Social media reach is declining: One solution? Paid distribution

25 Jan 2018 Social media reach is declining: One solution? Paid distribution

An interesting post on LinkedIn by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, caught my eye recently.

Of course, the headline helped – Social media is dead. Long live social media.



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“Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Way back when Facebook, Twitter and other networks were getting started, they were billed as channels where businesses could connect — for free — directly with their customers. The formula for success was simple: share catchy updates, build an audience, cash in,” writes the business and social media leader.

“In 2017, however, that social media paradigm is looking increasingly quaint. For businesses, just having an audience on social media doesn’t mean you actually get to reach it. Instead, social ads — ‘promoted’ updates that look a lot like the real thing — are fast becoming the surest way to reach a target audience.

“In other words, you’ve got to pay to play.”

Let’s take a look at the social media landscape these days. Some interesting data can be mined from a chart on social network user metrics in Canada.

social media reach

In 2015, there were 20 million social network users in the country and that’s projected to rise to only 22.2 million by 2020. The percentage change in users is steadily declining from 3.6 per cent in 2015 to a projected 1.3 per cent in 2020. The percentage of Internet users on social networks is also remaining fairly steady at 69 per cent in 2015 and forecast to be 71.7 per cent in 2020.

What’s also intriguing is the frequency with which Internet users in Canada use select social media platforms.

social media reach frequency

Not a surprise but Facebook is far and away the most popular site at 71 per cent followed by YouTube at 49 per cent and Twitter at 27 per cent.

It appears that social media in Canada has hit a point of saturation following a rapid ascent in popularity in recent years.

Last fall, the eMarketer online publication found that social network ad spending continues to grow at a rapid pace, but some marketers believe there should be a renewed focus on organic as a foundation for paid.

It also found that more than 90 per cent of American companies with 100 or more employees will use social media marketing including ads on social platforms as well as organic posts.

What are the benefits of paid social media? Reach is important and for companies that’s what the game is all about. How do you reach as many people as possible, and the right kind of people, with the specific message or piece of information you want to share, and they want to hear? Paid distribution on various media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., is a method more and more companies are using. It has proven to be an effective way to gain visibility for their content by reaching a larger audience – and at a very reasonable cost.

“When devising your ad strategy, make sure the tactics and channels you pick align with your business objectives. You can easily pay for and amass all the impressions and even visits in the world, but how does that help your business? Unless it translates into business, or readers, or subscribers, it’s a whole lot of nothing,” says Doug Lacombe, president and founder of Communicatto.

The neat thing about paid distribution is that social media platforms can very precisely target specific audiences who are more likely to follow through on your intended objective. And, social media platforms provide detailed analytics to help you optimize the performance of your ads in real-time.

“Strategically adding paid advertising into your toolbox to offset the decline in organic reach should be considered as part of a multilayered approach to building engagement with your audience,” adds Lacombe.

Paid advertising is a cost-effective way to spread the word. But beyond that it’s a way to boost brand awareness and loyalty as well as drive traffic to a business website.

Mr. Holmes isn’t wrong that the social media we know today is dying. But if you accept the notion that death is merely a transition to a new state of being, you can successfully shift your digital strategy to take advantage of the new social media landscape we find ourselves in.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

Mario Toneguzzi is a recovering daily newspaper reporter, editor and columnist and a content-making machine. Fun fact - Mario publishes so much online, many Calgarians didn't notice he'd been set free from the big daily in January 2016! A confirmed Italian-Canadian (the name should have given it away), Mario loves Spolumbo's sandwiches and soccer, both maybe a little too much. When not pounding on his keyboard, Mario enjoys spending time reading, volunteering, playing bocce and drinking craft beer.

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