My last post was about managing social media for my employer for five years. Every day brings something new — maybe just a change to what we’re used to in existing networks, or maybe even the next big thing in the tech world.
Unfortunately, the next big thing in the world of Facebook is if you don’t pay, you probably can’t play. Yes, sadly, the quest for the almighty dollar is invading the social sphere too. In case you missed it, here’s an article from Time on the changes in reach: “The Free Marketing Gravy Train is Over on Facebook.” So if you’re not seeing a drop in your brand’s reach, you probably will, and maybe as low as a dismal one or two percent. Yes, you read that right –and it doesn’t get much lower than that, does it.
For companies using Facebook brand pages, if the advertising budget doesn’t include some Facebook advertising, then it seems to me that you have to consider whether the time you spend on this major social network is even worth it. If this is all true, then without spending money brands will not get a worthwhile return on their investment (time & personnel resources) in Facebook.
This makes me wonder if brands will also begin migrating away from Facebook to other networks liked LinkedIn and Google+, where sharing content is still free, at least for now. We know that Google+ posts help with the ever-important SEO. While researching this post, I came across some interesting stats on Google+ showing that it’s the second ranked network just below Facebook in terms of active users (I still think these “active user numbers are over inflated, but anyway…), and itt also shows LinkedIn in the top five networks as well.
Personally, I’ve always viewed LinkedIn as a professional networking site, however, recently, there was a story on publishing on LinkedIn from Social Mouths. Over the next few months, any user on LinkedIn will be able to post long form content. That certainly could cause brands to rethink their content marketing plan. There are also some marketing pros, like this one, who believe that brands must be in both of these networks.
I would tend to disagree, and suggest that brands only spend their time and energy developing communities on the networks where their audience already exists. There is no need to be on every network if your audience isn’t there – and with limited resources, it’s important to spend your time where you will get the most bang for your buck. Now apparently, brands who aren’t spending the bucks probably aren’t going to get that desired bang from Facebook, so perhaps it’s time to start investigating and checking in with your audience to see where they are, and if they’ll engage with you on other networks.
There’s also another camp that is making more and more sense to me. Gini Dietrich (a social media, marketing and PR wiz) and others strongly believe that you need to “always build your community on something you own.” Then you encourage people to engage with you there, by promoting it through the existing social networks. This post is brilliant and the practice is sure to gather momentum as Facebook (and soon others) hop on the pay to play bandwagon. It’s certainly more reason for brands to devote time and effort to developing its own blog or enhancing its existing blog and website. Also, when you think about the ebb and flow (think MySpace) of social networks, isn’t it better to build something that you own and control and not rely on the whims of others when your community is at stake? I say yes, without a doubt.
Now I can’t say that this is the direction my employer will be heading in, but I think it’s something that every brand must consider given the ever-changing landscape that is social media. So, dear readers, do you think brands will begin shifting away from a social network that demands you pay to play? What will you do?