Paid Social Media: Why You Need It And What Is Available

Paid social media, sometimes known as social advertising or native advertising, is simply paying for distribution or views in social media channels. This can take the form of promoted, sponsored or boosted posts and other types of ads that appear in people’s news feeds or other places in social media channels. Two general terms have emerged to describe paid social media. Social advertising is advertising that relies on social information or networks in generating, targeting, and delivering paid marketing communications. Native advertising is paid marketing communication that delivers useful, interesting and targeted information in a form that looks like the site’s native, or non-ad, content. Some social networks offer other forms of paid such as display ads, text ads, pre-roll, or filters in the network.

The need for paid social has been increasing as organic reach, (percent of followers or fans that see your posts) has been decreasing significantly. Organic reach is the number of unique people who saw a social media post through unpaid distribution. Paid reach is the number of unique people who saw a post as a result of paid distribution. Organic reach is often calculated as a percentage by dividing the total number of users reached by the total number of posts. This is usually collected within a specific time frame such as 30 days. Then the average number of users reached per post is divided by the total number of followers or fans (page Likes). Getting someone to “Follow us on Facebook” doesn’t deliver nearly as much guaranteed exposure today. Below are the average organic reach rates for some of the top social channels:

  • Facebook Average Organic Reach: 2.27%
  • Twitter Average Organic Reach: 3.61%
  • Google+ Average Organic Reach: 0.09%
  • LinkedIn Average Organic Reach: 20%
  • Instagram Average Organic Reach: 20%

Of course, these are averages and there are strategies to get above average organic reach. Some manage to maintain amazing organic reach with high engagement or other methods. A recent study found that some smaller Facebook pages are managing to get average organic reach of up to 11% on Facebook. Yet that is still low and for most paid social is becoming a necessary part of the social media plan.  The good news is that paid social can be one of the more effective forms of paid advertising. eMarketer reports a survey that found nine out of the top 10 most effective marketing tactics included sponsored social media messages. TV commercials were the only nonsocial marketing tactic in the top 10.

Organic is still very important. As the Adobe blog points out, organic (non-paid) social has the benefits of branding without a budget by lowering marketing costs, building loyal brand communities (measured by engagement rates), and taking advantage of new social networks, early adopters and niche audiences. But adding paid social media to organic posts helps extend your message by increasing reach. Paid social also provides customized targeting, retargeting and improved insights with advanced analytics and testing.

As established social channels grow more crowded and move towards algorithms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the number of paid social opportunities are growing. For a quick guide to the top social channels that offer paid options see the free downloadable chart below:

Free guide to paid social media optionHere is the current list of the top social media paid options (click on each link for more details of each offering).

In social networks Facebook Business offers Boosted Posts and ads that can appear as Sponsored Posts, Suggested Apps or Display Ads. LinkedIn Marketing Solutions offers highly targeted Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, Display Ads and Text Ads. LinkedIn Talent Solutions also offers specialized options for hiring such as Recruiter, Job Posts, Job Slots, Career Pages, Referrals and Work With Us Ads.

In blogs and forums Tumblr Business offers Sponsored Posts and Carousel Posts, Sponsored Video and a Sponsored Day that pins a brand on the dashboard with an Explore Page tab with exclusive brand content. Also consider Sponsored Blog Posts which is paying for a post to be written on blogs. Sponsored Post Companies or Communities connect companies with bloggers.

In microblogs Twitter Business offers Promoted Tweets for Clicks, Followers, Engagement or Apps Campaigns. And Pinterest for Business offers ads by Promoted Pins to build awareness, increase engagement and drive website traffic.

