The only constant in social media is change. 

Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard that before but it’s even more relevant when it comes to the level of investment required year-over-year. It’s becoming harder for brands to not only become disruptive, but to also set realistic goals with rising advertising costs on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Distributing content to fans has never been more difficult.

Fast company
Source: Fast Company

As we head into New York Social Media Week, I’ve started pondering on this topic since I expect (and can’t wait to see) a handful of innovative, effective campaigns that cost a pretty penny. And I don’t just mean production cost, but more so distribution cost. It’s the cost of getting your content in front of fans that has really changed — almost overnight (I’m kidding, but it’s been pretty quick). There’s just so many more brands in the marketplace in terms of social advertising — whether they’re just boosting top performing posts or putting a huge spend behind their latest piece of video content.

So how did we get here and what’s next?

Let’s take a quick look back. As social marketers, remember the days when it was a given that your content would be seen — not just by a handful of your brand’s audience on say, Facebook, but by the majority of your fans? Imagine that — the good ole’ days.

Then platforms, like Facebook, decided to make a change in the way users were served up content which created a new type of world for brands to live and compete in.

Now with this algorithm in place, brands had to work much harder to be seen. Over the years, more algorithm updates have been made and social advertising analytics have been built out to meet the demand of brands trying to get their share of users’ interest and consideration. Add in e-commerce and it’s become a very, very cluttered space.

But before you think brands are moving to other platforms entirely because of these changes, check out these stats — according to Buffer, “93 percent of marketers use Facebook for their business and 91 percent have also invested in Facebook Ads.” So despite the drop in organic reach on Facebook, “72 percent of respondents said their use of Facebook has stayed the same or increased over the past 12 months.”

Source: Fast Company
Source: Fast Company

So right now, what’s the best way for your content to be seen on these platforms: 

  1. Quality, sharable content — it resonates with your followers enough to make them want to share it, especially if it’s a topic that’s trending or relevant
  2. Influencer support — tapping into their creativity for content development, their loyal fans and distribution can be very effective
  3. Paid, targeted spend — you know who you want to reach and your brand will invest in reaching them

Even with these top two, there’s almost always an element of paid support to help with distribution of content. Is anything not truly paid these days? We’re very much in a pay-to-play world, at least on the main social channels. These approaches above are just the cost of entry for participating in the social space these days.

So let’s think about the future — what’s next?

Micro-influencers? Influencers are no longer enough, a brand needs 100,000 fans to share UGC for them? Maybe.

Real-time immersion in pop culture and politics for brands to get noticed? It takes some risk and a nimble process in place, but look at brands like Merriam-Webster whose strategy of trolling Trump may be paying off … is this the best way to be disruptive these days?


Source: NPR via Merriam-Webster

Or is there another approach emerging? Full disclosure: I do not know the answer just yet, but my eyes and ears are open.

I can’t promise, but I hope to be able to come back after Social Media Week with at least some additional thoughts on content distribution and disruption, if not an answer. It’s the million dollar question that most social marketers are asking — because there’s always the next phase of social media just around the bend.