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February 2, 2014

The Rise of 'Media'? within Social Media

Enter the board room of most Fortune 500 brands, and there's a pesky misconception that seems to still be lingering ' social media in some capacity is 'free.'? When pressed, there's a quick concession that yes, there are some hard costs associated with social, be it personnel for community management or content development. But we as social marketers are still battling the belief that maintaining a social presence doesn't require a significant underlying investment.

In reality, the model that we've all bought into revolves around a pretty Machiavellian concept ' we invest time, energy and ad dollars to build a sizeable community only to have the platform (namely Facebook, but other models are soon to follow) in turn sell access to that community back to us at an incremental cost. There's been wide spread chatter about the effects of Facebook's latest large-scale algorithm update in early December, but looking back over the last six months, community managers everywhere have seen dramatic decreases in organic reach on Facebook.

Look no further than your own organic reach numbers for validation of this ever-changing shift as Facebook continues to 'optimize'? their EdgeRank algorithm to update what content is presented in users' newsfeeds. We've personally seen decreases up to 40% in average organic reach on behalf of our clients. To see how much your brand has been affected, run a report for the last 180 days via Facebook Analytics, or visit http://edgerankchecker.com/.

As organic reach continues to decrease, the reliance on paid media to support content naturally has been heightened. Not too bad of a sales strategy, right? In early December Facebook stated as much: "We expect organic distribution of an individual page's posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site."

I know. You're up in arms! How are they getting away with this? (note: Facebook  shares jumped 9.6% to $58.65 after adjusted fourth-quarter earnings were released on January 29th).

If we step back, I think we can look at this as an evolution rather than a revolution. At the end of the day, Facebook and other social channels provide a very valuable environment to reach targeted audiences of existing and potential customers/fans/followers and they're making big strides to proving the ROI across their ad offerings. In fact, according to Adobe's Q4 2013 Social Intelligence Report, Facebook saw record highs in total clicks and CTR's during the last quarter of 2013.

In thinking about the role of 'social media'? for your business, 'social'? is undeniably still at the forefront of these networks, but equal weight should now be applied to the 'media'? side of these environments as well. Social will ' or at least should ' always be first and foremost about meaningful two-way engagement with your audience. But as time spent on social, click-through rates and revenue-related referral traffic continue to rise, social will only continue to affirm its place as a media channel where you can ' very efficiently ' reach your desired audience.

2014 will be the year where community managers, social strategists and media buyers collaborate to develop truly integrated social plans that combine paid/earned/owned tactics that leverage the power of social endorsement and the efficiency of hyper-targeted media. And Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it's Twitter's latest advertising extensions around their Tailored Audiences offering, the soon-to-come roll-out of Pinterest's Promoted Pins or Instagrams new ads, social media is only going to continue to grow in influence and share of budget.

As you finalize plans for the year, ensure you have a dedicated, multi-layered budget for social that 1) supports content distribution through promoting content to existing audiences and 2) extends your reach through sophisticated targeting and remarketing.

Sources: Ad Age, Komfo, EdgeRankChecker, Adobe Digital Index

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