For media sharing social channels YouTube offers in-stream Pre-Roll Ads, Video Ads and In-Video Overlay, plus Display Ads, and Video Mastheads. Instagram for Business offers Sponsored Posts as Photo Ads, Video Ads or Carousel Ads to increase awareness, visits or downloads. Snapchat Advertising offers Snap Ads, Sponsored Geofilters and Sponsored Lenses. Brands can also sponsor LIVE or DISCOVER stories with publisher partners. Flickr offers in feed Interactive and Display ads through Yahoo Advertising for non-pro accounts. Periscope offers Sponsored Live Video Broadcasts through Twitter Amplify that include partner names in broadcast titles and branded video highlights with Pre-Roll Ads.

For geo-locaiton or geo-social Foursquare for Business offers ads to Promote Listings, Existing Messages or create Custom Messages based on location, time or action like a check-in. Nextdoor offers Sponsored Posts that appear in users news feeds and daily digest emails.

In ratings and reviews Yelp for Business offers ads to feature businesses first in Relevant Searches and Competitor Business Pages and incentives such as Yelp Deals or Gift Certificates. TripAdvisor offers Sponsored TripAdvisor Custom Content, Pages, Sweepstakes, Advertorials, Maps, Forums and Display Ads. Angie’s List offers Magazine Ads, Newsletter Sponsorships and dedicated product and category Emails.

For social bookmarking StumbleUpon Ads offers Full Page Native Advertising that promotes any content full screen on the network. Digg Advertising offers Native Advertising by working with brand partners to display and co-created content to be featured on the platform. Buzzfeed Advertise offers “custom content worth sharing” through Custom Social Posts, Video, Promotion and Story Units plus Social Discovery. The newest option is Reddit which offers advertisers the ability to boost organic content already shared by fans with promoted posts.

In social knowledge channels Quora Advertising offers ads that appear below relevant questions as “Promoted by” with a “Learn More” link. Ask.fm for Partners offers many options for advertising in Apps, Mobile Web and Desktop. Also consider Podcast Advertising which is Sponsoring a Podcast and the host of the show usually reads Promotional Messages for the brand and/or has Special Offers for listeners.

How can you use paid ads to support your social media marketing? Social Media Examiner reports native ads can help build brand awareness by attracting new audiences to new content or gaining a larger audience for previously published posts. Marketers can also create specific campaigns to grow followers, increase engagement and drive website traffic or app downloads.

Unlike traditional online ads, paid social ads have the advantage of building social proof (likes, comments, shares) which increases credibility and trust. Promoted or sponsored posts can also improve SEO generating more awareness which equals more authority (links and social signals) to produce better rankings. Marketers can retarget native ads to people who have come to their website to view a product or service or boost reach of content that was already successful for further exposure to a larger audience.

An added benefit of paid social media is that in most channels marketers only pay for the first interaction. If someone chooses to share your paid post subsequent views and shares are free. Yet, to get those initial interactions that lead to free organic exposure content must relevant, enticing and valuable. Most channels also offer highly targeted audience reach that can deliver native ads based on demographics, search interest, behavior, lists, lookalike audiences, job titles, industry, groups, geographic area, etc. This targeting also helps in creating content that is relevant and meaningful to that specific audience.

Many of the channels also have robust advertising dashboards to create ads, manage campaigns, set up budgets, and track results. These dashboards like Facebook Ads Manager or other third party options can make it easy to set up A/B split tests to test different aspects of ads including offers, visuals, headlines, call to actions or target audience. Detailed analytics helps to optimize paid efforts over time. Also social media monitoring platforms like Hootsuite are now adding social ad integration so brands can create and manage new ad campaigns on major networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest all within The Hootsuite dashboard.

Snapchat Has Grown Up: What You Need To Know As A Marketer.

From the beginning Snapchat made the news for growing very quickly and as a favorite of Teens / Millennials. Yet this rising social media star also had a negative reputation of being a network for seedy activity such as sexting. But that was so two years ago. This HuffingtonPost article gives interesting insight into how the social network shed that image. Whatever Snapchat’s past today this social network has emerged as a serious consideration for marketers.

SnapFallon
What’s more mainstream than the Tonight Show and Presidential Candidates?

