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:

Paid Social Media Guide to Social Advertising and Native AdvertisingHere 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.

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 created 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.

For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media BookLogoStrategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution. Free Preview: bit.ly/QuesenberryFreeSample EBook: bit.ly/QuesenberryEBook Instructor Exam Copy: bit.ly/Quesenberry

 

 

 

2016 Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category.

This post provides an update on the latest social media channels. Social media success is dependent upon sound social media strategy, which is built upon a systematic process and research. In Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution I layout a step-by-step process to developing social strategy:

  1. Perform a situation analysis including organization history/mission, target market, performance and marketing efforts., plus insights into competitors and the industry.
  2. Conduct a social media audit such as this social media audit template to identify problems and opportunities and form SMART business and social media objectives.
  3. Gather traditional and social media consumer research on target audience for key insights to develop a big idea to drive social media brand content and engagement.
  4. Select social channels by category to fit big idea, content and target audience. Identify social integration beyond marketing such as sales, customer service, R&D and HR.
  5. Link business and social media objectives to specific metrics per social media channel to identify KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and measure performance and success.

Selecting social channels in step 4 can be overwhelming with so many options. Some report thousands of social media sites and apps, Wikipedia lists over 200 and Brian Solis’s Conversation Prism has just under 200 social channel options in 26 categories. To simplify the selection of social channels I have divided social media options into 9 categories by key characteristics and list the top 3 or more channels in each.

Social Media Channels

Social Networks: Social networks are websites/apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts and updates. Facebook is still at the top with over 1.6 billion monthly active users and includes multiple generations from teens to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The latest considerations are live video, instant articles, highly targeted native ads and customer service and transactions in Facebook Messenger. LinkedIn is the dominate business/professional oriented social network with 433 million users (100 million active monthly). LinkedIn offers excellent opportunities for recruitment, professional networking/development, B2B prospecting, and native advertising to professionals. The big shift is more emphasis on publishing long-form posts and Slideshare (owned by LinkedIn) presentations. Google+ is the much debated social network since its launch in 2011. Recent estimates put users at 111 million with active Google+ profiles. 2015 was the year of pronouncing Google+ dead, but a small core group of users remain active and many marketers claim positive results in driving traffic to their sites. Google+ is now not as integrated with other Google products, authorship is gone and the network has very low user rates. However, Content Factory put together a nice guide that says Google+ is sill good for high Google rankings, social sharing and overall SEO. Plus, Google is unlikely to shutdown the network as evidenced by a new redesign in November 2015.

Blogs and Forums: Blogs are websites that contain posts or articles in reverse chronological order that include hyperlinks and usually allow commenting. Forums are online discussion sites also called message boards where people hold conversations via threads around common interests and topics. WordPress is the top blogging platform boasting 409 million users viewing over 22.3 billion blog pages a month with top media and marketing publishers on the platform including CNN, CBS Radio, TED, TechCrunch, the NFL, and UPS. Blogger was the first major blogging platform and is owned by Google. Recent stats indicate around 240 million monthly visitors to blogger.com. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is hosted on Google servers versus self-hosting available on WordPress. Tumblr (now owned by Yahoo) is the short-form blog focused more on photos and video and less text with 227 million registered accounts and about 550 million monthly users. Other blogging considerations could be Medium with over 30 million active users, Typepad with around 23 million monthly visitors, Squarespace which claims hundreds of thousands of blogs published in its platform and Wix also supports blogs. To find forums try some of the many forum directories and search options including BoardReaderProBoards, or Omgili.

