Consider the relatively recent changes that have taken place on the major social networks in the past 12 months or so:
- Facebook, in the weeks leading up to their IPO, introduced a new tool they called “Reach Generator” that became what we now know as paying to reach your fans through promoted posts. The announcement was made in Manhattan before an audience of some of the largest advertisers on the planet. The move to promoted posts prompted quite a bit of backlash.
- LinkedIn rolled out new advertising options to allow businesses to use small block ads on the right rail to promote their products and services, yet the most visible ads remain in the banner ads, which are the domain of large-scale advertisers.
- Google AdWords announced the move to “enhanced campaigns” to force the inclusion of mobile platform advertising into all AdWords advertising campaigns. (I know this one isn’t a social network, but it is still a fairly significant move).
- Twitter recently revealed that the cost of the “promoted trend,” a one-day purchase of the top slot on the list of trending topics had increased to $200,000 per day.
In considering each of these moves, I believe we’re seeing the beginnings of a significant trend: social media is boxing out the small and medium-sized business (SMB) advertiser from advertising on its networks.
“Big deal!” some might say. Big deal, indeed. Many a business has been built, grown or significantly enhanced through advertising on the likes of Facebook or Twitter. In fact, a report released by Ad-ology earlier this year indicated that 1 in 5 small businesses plan to increase spending on social media advertising in 2013. But will those businesses find the social networks welcoming them with open arms? If the moves noted above are any indicator, it seems that they will not.
Now, I don’t fault a business for trying to make money, especially when each of these networks is living off of venture capital or stock offerings (the noted exception being LinkedIn, which has done quite well for some time now). And it’s not to say that SMBs are no longer able to advertise on social networks, because the doors do remain open to them. But the issue I see is that the SMBs will only have access to the table scraps while the large-scale advertisers feast on the most valuable placements. And if that’s the case, does it really make sense for SMBs to put valuable dollars into such poor placements? Probably not.
Advertising is a challenging business. I’ve been a part of that world for many years and I know the struggles that publishers have experienced as they’ve sought to monetize the digital space. But I believe the social networks are walking down a dangerous path if they reserve more of their advertising space for companies with deep pockets and effectively crowd out the SMBs.
I hope I’m wrong and that many SMBs will continue to find social media advertising a valuable channel into the future, but if these trends continue, they may be better off putting those valuable marketing dollars into a solid content marketing strategy — without a paid component — instead.
What are your thoughts? Do you think SMBs will be pushed out of the Social Media Advertising space?
About The Author
Jon Parks is a digital marketing strategist and owner of Dijital Farm, a digital marketing consulting agency based in Raleigh, N.C. As a consultant, speaker and instructor, Jon helps businesses make sense of social media, the basics of Google, e-mail marketing and more. You can follow Jon on Twitter, add him to your circles on Google Plus and connect with him on LinkedIn.