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Social media advertising: Should you pay to play?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 | By Catriona Pollard

As businesses seek to trim the fat and slimline their processes, debate has risen about the value of social media advertising. Is it converting into sales, and how much does it contribute to the bottom line? Does it work?


If brands are going to be on social media channels, particularly Facebook, they need to pay to play. What this means for businesses is you need to buy advertising to show your posts to your current fans, and if you want to continue to use the social medium platform to reach new customers, and expand your growth using quality content, then you have to play by Facebook’s rules.


Once upon a time social media was fantastic at building engaged communities but now, with the move towards fast-moving feeds across all platforms, the focus has changed to producing ‘snackable’ content – highly relevant posts that can quickly make a big impact, resulting in shares and engagement – and the best way to make this work is to advertise.


When Facebook recently changed its algorithm, page managers threw up their hands in exasperation. Almost overnight it seemed audience reach plummeted, making it harder to connect with audiences using pure organic posting.


Now it seems there is little choice but to advertise.


While the questions relating to the value of social advertising are valid, there needs to be a change of perspective in determining ROI and, instead, the focus needs to be placed on brand value and the benefits it offers rather the metrics.


Sales versus thought leadership


As a way of measuring success, businesses typically choose to focus on the amount of sales generated and brand lift. However, social media advertising is completely different to traditional advertising. Metrics such as likes, retweets and followers are often used to determine ROI.


The problem is though, by measuring success through these factors, you are applying old fashion ad principles to new methodologies and you are missing the bigger picture, which is around thought leadership and how customers and clients feel about a brand.


Businesses need to measure ROI in terms of brand value and how many people are having conversations about their brand. They must also look to measure how many click-throughs they get to brand-owned content and how many positive messages are being shared.


Market response to your social media advertising and the way in which you are engaging with your customers and clients holds much greater value than just likes or retweets.


Using social media to be a thought leader


Social media is an amazing place to build thought leadership, which in turn builds business and sales, not only through advertising but also through brand-owned content on key platforms.


Blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter present countless opportunities for businesses to participate and shape the debate around key industry issues.


However, just because a business is on social media and commenting on industry issues, it doesn’t mean they will instantly be seen as a thought leader.


Businesses must have the authority to speak on an issue, contribute thought-provoking content, and be willing to stand out from the crowd. They must also ensure they are an expert that people want to hear from, that there is regular content being shared, and that they are engaged with customers and clients.


Without a considered strategy, businesses are just wasting money.


Social media advertising is about more than just sales, it is a chance to build a brand presence and become a thought leader. Therefore, it’s worth the spend!


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.