I’m ready for Christmas. There I said it. I am almost never ready for Christmas but outside of needing to wrap gifts and what I hope will be one final trip shopping this weekend, I am calling this holiday a win. If ever there was cause for rejoicing, this might be it.
Christmas also means a short social media break. I’m beyond ready for that to happen. Between contracts, my FT gig, and keeping up on the ever changing social media landscape, my brain needs a rest. I’ve read and seen far too much negativity and complaining lately surrounding social networks and social media marketing that a little break will do this consultant’s heart some good.
One such stab of negativity came from a post I read recently in which a political and social news website complained about Facebook’s pay to promote option.
Apparently because Facebook wants to profit off updates from companies and organizations, this makes them a capitalist. I’m not linking to the site primarily because they do a good enough job of pushing their content, they don’t need my help (you’ll see what I mean in a few minutes).
First of all, the news that Facebook admits that it’s looking for more brands to pay for their promotions and will likely hide organic content is not a surprise to me (nor is it news really).
And I’m definitely not interested in debating whether or not turning a profit makes a business a capitalist. I am however more concerned that many businesses, both big and small are very eager to blame Facebook for their own marketing troubles (read also: inability to reach their fans).
From where I sit, the site uttering the complaints has grown considerably in a short amount of time and doesn’t have much to gripe over. After joining Facebook at the beginning of this year, they now have over 6,000 fans. Pretty damn good right? They also (from what I can tell as joe public) have rather successful results in shares, comments and likes but I guess that’s not good enough. However, Facebook’s admission to hiding organic posts, thus hurting a page’s reach, may not be the problem to the site’s perceived Facebook pay to promote woes.
When the news site started their page they were sharing great content from all over the internet; that has slowly dwindled off to mostly posting their own content including a teaser status. Furthermore, not only have they shifted from sharing others’ content but they aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to reach out and engage with their fans. They comment on the links that they post when they have something to debate but beyond posting links, they do little to facilitate new conversations without attaching a link to it. The same holds true for their Twitter account which is by and large links only to their own content.
This tells me that they’re not really interested in engaging or communicating. Their only real goal is to build pageviews of their own content. While inherently there is nothing wrong with building pageviews (especially since they don’t sell a product or service), it seems somewhat unfounded to scold the largest social media site for wanting to make money or hide content when you aren’t doing much beyond link posting. This falls under Facebook’s proclamation to make people’s social interactions on their site to be a meaningful one.
Pot. Meet Kettle.
Let’s talk about money for a moment. The site is one of those progressive political and social sites that spends a great amount of time writing about economics, social injustices, the poor to middle class, minimum wage and other hot button social and political issues. They spark debate and make people think but they don’t pay their writers (or as they call them, contributors). To relieve them of this duty they use the defense that they are a non-profit. Um… okay.
Since when does being a non-profit excuse people from paying writers? Non-profit organizations shouldn’t be immune to paying for great talent. Bylines don’t cut it. If you are going to talk about how unfair the minimum wage is, big companies capitalizing on the little people and the overuse/abuse of our political minds abusing their power and their budgets and a host of other things, you might want to pay the people who create this great content for you. Otherwise, you’re not contributing to the economy’s growth, you’re keeping it stunted. Writers, artists, designers, cartoonists, they all need paid for their work.
The quote, “why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free” comes to mind here.
I’ve worked for nonprofits before and I’ve been paid for my work.
I am ABSOLUTELY not saying that non-profits have to or can pay everyone on their team but using the title of being a non-profit does not and should not exclude the people who curate and create the content for you from being paid (especially if you’re big on coming down on big government and big businesses keeping the little people down).
Don’t put all your eggs in one social network.
Google+ is 100% free. (So are their dedicated Google+ business pages). You can create hangouts to facilitate real time discussion and debate (I think that would be pretty damn cool for a site that focuses on social and political issues), create conversations, post links to your content and even share links from others. What a concept! And it’s all free.
Podcasting? Free when you host it on your site (and often free even when you don’t). iTunes doesn’t charge for hosting your podcast.
Video Blogging? Free! Youtube is free to join and you can even profit a little off your vlogs through advertising.
Pinterest? Free! Pinterest is a wonderful platform that is often overlooked for promoting or sharing great content. It’s not just for artsy fartsy stuff. It’s still considered a hidden gem for content promotion in my book.
Email marketing? Somewhat Free. Many email marketing platforms will allow you to have X number of subscribers before charging you. Even then many account plans are reasonable and come with additional benefits. Heck, you could probably go completely bare bones and use Google Docs to build your subscriber list and even send out your weekly/monthly newsletter through Gmail (In that case, yes, the answer is Free).
Twitter? Also somewhat free. While it’s still free to have a Twitter account (be it personal or business) and free to tweet, twitter has begun moving into the paid to promote camp as well. Though it’s not hiding tweets from anyone (to my knowledge – if you find out the contrary, let me know!), it does allow for more sponsored tweets to show up in your timeline. Oh and if you’re a blogger writing for a company that in any way promotes a product or service – the FTC is asking/requiring that you post the hashtag #ad or #sponsored in your tweet so people know that you’re being compensated in one way or another to talk about said product or service. However, advertising through Twitter is still a choice, just like it is for Facebook.
While I appreciate the attempt to grandstand Facebook as a capitalist social network by using the argument that only those organizations and brands with large budgets can have success on Facebook, that argument just doesn’t hold water. Not when there are other social networks available, advertising is a choice, and the accusing organization doesn’t itself pay their own staff.
There are so many other ways to build your audience, create a fan base and get them to follow you to the ends of the earth. Honing in on one method of marketing and social networking is not it. Social media should be only one notch in your marketing and social network arsenal.
If you’re set on using social networks like Facebook as a social media marketing platform but really don’t know all the ways to reach your audience organically on little to no budget, then I recommend investing some time familiarizing yourself with your page’s analytics and the audience you’re trying to reach. If you sincerely don’t want to be bothered with learning about social media and content marketing, or maybe you do but it seems overwhelming, then yes, you should hire someone to work with you to get where you want to be.
In the meantime, stop putting so much blame on a company that aims to earn a profit and still deliver what people care about most and begin focusing on how your own brand can do the same. If a social network doesn’t work for you or your audience, don’t feel compelled to suffer through it.