Pay to play on Facebook

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The social free lunch is officially dead

Social media is the siren song for small businesses. It seems so egalitarian; put a post on any platform, and all your followers see it (and if you’re lucky that post will recruit many new followers). Well, the truth is every social
platform has its advertising downfalls, and as they all transition to publicly traded companies, their mission turns from connecting users to turning profits; i.e. businesses must pay for views.

Case in point: Facebook just publicly announced its plan to alter the master algorithm that populates users’ news feeds so they see more posts from their friends and fewer posts from pages or businesses. For years Facebook has had an algorithmic governor on page views. It didn’t matter if a person liked your business on the service, more likely than not your posts reached a mysteriously calculated few of your supporters. This new corporate shift away from page content seems great for friends and family casually sharing pictures and status updates,
but for pages it basically means the days of users organically finding your content is through, and you better up your Facebook advertising budget.

Facebook is not alone; both Twitter and Instagram have done away with the purely chronological, unfiltered feed. The social free lunch is officially dead, and it’s likely only large companies will continue to see the same social engagement to which they have become accustomed. Small businesses are pretty much left to scramble for extra social spending dollars and hope their future posts land in front of prospective customers. Is it time to abandon ship on digital spending?

No, this is definitely not a social tsunami foreshadowing the end of days for your social media game. Think of Facebook’s shrewd move as an opportunity to examine where you should spend your dollars if you’re forced to online. Small-business advertising is all about local, right? Well, some of the cheapest and most consumer-friendly digital outlets happen to be local media. Yes, print, TV and radio advertising have existed for decades,
but every one of these outlets has an online platform as well. Think of your social posts as skipping stones in the ocean, and advertising with local media as throwing a boulder in a small pond. One barely gets noticed; the other causes ripples ith the potential to affect the entire ecosystem.

Free social media posting is never going to go away. Nor will the obstacles to being heard in these arenas, and, potentially, they will only become more treacherous. Social media is constantly changing to stay relevant; local media isn’t going anywhere. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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