Organic social reach is becoming harder and harder to achieve. Often, even having the greatest content, created by amazing people, still doesn’t get the shares and other engagement that brings eyes to your offer. There is another option: pay established social media voices to promote your content for you.
In his Simplilearn webinar, The Pros and Cons of Paying for Social Placement, best-selling marketing author and corporate trainer Matt Bailey discussed how to balance the good and bad of social media marketing. If you can’t spare 60 minutes to sit down for these tips—or if you’d just like to have a written refresher—here’s a roundup of the key points Matt made in the webinar. If you’re thinking about diving into the world of paid social placement, these are things you absolutely need to know.
Why Organic Reach Is Dropping
The organic reach of your social channels is probably trending down, getting significantly less visibility from what it was even a few months ago. That’s because of information overload. Our news feeds are constantly being bombarded, not just by our friends and connections, but also advertisers.
Another reason reach is falling is because the social companies that are offering these services need to monetize somehow. What better way to monetize than to make advertisers pay more to reach more people?
Social platforms purposefully limit your access to your followers by throttling back your organic posts. If you want to reach more people, you're going to have to use their paid promotions. Nowadays, meeting engagement goals with social media are becoming an aggressive pay-to-play proposition.
Who Determines the Audience You Reach?
When you’re using Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn or any other social medium, you’re using somebody else's audience. You don't own them. It's Facebook that determines if your organic post is going to reach your audience and how much of it will reach. You're only renting it.
Sites like Facebook have been known to miss-report numbers and overestimate video views. Nevertheless, Facebook, advertising is going up and people are paying more, mainly because that's where the audience is and that's how you can reach them.
Engagement Varies With the Medium
The whole goal of marketing through social channels is ultimately to bring people to your own properties. Only then can you track what they do, what they download and what are they interested in.
People use different channels for different activities. People that click on a link from Twitter or Snapchat are typically going to be at that page for about 10 seconds or less and then they're going to leave. People that click on a link from an article will tend to stay longer, do more and they will convert at a higher rate.
Pro/Con #1: Costs
The number one pro/con ( and this is more con than pro) is that the costs are low but they are increasing fast. Those that have already started paying for social placement have probably already paid the lowest prices they will ever pay. That's because the market is growing. People are finding out that this can be effective and so everyone is jumping on board. The costs will just continue to climb.
Pro/Con #2: Exposure
You get better exposure by paying. An organic post is going to reach a small percentage of your followers. A lot of the social platforms are adding functions that will enable ways for viewers to engage with ads without actually leaving that platform. Facebook Canvas, Twitter Cards, and Instagram are now allowing some built in calls to action. You’ll get some additional metrics, but remember: it's the social platform’s metrics because it's their platform.
Pro/Con #3: Inconsistency
One of the cons to all of this is that you have to deliver creatives in different display ad size formats. YouTube ads are different sizes than Instagram, different than Facebook and different than LinkedIn. Your creative's got to be pretty much locked in and flexible in order to go across channels.
Pro/Con #4: Targeting
The best part about social media is its targeting. You can start to develop campaigns based on specific data points that match the type of people you want to reach. You can do it with demographics, sociographics or even firmographics (business-based criteria). You can also go for a local or regional targeting or based on interests. From a programmatic standpoint, I can do retargeting, serving ads based on people who have visited my site or maybe they responded to another campaign, or visited a landing page but didn't take action.
Pro/Con #5: Testing
Look at your organic reach and test your messaging. For example, in direct mail, when you do an email campaign, a best practice is to send a test to about 2% of your list, measure the response and adjust anything. Then send the winner to your larger list. An organic post might hit about 5 percent of your audience. It's not going to go far but you can look at the performance of that organic post and if it does well especially compared to other organic posts, you can then comfortably hit that Facebook “promote” button and start building more momentum with that message.
Pro/Con #6: Measurement
One of the things that a lot of people have a problem with is measurement. There's a lot of ways you can engage—but not all of these engagements are worth the same amount. If I get a comment or a share, that means it’s something that is going to go into the network feed of anyone who comments or shares. They're going to share it with their network and so in that way I'm getting earned media views because they're sharing it with their network. A like is certainly not as good as getting someone to actually click on the creative to do what I want them to do.
Lumping everything together and dividing it as a cost per engagement is a pretty nebulous measurement. The goal of a campaign is to get people to click the creative then go to the landing page and fill out a lead form. Only based on actual conversions can you take how much you spent on the campaign and start attaching a value to what the campaign generated.
Pro/Con #7: Paid Editorial Exposure
Paid editorials, also known as advertorials, are another avenue for achieving paid reach. BuzzFeed is a great example of this, where a brand will put content on BuzzFeed under the brand's name but the content looks like everything else on BuzzFeed. One of the things a reasonable consumer has to be able to do is distinguish between what's paid advertising and what is published editorial content. Unfortunately, that line is getting harder and harder to distinguish everyday.
Pro/Con #8: Credibility
Some articles can only be distinguished as advertorials from small, hard-to-see text. The upside is you can get a lot of eyeballs onto something that looks like an article on a trusted publishers website. The downside is when people finally see that it's an ad, credibility might take a hit. Be very careful with that and make sure it is clearly marked because most governments are looking very closely at the type of advertising that looks like publisher material.
Pro/Con #9: Influencers Increase Reach
If you’re interested in working with bloggers, video personalities or social media celebrities, there are two kinds of influencers. A macro influencer has a lot of people following them, while a micro influencer has a powerful but isolated focus in a particular subject area. Instead of paying a lot of money to one person who has a large audience, it might be better for you to turn to micro influencers that have a stronger relationship with the type of people who are your customers.
