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The evolution of Social Media into an Advertising Platform - What you Need to Know

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By Hector Cisneros

Before the 2016 presidential election, the rules for using social media as a marketing platform were producing great results for many businesses. The marketing shenanigans that took place during the election exposed some of the questionable policies and algorithms many of the social media and search platforms were using. This has forced them to take draconian measures where now they filter posts to the point that most businesses are finding that what used to work well doesn't work at all anymore. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore some of the most important changes that have occurred in top social networks and provide a plan to help you move forward successfully. Today, businesses will need to rethink their social media game-plans because social media has evolved into social advertising. 




We have written so many articles about social media in the last 9 years that any search of our blog with the search phrase "social" in it, will bring up a list of dozens of articles. However, there are several social media marketing principles that haven't changed, even though social media itself has evolved. Following these principles are necessary for overall social media success. A few articles that come to mind include; 
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Principles Still Matter - In case you haven't noticed, social media is not what it used to be! In the early days of social media, the most important elements of these platforms were making sure you were giving your audience what it wanted. In other words, your followers cared about posts that were; authoritative, relevant, timely, useful, entertaining and catchy. This is still true today. 

Above and beyond the posting mechanics, most of the social networks have superimposed A.I. algorithms and policy filters that affect these principles. For example, your followers may be a group of engineers, along with your family, friends, coworkers and the occasional curious follower. In the old days, if you posted an article on engineering, most if not all followers would see your post. Then the policies and algorithm filters were slowly added over time until today, few if any of your business posts are seen by anyone. 
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Sharing is Not Enough! Today, only followers who explicitly have tagged your account as something they want to see will see your post. They must tag your account as a high-value follower or it's filtered out. The other way you may get seen is if one of your followers shares your post in their timeline which in turn may allow their high priority followers to see your post. 

To get more, you have to ask for more! - Sharing use to get results. That's not enough anymore.  Today you also have to ask your followers via direct message to add you to their highest priority list. For example, when you look at your friends' list on Facebook, you have to determine what your connection is to that person. The top four categories are - "Get Notification",  "Close Friends", Acquaintances"  and "Add to Another List".  Ask your followers to list you as - "Get Notification" and or as a "Close Friend" will increase the chances that they and their followers will see your post. In order for this to take place, you really have to be their friend by giving them what they want and need. It also doesn't hurt to provide them with positive mentions along with sharing their posts and also commenting on them as well.
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Not All Social Network Priority Setting are Equal - Social priority settings aren't the same on other social networks. On Twitter for example; you have to make sure your account is not muted and that you ask followers to turn on mobile notifications if possible. Every social network is different, so you need to go through each one to make sure the settings favor your communications with your followers' timeline. The only way I know how to do this is to ask your followers to make your account a priority.  This will only happen if you give them what they want. It also may be enhanced by providing some sort of incentive. I am not just talking about monetary incentives. You can thank them for retweeting your post and reciprocate by retweeting theirs. You can provide positive actions by mentioning them, commenting on their post and sharing their post. You would be surprised how far a thank you and a positive word goes today. 

The Rise of Sponsored Ads - To make matters worse, most of the social networks have added "in Timeline" sponsored ads. This means that even if your post is showing up in the newsfeed timeline, it will not only be competing with ads, it will have less exposure time because it is being pushed down by additional advertising.

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So, to be successful in "organic timeline marketing", you have to start with making sure you have the basics down pat, (i.e. using the principles and techniques mentioned above). That is, the post has to be authoritative, relevant, timely, useful, entertaining and catchy just like before, and you also need to ask followers to make you a high priority follower. 