Most recent Snapchat stats:

77% of Snapchat users are over the age of 18 Click To Tweet 100 million Snapchat users are active daily Click To Tweet 7 billion videos are viewed daily on Snapchat Click To Tweet 60% of 13-34 year-olds are Snapchat users Click To Tweet Brands can see 80% Snapchat engagement rates Click To Tweet

A lot has changed since this article “Thinking About Snapchat Advertising? Snap Out of It” appeared in Advertising Age in 2014. All the numbers above are impressive, but the big one is engagement rate. Snapchat marketers have reached engagement rates of 80% compared to Facebook where a 1% engagement rate is now considered good. Cosmopolitan has reported that they get up to 3 million views a day via their Snapchat Stories. It is icing on the cake that their user demographics have matured along with this 2011 startup.

Are you still new to Snapchat and just don’t get it? Here are some Snapchat basics. Some of these are courtesy of technology reviewer Joanna Stern from The Wall Street Journal – yes that is how grown up this social channel has become.

Snapchat Basics:

  • Snaps: Photos and 10 second videos you send to one or many friends that disappear after they are viewed. Sent and received snaps are to the left of your home screen.
  • Story: A series of pictures or videos that stick around for 24 hours. Friends’ stories are found to the right of the home screen. Users can also broadcast stories for all to see.
  • Chat: One-to-one texts that disappear once you navigate away from the chat screen. Chats are found to the left of the home screen.
  • Camera: Press once on round camera button to take a photo. Hold down for video. Pinch the screen to zoom. Switch from rear to front camera by double tapping. All photos and videos are vertical.
  • Effects: Hold down on the screen and you will get a selection of special effects or “Lenses” matched to facial movements.
  • Text & Art: Tap the text icon then resize by pinching and adjust color. Tap the emoji button and add drawings with the doodling tool.
  • Filters: Swipe right to add time, temp stamp, or a location theme. Keep swiping to add multiple filters and effects.
  • Friends: Adding friends in Snapchat is not easy. You must know their Snapchat Username or have them in your contacts.
  • Snapcodes: A way to promote your Snapchat account and add friends. Share your Snapcode (like a QR code) on other channels to get friends in Snapchat by them scanning it on their phone to add.

     Grow Snapchat friends on established channels by promoting Snapcodes.
    Grow Snapchat friends on established channels by promoting Snapcodes.

Marketing on Snapchat:

One way for a brand to succeed on Snapchat is to grow friends organically and create valuable daily content. This does take a lot of effort, but may be worth it for the stats above that other social media channels many not deliver. It is also good to note that you can always screen shot or save the content you create on Snapchat and post on other channels to be repurposed beyond the 24 hour story expiration.

If you don’t have the patience or large audience base to draw from other social channels to grow organically Snapchat does offer several native advertising ways to buy your way in.

Brands can appear in the LIVE section under stories like Chobani who paid to be a part of Snapchat’s College Game Day Live story integrated in two slots in the story. Live story aggregates content from a mix of fans to highlight events happening now.

Brands can also buy their way into the DISCOVER section under stories. Discover is for publishers, but brands can partner with publishers like Cosmopolitan, CNN, BuzzFeed, or Food Network to co-create story content. Dunkin’ Donuts created a campaign with ESPN’s Snapchat Discover channel to promote the food chain to football fans with fun, playful shorts.

Adweek has reported that Snapchat is now also selling promoted snaps that appear in user’s recent updates feed and last for 24 hours. Brands can also purchase Selfie Filters. Both of these options are very pricey, but the network says an effort like Sponsored Selfie Filters can reach up to 16 million people a day.

The Bottom Line:

Snapchat is the new frontier for most major brands. The latest report I could find says that only 1% of brands are on Snapchat. This is good for early advantage, but also means experimentation and more work. Social media monitoring and publishing software has also not caught up so all content creation must be done within the app.

Snapchat may be labor intensive, but the stats above may be worth the investment. At least until Snapchat grows crowded with us older people and marketers and everyone runs to the next big thing.

For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.