It's official. Marketers can no longer get by on social networks consistently by relying purely on organic means. Platforms are forcing the hands of brands to pay to promote their content and get the most out of their presences on social networks.
Facebook flat out admitted that organic reach is declining among brand pages as it continues to update and tweak its Newsfeed Algorithm. Facebook's solution for marketers? Consider paid distribution to "maximize delivery of your message in News Feed."
Facebook takes a more black box approach than other social networks in terms of what it takes to organically reach an audience, but it's by no means acting alone.
Twitter has a slew of Promoted Products designed to help advertisers extend the reach of their content to audiences. Twitter content can have a short life. It's fleeting, so advertisers can pay to give it staying power and ensure an audience sees it. Google+ is taking the first steps to paid distribution of content with +Post Ads, which will initially not be shown on Google+ but instead on websites part of the Google Display Network. +Post Ads signal a next step for Google+ toward paid promotion of content. Then platforms like Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest, which are ramping up promoted content ad offerings of their own.
Everywhere a marketer turns, the organic gravy train is coming to an end.
Quality Content Matters to the Bottom Line
These social networks have built their audiences, and marketers naturally want to reach those audiences. If paid distribution is a requirement, marketers can either complain or leverage it. Quality content is rewarded with user engagement. Using paid distribution as a spark for content is just the beginning. Likes, comments, retweets and shares extend the reach of that content lowering the cost to reach an audience. So instead of posting and hoping to reach the audience. Advertisers can pay to guarantee reach and earn 'bonus' reach through engagement.
Social's Media has Grown Up
The changes can be frustrating initially, but they do represent positive trends. Platforms are getting better with greater sophistication and more targeting options. They're offering ad options, advertisers should want to leverage. The changes push social media out of a silo into the realm of being another tool to deliver highly customized, highly targeted messages to consumers.
It means marketers need to step up their game. Social, creative and media teams need to work together as one to create content and messages people care about and want to interact with, seed it through paid channels and then interact with the community to stoke more engagement.
Some will consider the approach of these platforms as a bait-and-switch on brands. Get us there. Get us using the platforms and then make us pay. That's a valid point, but these social networks can do whatever they want. Instead, view them as another avenue to engage consumers and as an opportunity to drive consumers to platforms the brand controls and the brand owns. That's where the brand controls the rules from beginning to end.