Let’s face it, social media needs to make money somehow, right? Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest can’t just run for free, can they. Ah, the good ol’ days. But, when the board of directors (or, in Pinterest’s case, board of investors) says you’ve got to make money, it’s time to monetize your product.
Facebook took this to heart and has essentially made it impossible for businesses to interact with the people who follow them without paying for it. That’s right. We’re not even talking about getting new followers or likes. This is only about interacting with the folks who have already liked your page. Organic interaction has been reduced to 1% to 2% on Facebook. That means that even if you have several hundred followers, your post may only reach a handful of people unless you “boo$t” your post. Essentially, it’s pay to play.
Twitter’s methods don’t seem so Machiavellian… yet. As far as I can tell, Twitter’s monetization simply puts your posts or your account in front of more folks who are outside your normal feed. This makes sense to me. As a business, I want to reach more than my followers with some announcements. Ok, then I have to pay for that reach. Seems fair. Makes sense. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this. If they start limiting my reach, it’ll be time to cry foul.
Recently, Pinterest has begun exploring monetization. Businesses will have the ability to pay to recommend their pin to users who pin similar content. Though not open to all users yet, I’ve already seen these pins in my feed. And, let me tell you… I wasn’t too happy. The recommended pins are based on other things I’ve pinned, but not on boards I’ve followed. Here’s the problem with that. I don’t follow clothing boards. I don’t want to follow clothing boards. Yes, I have a board with clothing on it. Every once in a while, I like to browse men’s fashion and pin a few things to that board. I don’t want to see clothing in my feed though. So, I was pretty surprised when I saw clothing in my feed (on my phone) for the first time. Then I saw at the base of the pin, “Recommended pin.” Now, whether or not these are recommended because someone paid for them to be so, or not, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just an algorithm that looks at what you’ve liked in the past and throws a mixture of random and paid at you. I was very surprised at just how many posts were recommended though. I would almost say it was a ratio of 2:5 (recommended pins:organic pins). It seemed like a lot. And, for someone who’s suddenly seeing clothes where he primarily only wanted to see books and book-related pins, it’s distracting and disturbing. I’m not quite ready to pass negative judgement on this, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
I’ve used both Facebook and Twitter’s pay-for-performance systems. Facebook is, unfortunately, populated with people whose job it is to click on links (seach the term “click farms” and you’ll learn something new), which devalues almost every paid interaction on the site. I had so many bogus followers the last time I paid for something that I’ve decided to never use paid advertising on the site again. Twitter was a much different story. I had decent followers who actually had common interests, and my links got clicks that appeared to at least generate some feedback/sales. I’ll be curious to give Pinterest a shot once they open up to small businesses. I don’t see a lot of action on book links now, but maybe if it’s something that’s focused, the results would be different.
My last comment is that social media is making it easier and easier to pour money into their hungry mouths. Be careful the beast you feed. As a small business, your advertising dollars should be focused where you see the most return. Nothing is guaranteed. Do your research and get multiple opinions before putting your hard-earned money in the social media money-eating monster.