Someone Has to Pay - We know that the way social posts are handled today is radically different than when social media was first born. The social nets have matured because they had to. For one, they have to pay for themselves. A social network can't support the technical infrastructure needed to maintain and support millions and billions of subscribers with investor money alone. All social enterprises must generate income if they are to survive. No income - no social network! It was inevitable that all social networks moved to an income generating model. Most have evolved into advertising mediums that sell ad space on their timeline and provide variations on pay per click and boosted posts.
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Learning Does Take Place - Second, they had to learn from their mistakes, from their subscribers and to keep up with technological evolution. There is no question, that the social nets are working hard to learn from their mistakes. The aftermath of the 2016 elections is proof of that. Also, all social networks have feedback mechanisms in place to gauge the sentiment of its subscribers. They regularly beta test new additions, looks, buttons, and capabilities and then monitor the effectiveness and the sentiment of their subscribers regarding these changes. Technological changes have made the biggest impact on social networks. 

The Birth of A.I. - The creation of artificial intelligence algorithms has ushered in an era of rapid timeline changes. It has also ushered in the newest excuse used today when internet marketing goes wrong. Today, A.I. algorithms control what is found and seen, how your activity is tracked and what activity is recorded for future marketing analysis. Also, algorithms produce various forms of censorship. For example - Ads for alcohol, tobacco, and gambling are restricted on many platforms. Also, posts which include hate speech and some forms of political speech are restricted as well. 

The Issue of Privacy - For the most part, privacy does not exist in the social media world because to use any social network requires that you give up a certain amount of private data. It is extremely important that all marketers understand that a huge return to the privacy movement is in the works, worldwide. This movement is a backlash to the ungodly amount of tracking that all internet channels are gathering. This has taken place because these large social and internet enterprises have become vulnerable to being hacked, which in turn costs consumers and subscribers the loss of their private and financial data to cyber-criminals. 
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In the EU, governments have passed the GDPR, a set restrictive laws providing consumers some rights with regard to the collection, use, and storage of their private data. This affects all companies on the internet since the internet connects all businesses worldwide. It will not be long before there will be similar laws passed in the US and other western countries.

Now What - So what can a business do to make social media a more profitable marketing venue. For one thing, make sure you understand and use each platform properly. Also, make sure you closely monitor your return on investment.  If you don't have the time to engage in these activities, then you should be subbing this marketing function out to a competent social media marketing company. Make sure your objectives are clearly stated and agreed upon and make sure that you can cancel the engagement if the social media vendor fails to provide the agreed-upon results. 

Second, you can run pay per click/view campaigns using the built-in advertising platforms available on most social networks.  It is relatively easy to boost a post on Facebook. It's a little more complicated to create an ad campaign. Then again, it's even more complicated if you want to make sure that your ads are converting and producing a return on your investment. Again, if you don't have the time to do this type of advertising the right way, sub it out. There is no easy or cheap way to cut corners and then do things right.
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Lastly understand that as a small business, you have options. Direct email and e-newsletter marketing can be very effective.  A good press release can have a big impact on the launch of a product or reaching a milestone. Video marketing, podcasting, and internet radio/TV all have excellent track records as does blogging, article marketing, Text marketing, pay per click and banner advertising. No business is stuck with only one arena for their digital marketing. Even analog old school TV, Radio and Newsprint have combined to expand their reach by adding the internet to their offerings.

It has always been my contention that a savvy business owner or marketing director will take advantage of proven and competent marketing companies that produce good results. It's even better when one or more of their goto marketing partners provide guaranteed results. Working the Web to Win is one of those companies. Our corporate foundation is built on providing guaranteed positive results for social media growth, engagement, search page position, blog readership, and web page traffic. If you're looking for a second opinion on what can provide your company with a significant increase in your ROI, give us a call. We will provide a free web presence analysis to help you understand if there is room for improvement. Like I said earlier, anyone can do something cheap. It's a whole other matter to do it right and get the desired results. Getting the clients desired results is our specialty. We hope it's what you want as well.

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.


This article discusses the evolution that has taken place in social media over the past few years, as well as how it has affected business marketing and advertising on social media platforms. It provides concrete tips and techniques that businesses can adopt in order to make social media a viable marketing and advertising medium.  
This blog also provides many links to dozens of related articles and it includes a link to the accompanying BlogTalkRadio show for this episode.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also a co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success” and the co-author along with his business partner Carl Weiss of their hit book also called “Working the Web to Win.”




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