The Pay to Play Model of Social Media
Gone are the days when you could grow your online presence organically. Algorithm updates across all social media platforms have forced businesses to pay to get their message in front of their target audience.
However, this pay-to-play marketing strategy isn’t all bad.
It has been fruitful for businesses that jumped on the bandwagon early on. According to a report by WordStream, Facebook advertisers convert deals at nearly 10%. Some industries like fitness and education have nearly hit a 15% conversion rate, making paid social media one of the most effective marketing strategies today.
In this article, we'll discuss how social media marketing has changed to a pay-to-play model and how you can grow your business through an effective paid social media strategy.
What has changed about Social Media Marketing?
In the early days of social media, all of your followers would receive any message that you pushed out through your channel.
That meant if you were able to grow your audience to 10,000 followers, you had the potential to get your sales message in front of 10,000 eyes with the press of a button.
That is not the case today. The average reach rate for your organic posts is as low as 10% – meaning only 1,000 of your followers may see your message if you had 10,000 people following your account.
In 2022, Instagram registered an average reach rate of 13.51% and Facebook’s average reach rate went up to just 8.60%.
This means you have to do more work for less of a reward.
Why did social media platforms change to this business model?
The all-mighty dollar bill. Social media companies make money by advertising to their users…and they have billions of them.
At a certain point, social media companies realized that businesses were able to use their platform to reach and sell to their customers.
Instead of letting businesses freely advertise on their platforms, they made it (almost) necessary for companies to pay to get their message in front of potential buyers. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have forced the hand of businesses to pay up by reducing their overall reach for organic posts.
Should Your Business Be Using Paid Social Media?
Yes, if you want your business to compete online in 2022 and beyond, you will need to invest in paid social media in some capacity.
It has become too hard and time-consuming to only focus on organic growth. Especially, when paid social media makes reaching your target audience easy, affordable, and instant.
Social media marketing is still in its infancy stages, so there is still time to get started. But…you don’t want to delay much longer or you risk getting passed by your competition.
Social media advertising has rapidly become one of the top options for marketers to reach their audience.
In 2021, social media ads accounted for $50 billion of the world’s total digital advertising spend at $154 billion. And marketers spent $23 billion more on social ads in 2021 than the year prior.
A big reason why social media advertising has risen to the top is its effectiveness.
On Facebook, advertisers achieve average conversion rates of 9.21 percent. That means for every 100 interactions with your Facebook ad, nine will convert into a lead or sale. How many more deals could you close with a conversion rate like that?
Businesses that resisted digital marketing at first, are now flooding the market. With social media being so saturated, it is even harder to grow your social following organically.
One way to give yourself a leg up on the competition is to use paid social media.
Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer user-friendly advertising platforms. And it doesn’t cost as much as you might think to get your message out to the masses.
Facebook has a feature that allows you to “boost” content to thousands of Facebook users for as little as $5 a post.
Plus, if you know your audience well, you can strategically target your content to fit your ideal customer profile. Facebook allows you to determine your target audiences based on the following demographics of users:
Location (country, region, or city) – you can include or exclude one or more locations to narrow down your audience, as well as choose among the additional options of people living in this location, people currently in this location, or people traveling to this location.
Age – you can show your ads only to adults by choosing an age range from 18 to 65+, for example.
Gender – you can select men, women, or “all”.
Language – enter a language to show your ads to people who use a particular language.
This is just the tip of the spear. You can get even more specific with your targeting by showing your ads to people based on their interests, educational level, and annual income.
These targeting capabilities can help your business reach users who are most likely to purchase your product or service.
How to get started with Paid Social Media?
When it comes to paid social media, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The best way to get started is to experiment and see what works best for you. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Decide which social media platforms you want to focus on.
Not all social media platforms are created equal. You'll want to focus on the platforms that are effective and most relevant to your business.
According to HubSpot, in 2021 marketers reported that Facebook was been most effective channel when it came down to return on investment.
2. Determine your budget.
The great thing about paid social media is you don’t have to spend a ton of money to see results. You can start slow and scale up as you determine which campaigns are most successful.
3. Create compelling content.
Your content is key when it comes to paid social media. You need to create content that is interesting and relevant to your target audience.
Design your posts for mobile. In 2022, 81.8% of Facebook users used a mobile device only to access Facebook.
This means you will need to create short and engaging posts that will grab the attention of your customers.
Keep it short: Create ads that are no longer than 15 seconds, and communicate your key message in the first three seconds.
Grab attention fast: Fast-paced videos with lots of movement and different scenes are more effective at stopping scrolling thumbs.
Don’t rely on sound: Mobile users typically scroll with the sound off. Audio should be an added bonus, not critical to communicating your message.
4. Test and track your results.
It's important to test and track your results so you can see what's working and what needs improvement.
You can optimize ad performance through A/B testing. A good rule of thumb for A/B testing is to only change one or two elements of the ad. A couple of good examples of how to A/B test your content are:
Use different copy with the same creative
Use different creative with the same copy
Use the same creative and copy, but different calls to action
Organic social media is like going around town passing out your business cards, and hanging sales pamphlets. Yes, you can do business this way, but it takes a lot of your time and effort for fewer results.
Alternatively, paid social media is like paying to have your logo on every bus, train, and billboard in the city. This option works while you are sleeping and allows you to scale your business.
Finally, to grow your business online in 2022, you should be putting at least some of your marketing budget into paid social media. This strategy is affordable, easy to set up, and much more effective than organic social media marketing.