Marketers have found that combining earned and paid media on Facebook is a more effective marketing strategy than using either in a silo. However, industry experts stress the need for a balance between the two to achieve results.
Although many communications professionals attest that paid media is a valuable means of generating a fanbase, engagement with that group is necessary or the brand will lose supporters, they add.
“If you want to amplify anything you are doing, you need a critical mass of people out there,” said Kevin King, global practice chair at Edelman Digital. “You could throw the greatest piece of content on Facebook or any other channel, but if there's nobody there to see it, they're not going to amplify it. So having that base is really important.”
Digital analytics company ComScore and Facebook released research on Tuesday noting that brands see a greater impact when they use a combination of paid and earned media in their marketing efforts. The report, released shortly after General Motors stopped advertising on the social network and Facebook's disastrous IPO, recommended marketers seek exposure in consumers' news feeds, interact with fans on brand pages, and deliver marketing content virally. However, it also urged companies to support these efforts with paid advertising on the network.
Ken Shuman, head of communications at real estate website Trulia, agrees that a combination of advertising and earned media is crucial to engage fans on social networks. He adds that brands do not need a lot of money to advertise on the site, but it can help them obtain fans.
Shuman's company conducts paid campaigns on Facebook, although it does so with a small budget. He says it also works hard to engage fans by posting interesting content.
“It's 100% a combination of getting yourself to come up with very engaging content and interacting with consumers and fans so you get the viral organic growth, but also supplementing with the paid advertising and having the powerful combination of both,” Shuman explains.
Michael Bassik, who leads US digital for Burson-Marsteller, agrees that for brands to create steady, if not exponential growth on Facebook, they need to also use paid media with engaging content.
“In the absence of one, it is very challenging, if not impossible, to have an effective social media strategy,” Bassik says. However, he contends that much of the industry has not yet come around to this view.
“You can't simply have an advertising campaign on Facebook and expect engagement, and you can't put great content on Facebook and expect engagement,” Bassik explains. “You have to not only create this great content, you have to tell people it exists.”
In recent months, Facebook has rolled out various tools from its Reach Generator advertising package to Sponsored Stories and promoted posts. After its disappointing IPO, the company is under more pressure to prove its value to Wall Street.
“Because of the way Facebook has changed the way it does things, it's actually forcing people to begin their engagements on Facebook with the content, so even the paid advertising begins with organic content,” explains Gary Goldhammer, chief digital strategist at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. “With all this emphasis on story and content, PR should have the strategic lead at this and be able to move it forward.”
The ComScore report also follows GM's May announcement that it will stop advertising on Facebook, which sparked chatter about the efficacy of paid promotions on the platform. Yet despite pulling its paid advertising, GM says it will continue to be active on the site and that it is an important tool in its marketing arsenal.
“That unfortunately started a dialogue about the effectiveness of paid media on Facebook that wasn't really reflective of the reality,” King said, adding that the ComScore report “states a reality” about how brands successfully market themselves on Facebook.