‘Pay To Play’ On Social Media in 2015

By Stevie Sleeter, Content & Social Media Manager

Published: February 9, 2015

As eConsultancy so appropriately put it, “Snapchat’s announcement [last week] that it will charge $750,000 for a disappearing ad on its platform drove an audible gasp from the industry.”


Regardless of the level of insanity that this lump sum evokes from most digital teams, the reality is big players like McDonalds, Macys, and Samsung have shown interest in such an ad buy on the channel – indicating they see significant value in the opportunity.

What this also hastily reminds us is that ‘the (always inaccurate) myth that social media is free is certainly over: 2015 is the year for paid amplification on social.

For many companies and executives who are still warming up to social media as a viable business initiative, this is a hard pill to swallow.

Why Everything Now Is ‘Pay To Play’

With the sophistication of social ad targeting, we’ve seen many social channels bump up the need for some level of ad spend to reach people. With recent (and planned) changes in Facebook and Twitter algorithms, we can expect to see a change in the relevancy of content showed in newsfeeds, if we haven’t already.

Doing this helps these social channels better cater to the unique interests and needs of their users (and make money – let’s face it, they are businesses too) but at the same time cripples the reach of a brand’s message when relying on organic reach.

Paid social, therefore, becomes the only avenue for a brand to reach its unique audience – including both reaching people who are already ‘fans/followers’ of your brand and sourcing new fans.

Does that mean you should scrap social altogether? Absolutely not. With 74% of internet users registered on a social media platform and more than 1.35 billion monthly active users on Facebook, you’d be hard pressed not to take advantage of that close connection with your customers.

On top of sheer number of people, there’s also something to be said about the nature of social media in gathering customer insight. “Whilst many refuse to share their personal data with brands, they openly broadcast valuable information on social,” according to eConsultancy. “All of which helps strengthen the commercial offering of the platforms as they can both provide valuable insights for customer profiling, but also precision target a brand’s message to produce hyper-targeted campaigns.”

It Takes a Team

A few short years ago, social media management was a position saved for recent graduates or interns. But with the rising investment and opportunity of an effective social media strategy, social media management is a far cry from an ‘easy’ undertaking.

Not only does it require a strategy that cross-aligns with business objectives and audience needs and buying cycle, it also requires expertise in design, copywriting, customer service, analysis, paid media, and on top of that a 24/7 commitment.

Put simply, social management is not for the faint of heart. And as the frontline of communications for your company, this position not only needs support, it requires a team effort.

For big brands, it’s often unrealistic to assume social channels are manageable by one person, particularly if that one person is doing their job in effectively growing the community. Yet, with an increased number of ‘hands in the pot,’ you also introduce unique challenges that come with working in a team including the need to set parameters for social conversations. Tone of voice, coverage schedules, audience understanding, and crisis management are all things that require an unthinkable sense of alignment when it comes to a cohesive social presence (think precision likened to four fighter jets flying over Lambeau Field).

Regardless of where you stand or how you feel about social media, the reality is there are no more questions whether or not it brings value. But you have to be willing to ‘pay to play.’