Social media is free – but with limitations. Once upon a time, in the days before algorithms and curated newsfeeds, social media was great for business owners to build an audience in no time for no money. Those days are over, though. Applications like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube all have advertising functions that allow marketers to raise the number of people that will see their content, for a fee. We can mostly thank Facebook for leading this change, in 2007 the ads platform was launched and has earned the company more than $1 billion per quarter in revenue. With Facebook being such a shrewdly run organization, is paying to play the ONLY way a business can succeed using the app?

Businesses owners (me included) have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Particularly with recent privacy issues, Facebook wouldn’t be used as often if their business wasn’t on the app.

While it definitely boosts marketing efforts when paid ads are used to support organic content, I believe there is still room for old-fashioned, pre-newsfeed era engagement.

Before we get into what can still attract attention, let’s be clear about Facebook frowns upon: external links. If you’re posting links to non-Facebook properties you should expect to get little to no response, because the algorithm shows links to the smallest number of your followers as possible.

Video has been the best type of content to post on Facebook for a few years, and the evolution now includes square videos for the best output on mobile and desktop, episodic video (AKA series) and live broadcasts. As consumers are turning away from traditional television and migrating to on-demand content, Facebook is “rewarding” creators that publish high-quality videos on a consistent basis, to include featuring them in a dedicated section of the app called Watch.

New features with Groups will are allowing entrepreneurs to join groups as their business page and participate in discussions in order to raise their profiles. Direct monetization comes with the ability to create subscription-based groups and deepen engagement with members.

I wouldn’t say that organic reach is dead on Facebook, but ‘pay to play’ definitely applies these days. If you don’t have the resources to pay yet, play the right game by committing to the free features until you do.

Moniek James is a serial entrepreneur and nerd who helps small business owners use social media to be more awesome online. Find her at where she shares her favorite entrepreneurial hacks and musings.


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