Facebook Pay-to-Play Model Should Be a Wake-up Call to Marketers

Eric Melin
Eric Melin Senior Social Media Community Manager, Callahan Creek

Posted on April 29th 2014

Facebook Pay-to-Play Model Should Be a Wake-up Call to Marketers

ImageDear Facebook,

It’s tough being the largest social network, isn’t it?

With 1.3 billion active monthly users and smartphone users checking your site 14 times a day, you have created an amazingly effective social media addiction.

You’re also sitting on the richest set of targeting data for marketers since, well, ever. You’ve convinced people to give you all sorts of personal information—stuff that goes way beyond where they live and how old they are. You know who our friends are, the music/movies we like, what kind of events we attend, and what brands we want to interact with online.

How dare you make brands pay for the opportunity to reach millions of targeted users and build a rich community of advocates? Social media is supposed to be free, right?

If brands still believe that, then here’s the first of many wake-up calls: Social media was never free, even before your new “pay to play” model really kicked into high gear. Social media done right takes a lot of strategy, development, trial and error, constant effort, measurement, and customization. In short, social media takes time. And time is never free.

But now brands like Eat24 are fed up that they suddenly have to pay for their fans to see content in your coveted user News Feed, and they’re breaking up with you. I get it. It sucks that the “free” ride is over. Now brands will have to pay for smart people to produce engaging content on their behalf—and also pay you to amplify that reach.

Here’s what most people probably don’t understand: The quality of your users’ News Feeds is what keeps you in business. That’s why you’re constantly tinkering with the algorithm, with over 100,000 weight indicators being considered at any given time.

If brand Facebook Pages aren’t performing well, part of that can surely be attributed to the fact that “organic reach” has fallen to about two percent. If a brand’s reach has plummeted without recovery, then what that brand should really be angry about is that they haven’t figured out the new two-pronged approach to Facebook success, which is really the same old strategy with one new twist:

1.     Deliver engaging content to the right audience at the right time.

2.     Amplify that content with strategic spending.

You see, Facebook, with your new “pay to play” model, you’re still rewarding great content, because that’s what users want to see. Users liked the brand’s page once upon a time, but too many of the brand’s posts felt like ads and they stopped liking, commenting, and sharing them. So you stopped showing the brand’s posts to those users. Makes sense to me, but now the brand is angry that they have to pay you to get their crappy posts in the News Feeds of the fans they’ve let down!

Second wake-up call: A crappy post that a brand pays for is still crappy.

On the other hand, a great piece of engaging content that speaks to its audience can now be targeted from location to age group to interests to direct connections to friends of connections. Brands that boost dynamic content using your built-in demographic tools will reach way more of the right people and cost way less than other forms of advertising.

Brands will likely pay a six-figure sum for one full-page ad in the right magazine. That ad drives awareness, but does it build community? Does it nurture category enthusiasts over time, develop trust, and turn them into passionate brand advocates?

I understand there are a lot of people angry with you, Facebook. Growth takes time on both sides of the coin. Building a community on your social network is a long-term investment, and we will continue to make adjustments because I know we both want the same thing.

As long as you continue to use all the data you’ve gathered about your users to help them see the stuff that they and their connections find the most engaging, we will continue to try delivering content that matches their expectations.

Because even though it’s now also about spending strategically, it was always about delivering engaging content to the right people at the right time.

Eric Melin

Eric Melin

Senior Social Media Community Manager, Callahan Creek

An award-winning marketing and communications specialist, Eric is the Senior Social Media Community Manager for specialty marketing agency Callahan Creek, and the communications chair for Engineers Without Borders - Sunflower State Professionals

He is also the 2013 Air Guitar World Champion. Callahan Creek unlocks the power of category enthusiasts and turns them into brand advocates. Air guitar provides boundless entertainment and helps musicians realize their full creative potential, according to a recent Cambridge study.

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Comments

ChuckBartok1
Posted on April 29th 2014 at 6:46AM

Valid points and well stated, Eric.

Our clients' posts have never had less than 12% shown organically. Not hard to do delivering and engaging with quality content focused to YOUR market.

All it really takes is application of the Golden Rule.

Thanks for sharing the post.

Eric Melin
Posted on April 30th 2014 at 5:35AM

Thank you, Chuck! I look at this as a challenge to stay focused, like you said. It's all trial and error, but there's that sweet moment of realization when your community startes defining itself and you understand how to meet their needs. Cheers!

Matt Aster
Posted on April 29th 2014 at 1:07PM

Kudos Eric on calling it like it is.

Eric Melin
Posted on April 30th 2014 at 5:30AM

Thanks, Matt! Glad you enjoyed the article!

Glenn Jimerson
Posted on April 29th 2014 at 4:14PM

I can't argue with your logic.  If the investement of both time and money still produce a decent ROI then those people will keep marketing on FB.  For other companies,  the inclusion of paid ads means that it's just not worth it.  Where once setting up a FB presence was a no-brainer,  now the choice isn't as clear.  

Big brands will keep investing but my guess is that a lot of SMB's will migrate those advertising dollars and opportunity costs elsewhere.  

Eric Melin
Posted on April 30th 2014 at 5:28AM

Glenn, agreed - If the demographics support your target audience being on Facebook, there's no denying that it's worth paying for. It will certainly be a challenge for small businesses, but the costs still don't even approach those of traditional advertising, especially if you are producing engaging content that's resonating with your target audience. Then the amplification is just a supplement. Thanks for your comment!