Brands Should Have To Pay To Reach Consumers

There I was, (ironically) sitting in my Facebook feed.

The death of Instagram for brands, posted by the publisher Techcrunch, appeared organically in my feed, and then it was re-posted by my good friend in a social media group discussion.  The irony hit me hard.

The reality is, brands SHOULD have to pay, to proactively reach users on social media. Here’s why.

1.  On What Planet Do Brands Get To Advertise For Free?

Let’s put this in perspective.  When television or radio was just starting out, was it free for brands to advertise?  How about print?  Why do brands expect to have a free ride on social media?  Pre-social media, let’s say you wanted to build a community on your website.  You’d have to invest money to advertise to get them there.

When you buy media, you are buying an audience.  There is really zero difference.  We love to say that social media “humanizes” brands – and to some extent it does.

But if corporations aren’t people, then brands aren’t humans.  If they want human eyeballs to see them, generally, they must pay.

2.  It’s Supposed To Be ‘Social’

Users are typically on social media to spend time with their friends, to network, to connect with communities of interest.  If a brand has something that adds value to their life, great.  But otherwise, they are an interruption.  Advertising on these networks allows brands to target their message to the right people at the right time.  And, if the message is good, it will travel organically from there.

When brand voices are a free-for-all in your social stream, they very quickly take over.  With advertising, it’s ensured that the message is a commercial break, and not a takeover of the feeds of people who are looking at pictures of their friend’s babies, weddings, and nights on the town.

Brands should have to pay to interrupt that, and networks should take every effort to protect that.

3.  Spending Money On The Distribution Of Content Keeps Brands Accountable

Did you ever get something for free and grossly undervalue it?  Like you get free tickets to an event, and you don’t show up, because… hey, it was free?

This is how I think many brands tend to treat their content.  There’s so much talk about how easy it is just to test something on social.  Just throw it up there, and if it works – great!  If not, no worries.  It’s social!

When a brand is paying to advertise, they’re much more focused on the results.  And, with the recent algorithm changes for Instagram, if they follow Facebook’s suit, it will be difficult to get any results without putting some money behind it.  To me, when I see a company investing in paid social, I think it makes them invest more in the content itself.  And that makes the world better for all of us.

Better content, being targeted more effectively… who doesn’t win there?

And since I brought up the algorithm, let’s talk about networks that have switched to an algorithm model.  Of course, we have Facebook.  Take a look at their earnings.  Despite all the “Facebook is for old people” talk, they’re killing it.  Why?  Because they understand what users want – and what advertisers want.

You know who didn’t do an algorithm?  Twitter.  Your feed is a recency stream of everyone you follow – unfiltered.  And the funny thing is, Twitter hasn’t been doing so well lately.  I’m not saying that’s entirely due to the lack of an algorithm.  I am, however, saying that despite all the noise from techies, users want and need to be protected from organically filled social feeds filled with brands talking to themselves.

Networks have a valuable service for users, and therefore a valuable audience that can – and should be – monetized by advertisers looking to reach them.