When you share your child’s latest achievement on Facebook or Instagram, you are tapping into your organic social network, one that’s comprised of your family, friends, and social network acquaintances.
But when you bring your brand to these platforms, you are tapping into an advertising medium.
No matter how many Likes you have amassed for your brand’s Facebook page or Instagram account, without advertising you won’t have anywhere near the reach you need to make your program successful.
Organic reach is dead
That’s how social media users see your post based on unpaid distribution. All major social media networks use algorithms to decide which members of your network see your latest content, which means without advertising only a tiny portion of these people will see your next campaign.
Organic reach has been falling off a cliff, for two reasons.
The first is the volume of social media content is exploding. Back in 2014, Brian Boland of Facebook explained, “There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it. On average, 1,500 stories could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.”
So you are competing with many other social media users to get “your” consumers’ attention.
The second reason is it’s in the interest of every major network to get you to pay for reach, rather than to give it to you for free. Their business models run on advertising, so you have to advertise to get attention.
For example, organic reach on Facebook hovers between two and four percent. So if you post something on your Facebook page, just two to four percent of your “engaged” audience will see it… unless you have an advertising budget behind your post.
You need a media budget for social media
No matter how well your company has attracted consumers, every time you launch a new social media program, you need a social media budget. You have to pay – every time – to reach a significant audience.
This seems outrageous to many marketers, especially those who perceive social media as a human-centered, collaborative manner of communicating with a lot of people for free. That may be true for individuals, but it is not true for brands. In fact, the business model that supports social media networks is advertising. If you don’t advertise, you don’t reach many people.
Still, your approach to social media has to be driven by the way social media works best. I call this a Social First mindset. It’s more about helping consumers and engaging them, rather than selling your latest product. Even though it costs your brand money to be there, your efforts can’t come across as mercenary and self-serving.
Too often, we come across companies whose social media efforts rest with an entry-level person who lacks any media budget whatsoever. It is this person’s role to simply translate their company’s marketing efforts to social media.
This means the company is:
a.) Using the wrong strategy, and…
b.) Lacking a budget to reach people
Social media is a personal medium. It works best when an actual human being shares something that resonates with other people. Corporate efforts are already more pre-planned and consensus driven than this, so they start at a disadvantage. But such obstacles disappear when a smart team brings resources and the right mindset to social media.
With a decent media budget, you can still capture more attention on social media than in any other medium. And with a Social First strategy, you can acknowledge the humanity of your followers and interact in a manner they find compelling.
Being bold, provocative, and creative is not a substitute for a good old-fashioned media budget. You need both.