Microblogging: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts have been limited in some way such as length of content or file size. The innovator and leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter with 310 million monthly active users with 83% of those active on mobile. Every 6 seconds 1,000 tweets are sent which makes the site great for news discovery in real time. Twitter is also used as a second screen for live events and has grown into a mainstay for social media customer service. Pinterest is the social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection and sharing that limits posts to single images or video with captions of 500 characters and one link in the bio. Pinterest continues to grow to over 100 million monthly active users. Early on the site was dominated by women, but now 1/3 of new sign ups are men. Pinterest is the place for certain topics such as holidays, DIY, travel, holidays, event planning, recipes and decorating. Vine is the micro-video platform built on a 6 second video limit. This Twitter owned app/site has over 100 million viewers each month and has produced many Vine stars which companies have leveraged for influencer marketing (Vine shut down January 2017). Musical.ly is quickly capturing the young teen market with instant music videos growing to 100 million users. The app creates 15-second videos and lets you add popular songs, choose speed options and add filters and effects with hashtags. Clammr is the short form (24 second or less) audio sharing social media app. This micro social channel is new and still small but may grow quickly. The idea is to share audio clips from longer programs like Podcasts or record original content. Some have called it Pinterest for Podcast clips.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for the sharing of image or video media. YouTube, is the original video sharing site with over 1 billion users with many shifting TV viewing to this channel. YouTube is a great place for content marketing, original shows, native advertising and video bloggers that provide reviews. The channel is good for brand content marketing or influencer marketing with YouTube stars. Instagram is the photo sharing social channel first created as an app that now has over 500 million active monthly users. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is quality image driven and has one of the highest engagement rates. It is a good place for fan interaction, native advertising and user generated brand content, but has switched to a timeline of users’ photographs based on an algorithm versus chronological order. Snapchat is the newest channel in this category but has grown quickly to over 100 million daily active users and is now more popular with 12-24-year-olds than Facebook. Snapchat is great for pictures that can be drawn on, filters, 10 second video and stories that disappear after they are viewed. Also consider Flickr (owned by Yahoo) which has 112 million active monthly users with 1 million photos shared daily, Vimeo with 170 million monthly active viewers for niche video audiences and LinkedIn owned Slideshare with 70 million users for business and content marketing. The big development in media sharing is live streaming video. Twitter owned Periscope  has emerged to be the leader with 10 million users and 15% of Twitter’s top brands using it regularly. Recently rival Meerkat admitted defeat to Periscope with Meerkat CEO announcing to users that the company was heading in a different direction. Facebook Live is however a big competitor to Periscope with Facebook Live opening to all users and Facebook already claiming 8 billion video views per day. Music.ly has also jumped into live video with the Live.ly app for live streaming video with streams viewable in Music.ly.

Geo-location: Geo-location or geosocial is a type of social networking where user-submitted (GPS) location data connects users with local people, businesses and events. The innovator and leader in this category is Foursquare with 50 million monthly active users and 65 million places. Swarm is a separate app for checking in, but marketers can still reach consumers on Swarm through Foursquare. Foursquare is obviously great for businesses with physical locations. Google+ Locations had check-in features, but now marketers can leverage Google geo-location features though Google My Business that gets businesses added to Google location search and Google Maps and includes ratings and reviews. Facebook Check-Ins are the geo-location feature in Facebook that provides valuable benefits to marketers. It is good for increasing reach, generating awareness and has ratings and review features. Other considerations in this category are Nextdoor which is a private location-based social network with nearly 100,000 active neighborhoods and growing quickly. Alignable is a more B2B focused social channel. It helps build relationship between local businesses and creates a community around referrals. Other social networks also offer geo-location features such as public location pages from Facebook tagged in Instagram and geo-filters in Snapchat. The real innovation in this category could come from the success of Pokemon Go. Reports indicate more daily users than Twitter (21 million in the U.S.) and more engagement than Facebook (33 minutes per day vs. 22 minutes) and the augmented reality (AR) app will be taking advantage of that selling location sponsorships. This app may remain popular or not, but the big news is that after years of talk about AR taking off, it may final go mainstream combined with geo-location social media. Look for new or current geosocial channels leveraging this trend.

