Last week, Snapchat’s announcement that it will charge $750,000 for a disappearing ad on its platform drove an audible gasp from the industry.  

Although this has resulted in mass shock across Marketing Directors and Community Managers, it does highlight one thing: the (always inaccurate) myth that social media is free is certainly over: 2015 is the year for paid amplification on social.

For Snapchat to warrant charging a six-figure sum – although admittedly the jury’s out on whether it is truly justified – it does show that the trials that have run, with brands such as McDonalds, Macys and Samsung, have been perceived to drive significant value to brands.

With sums such as this being bandied around, this elevates the channel, which has previously been overlooked by marketing directors, to necessitating management by staff of the same calibre as those managing above the line advertising such as TV and out of home.

74% of internet users are registered with a social media platform, and there are 1.35bn monthly active users on Facebook.

Further than this, it is unique in its nature, that its audience actively and willingly engages with the platform and openly shares personal data.

Whilst many refuse to share their personal data with brands, they openly broadcast valuable information on social all of which helps strengthen the commercial offering of the platforms as they can both provide valuable insights for customer profiling, but also precision target a brand’s message to produce hyper-targeted campaigns. Needless to say, these social giants now need to earn revenue, and then some!

Paid amplification

2015 will be the year paid amplification is locked down within all marketing budgets. As we all know, the huge social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Snapchat now need to continue to push monetising their vast user base and data pool.

It is worth noting that paid amplification is focused just as much on reaching people who are already “fans/followers” of a brand (social retention) as it is sourcing new fans (social acquisition). 

This year, Twitter has announced it will update it’s algorithms to show relevant rather than linear content, following in Facebook’s footsteps and effectively crippling the reach of a brand’s message when relying on organic reach.

Paid social, therefore becomes the only avenue for a brand to reach its unique audience. Further than this, Facebook re-launched the atlas software originally created by Microsoft. This technology enables cross-platform tracking by overcoming the cookie issue.

With more precise attribution tracking, social media will be able to prove its worth more than ever, the cost for qualified traffic will increase with aggressive CPC, CPM or even CPA models.

Further than this however, it facilitates the possibility to serve an advert through Facebook, outside of the website’s domain. With Twitter developing a similar technology, strides are being met to develop technology that must be seen to rival Google’s Display Network.

Facebook and Twitter, with both Instagram and Snapchat quickly following suit, are evolving into powerful advertising platforms, with a reach outside of their own domains. A separate social media budget must be assigned to really capitalise on this opportunity.

Social media agencies or in-house mature

Until now, social media management has been synonymous with grads and interns, but with the rising cost of the channel, it must be seen to have out grown its junior guardian’s.

Not only does strategy, tone of voice and agility need a degree of seniority, once a channel is assigned a media budget, analysis, reporting and ROI all come in to play. This means the skill sets needed include designers, copy writers, customer-service teams, analyst and paid media experts as well as all the technologies needed for reporting.  

We’ve always had the approach that paid social requires the same approach as a search marketing campaign therefore for this reason I feel it is now unrealistic for brands to assume social media can be managed by one person alone – the creative necessary and display like programmatic buying will certainly only lead to the rise in manpower and therefore investment required.

As much as your PPC & SEO agencies (or teams) need to be work holistically, now the need for search and social will need to be in bed together, to ensure more efficient targeting and results.

The infamous Superbowl Oreo tweet was not luck, it came from a team of 15, with varying skill sets, poised to react to any key event.

Needless to say, as the scope of the channel grows, so does the amount of people needed to manage it. Your social media agency needs to work in tandem with (or also be) your PPC and SEO agency and/or teams, just as much as they need to work to be in-tune with your Marcomms team and analysts.

In summary

One thing is certainly true – the myth of social media being free was always wrong and it is certainly going to be blasted out of the water in 2015.

If you don’t have budget for paid inclusion, a senior social manager, paid amplification, an integrated digital media agency, or simply paid social, to compliment you organic social activity, expect your social presence to likely only decrease.