Approach is Imperative

The numbers prove that approaching platforms, especially Facebook, with a paid (Facebook ads) and earned (engaging content) is the only way to get the most out them and their users.

Facebook released a study in conjunction with comScore called Understanding paid and earned reach on Facebook to show just how strong this link is. Some highlights of the study include:

  • Brands using paid media reach an audience 5.3x larger than their fan base. – Marketers are effectively using paid media to distribute their messages to more Facebook users, including fans, friends of fans, and demographically and psychographically targeted users.
  • Paid media can extend the reach of a single piece of content by more than 100 times. – We can make good content even more successful by using paid media to ensure it gets in front of more people.
  • Ads reach less active users. Organic content reaches heavy users. – Different approaches reach different kinds of users. Marketers can diversify the audience they’re reaching by taking different approaches.
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Evaluate and Optimize

The social web is changing. Social media is no longer just about earning attention. It doesn’t operate in a silo, so ensure your paid media and social media teams are fully integrated, evaluate your current approach and determine if you’re getting the results you want. Then optimize your efforts as needed with tools that will do the job, both paid and earned.