Ratings and Reviews: Reviews are reports that give someone’s opinion about the quality of a product, service or performance. Ratings are a measurement of how good or bad something is expressed on a scale. The top social channels in this channel include Yelp with 145 million active monthly users and 2.8 million business pages. Yelp is the early innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews. Founded in 2004 it has grown city by city and can be very influential on sales for many businesses from restaurants and salons to dentists and mechanics. For travel related business TripAdisor has 340 million active monthly users. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums relying on user-generated content. TripAdisor offers many free and paid tools for marketing. Angie’s List is the subscription based ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses. Starting with review of local contractors the service has moved on to cover much more such as health care and auto care. With 12 million active monthly users Angie’s list could grow even more after announcing plans to get rid of its pay wall to complete with larger networks. Citisearch is an online city guide that was one of the earliest review sites. Citisearch could be a consideration, but has lost a lot of ground to Yelp. Ratings and reviews should also be tracked on Google My Business and any other site or app that applies to your product or service such as retail sites like Amazon.com. The ground breaking website in this category was Epinions, but it was closed in 2014 by owner Ebay.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites are online services that allow users to save, comment on, and share bookmarks of web documents or links. Social bookmarking sites have also expanded into content discovery and curation tools. Reddit is one of the top social bookmarking social channels with 36 million user accounts, which is impressive, but Reddit also has a lot of non-user reach drawing a total 231 million unique visits a month. If handled correctly Reddit could be a great way for a product, service or organization to get discovered – especially in a specific category or topic called Subreddits. StumbleUpon is the discovery engine that finds and recommends web content to users who can rate web pages, photos and videos. StumbleUpon reports more than 30 million unique users attracting 100,000 advertisers. This social channel is good for content marketing, influencer marketing and paid social. Digg is the social news site that aggregates news and publisher’s streams via peer evaluation of voting up content for sharing. Digg has made a rebound since its relaunch growing from under 3 million monthly active users in 2012 to nearly 12 million in 2015. Digg is a good place for content marketing and also native advertising. Buzzfeed is more on the content discovery side of this category but has attracted a lot of attention with over 200 million unique monthly visitors. The big opportunity for marketing with Buzzfeed is native advertising. Buzzfeed focuses on advertising partners who help create “content that is worth sharing.” Related to Buzzfeed is NowThis News, which creates video news to distribute to other social network feeds. This news for social company started by former Huffington Post heads has now reached 1 billion monthly video views and may reach more Millennials. Content marketing options may be limited but NowThis has formed partnerships with advertisers such as Mondelez International (Oreo) to product real time marketing videos.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge channels are web-based information exchanges where users can search topics or ask questions and get answers from real people. This includes social sites such as wikis and question and answer websites. Wikipedia is the big one of course with 374 million unique monthly visitors and over 70,000 active contributors to over 5 million articles in English. Marketers should monitor their Wikipedia pages, but cannot make changes themselves. The question and answer sites could be good for content creation, thought leadership and influencer marketing. Yahoo! Answers is a community question and answer site. Yahoo! Answers reported 24 million active monthly users in 2012, but this may have dropped to roughly 6 million recently (In November 2016 Yahoo went mobile for the first time with Yahoo! Answers Now). Quora is the newer question and answer site that looks to focus on and provide higher quality content. This social knowledge channel has risen in a short time to 100 million unique visitors a month. This channel could especially be good for building thought leadership. Ask.fm is a new entrant to this category. This global social site enables users to create profiles and send each other questions. Ask.fm has grown to 180 million active monthly users after being bought by Ask.com. Also consider Answers.com, ChaCha, WikiAnswers (now part of Answers.com), and Ask Jelly.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. Podcasting provides a great opportunity for content marketing with brands creating their own shows or native advertising where brands can sponsor influencers. iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting with the name coming from the Apple iPod. Some estimate there are over 200,000 million Podcasts on iTunes – a number that has doubled since 2013. But not all Podcasts are on iTunes. Other social channels to consider are SoundCloud, which is the global online audio  platform that enables users to upload, record, promote, and share their original works. SoundClound now has 170 million monthly active listeners with a lot of Podcast content being produced and shared. Stitcher is an on-demand internet radio service that provides news, radio and podcasts. Stitcher delivers free online streaming to over 16 million monthly listeners. iHeartRadio, the internet radio platform owned by iHeartMedia (formally Clear Channel Radio) also features Podcasts. iHeartRadio used to call them Shows On Demand, but has embraced the term Podcast and iHeartRadio has over 80 million registered users. The latest consideration in Podcasts would also be Audible, which is the audio book distribution channel owned by Amazon. This big player in audio books has now branched out into Podcasts.

This is by far, not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does give an update on the top channels in each category to choose the best for your social strategy. For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution. Free Preview of the Detailed Contents, Forward, Introduction and First Chapter: bit.ly/QuesenberryFreeSample EBook: bit.ly/QuesenberryEBook Instructor Exam Copy: bit.ly/Quesenberry