Logan Paul who is a macro influencer did a Sour Patch Kids video campaign that generated 120,000 new Snapchat followers for Sour Patch Kids, 6.8 million impressions, 26 thousand screenshots and 1,900 Twitter mentions. That campaign cost over $100,000. Only you can decide if that ROI works for you and your brand.
Pro/Con #10: Influencer Cost is Pricy
The downside of working with these macro influencers and maybe some micro influencers is the price. The average price paid to an influencer with over five million followers, to create one video post for each of the three major platforms, is a hundred thousand dollars. Single tweets can cost anywhere between 50 and $100. A high-visibility blogger with a larger audience may charge about a hundred thousand for an article. A single review from a blogger could cost as much as ten thousand dollars.
Right now there are no standard going rates and a lot of the micro influencers want macro influencer prices. If you want to pay for social placement, the cheapest is just sponsoring a tweet or sponsoring a Facebook post. Start there, see what the results are and move from there. Then, purchase some social ads for a specific demographic.
A Warning About Video Quality: A lot of times people will say video doesn't have to be high quality. There aren’t really any examples where low quality is doing great. People like high quality stuff, or at least video that looks low quality but is really high quality in disguise because it's been produced, written well and it has a specific point. Beware of producing high-quality videos that look low quality, because when people find out it's a paid ad, credibility takes a hit.
A Warning About Paying Young Influencers: Influencer marketing is at the very top of the paid social pyramid. Watch out because some brands have realized that they're throwing tens of thousands of dollars at a 20 year old who has generated a million followers—but that 20 year old is not the most business-savvy. They don't run on the same schedule, nor do they have the same goals, and they don't want anyone to tell them how to do what they do. The most frustrating points in dealing with such influencers is their unfamiliarity with contracts; they want the money but they don't understand contracts, schedules, and branding.
Pro/Con #11: Don’t Forget to Track and Measure
On most platforms, especially Snapchat, you have no way of knowing what kind of impact influencer marketing is generating for your brand. One study says that businesses are getting $6.50 in revenue for each dollar spent on influencer marketing. Another study says that 65 percent of marketers can't find a return on investment. Be very careful where you're getting your information from and who funds the study. There are some things that you can do to better track ROI. These include:
- Offer discount codes specifically for that campaign that influencers can give to their audience.
- Create an individual landing page for that campaign.
- Make sure you hashtag and tag things properly.
- Create an individual URL that they can share.
The number one frustration expressed by marketers in the social space is that when you work with an influencer, they want to do things the way they do them. They don't want to always be told what to do for a brand. The more ways you can include your own tracking mechanisms in influencer campaigns, the better.
Pro/Con #12: Brand Protection and Control
As a brand, if you are paying an influencer, you have to give up some level of brand control because you're allowing this influencer to recast your brand in a way that their audience will accept. It just can't come across as blatant advertising unless that's their policy. This is especially true if you're asking an influencer to create a video or create something specifically for you. You're going to have to give up some level of control. Remember that a lot of these people are Mavericks; that's the way that they have built their audience and so they're going to want to do it their way.
This can come back and bite you. Disney has felt this in the relationship with the YouTube personality PewDiePie, one of the top video bloggers around the world. He started getting in trouble and saying things that were not good, and Disney had to separate themselves from him. Be very careful about what you're giving up as well as make sure you've done your research on the influencer as they are going to reflect well on your brand.
Pro/Con #13: Skepticism
One of the things you have to deal with is skepticism from the followers of the influencer. For example, one very strong influencer talked about how they always carried a carton of their favorite juice. Unfortunately, the top comment was that they were the biggest sellout ever. The rear audience or how their followers respond is not always predictable and if it doesn't fit their voice, if it doesn't fit their personality, or if your promotion comes off as a blatant brand placement, you're going to be in for trouble.
People don't always trust ads and they don't always trust the influencer, so there may be backlash based on how it was done or even just a natural skepticism. Be prepared that it may not always go the way you want it to go.
Pro/Con #14: Inflated or False Reach
Companies and even influencers can buy followers. On Instagram you can buy 2,500 followers for $29 and 10,000 likes for less than $70. There are click farms and all kinds of things with the sole purpose of creating false followers and false likes. Anyone can go out and buy that for their own personal brand.
There are some companies that will audit an influencer before you pay. Remember that this is kind of an arms race. Influencers are trying to keep ahead of these auditing companies, and there is a market of bloggers and personalities that are always trying to inflate their numbers.
Pro/Con #15: Media Hype
There is a lot of media hype about influencer marketing. However, most of what you will find in search results is influencers writing articles about working with influencers, service providers writing about the topic and how their product relates to it and the media who's absolutely in love with luminaries because they help promote their publications as well. Be prepared for what you will see, because a lot of it is self-aggrandizing content to promote the influencer or the product and not primarily to inform.
Pro/Con #16: Influencer Marketing is “New”
As with every new shiny thing, when it comes to internet marketing you're going to have those who immediately benefit from it writing articles about it. You're going to have those who sell the services writing articles about it, and they know how to get those articles in the top results. Be sure about what you read and learn from it—but also look at it with a healthy amount of skepticism.
It doesn't matter whether it's a micro or macro influencer; find the one that works best with you. Typically it's an influencer who already likes your brand or who already does something that's related to your brand. If they have an affinity for your brand, they're going to care about how it’s presented. They may even lower their price just to work with you.
It's a perfect mix when you've got the right personality and the right audience. Then have a partnership on keeping the brand—while also allowing a certain amount of creative flexibility for that influencer or personality to tell their own story.
Edited by Dan Biewener