Paid Promotion & Social Media Strategy

If you know a musician, say the phrase “pay to play” to them. I guarantee they will groan, complain or roll their eyes. Pay to play means that an artist is paying the club or venue to perform, and the performer will (hopefully) earn their money back if enough fans come to see them. Of course, if no one shows up…

instagramInstagram is now showing ads.

Last week, Instagram dropped the news that users will be seeing “an occasional ad” in their feeds. Their CEO has promised that these videos will be tasteful and light, and that they’ll only be coming from brands that have a lasting relationship with Instagram. It has been pointed out that Instagram’s video capabilities will offer advertisers commercials on 150 million screens—whether those viewers want them or not.

In a similar blog statement, Foursquare has opened up a self-service advertising platform for smaller businesses. This just seems to be the newest platform for Foursquare to try to jump into the pay to play market. Foursquare’s pitch is that small business owners will be able to tell if a customer “actually walks into their store” with simple analytics. I’m not sure how simple this approach will be, though.

Is the world of social media going to a paid promotion format? It’s no secret that promoting Facebook ads with cash helps. It gets your brand in front of more people, and even targets different demographics. It works. So, logically promoting your business with Foursquare or even Instagram (eventually) will help as well, right?

Paid Promotion is a tool. It’s just like scheduled Facebook posts and Google Analytics. Clients will come to you, frantically waving their smartphones and asking why you aren’t promoting their Foursquare presence. Keep it cool; you really need to do your homework before jumping right into pay to play. Ask yourself some questions.

  • What do I know about this? Have you researched paid promotion in the past? Have you dug into how it will help that particular brand? If not, you shouldn’t start spending money yet.
  • What am I trying to achieve with this? Paid promotions are great for getting your name in front of a lot of people. However, it won’t help you engage with your current fan-base. If you’re trying to get more engagement, consider another option.
  • How much should I pay for this? Facebook allows you to boost your posts at a variety of levels with different dollar commitments. These different levels are very important based on your fan following and size.

Make sure you also know if your client is even ready for paid ads. Are they, quite frankly, punching at that level? Theoretically, a boosted Facebook post or two could help a business at the beginning of their social media life. But once the initial flash is over, it’s time to get down to the real work of engaging with your new found followers. That means interesting, appropriate content aimed at the right people. Content marketing is heavily discussed and analyzed for a reason.

So what does this all mean?

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wants to see his app “on every platform, on every kind of phone and tablet and wearable…” I don’t know if all the marketing content on there will be paid for or organically created. In a world where you can see ads through your watch, it will be quite important that those ads are engaging and well-crafted either way.