How Social Media Became the New Advertising


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By now, we all know the mythic origin story of how Facebook started out as a platform for college students to scope out who was hot in their PolySci class. It has since exploded into a massive brand-saturated network with more users than many small countries. What used to be a way to keep in touch with your friends has now become the biggest advertising platform in the world. Instead of being bombarded by what your cousin’s boyfriend’s sister ate for lunch, now you’ve got every brand big and small clogging up your newsfeed. With branded videos, sponsored posts and any kind of meme imaginable, brands are the new Facebook, and social media is the new advertising.

Issues of user experience aside, it also now means that Facebook and its ilk (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) are no longer interested in providing a free ride to brands. Regardless of your size – whether you’re Coca-Cola or a mom-and-pop corner liquor store – you’ve got to pay-to-play. Social media is no longer free, and the easiest way to break through the noise is to plunk down advertising dollars.

Even if you’re only “boosting” your post (Facebook’s new euphemism for advertising) for $5, you’ll see a major difference in reach. Without the boost, a page with 230 likes can see their post viewed by 9 people. With the $5 boost, the numbers climb to 100 (source: our experiment). That’s small potatoes to a big brand but it makes a big difference to a small business, the kind that were initially wowed by Facebook’s reach.

No longer the venue to level the playing field, social media has become the digital age’s equivalent of a freeway billboard. Get those dollars ready.