Promoted posts are a quiet revolution in the value of social

Jerry Daykin: global digital director at Aegis Dentsu Network and former European social marketing manager at Mondelez
Jerry Daykin: global digital director at Aegis Dentsu Network and former European social marketing manager at Mondelez

Brands that promote content people don't want to see will provoke a negative response, writes former Mondelez Europe social marketing manager Jerry Daykin.

More content is posted to social networks than anyone could ever consume. Facebook applies its "Edgerank" algorithm to try to "surface" relevant content; while unfiltered platforms like Twitter effectively use "Timerank", showing only the most recent. On some you compete on engagement, on others on timeliness, but nowhere will all your followers see everything you post.

It’s easy to criticise Facebook for cunningly decreasing the organic reach of Pages and asking brands to pay more, but it’s no coincidence this decline was matched by a steady increase in the amount being published. The more content there is, the less people see of any one piece, whether limited by an algorithm or simply hidden by newer updates.

Worrying what percentage of followers we reach has become an industry obsession, alongside rumours that those fans may be fake, and that all the young people have moved to something new. Never mind that most brands don’t truly have a business-significant number of fans in the first place, or that they aren’t close to reaching all the youth that definitely is still present.

Social is no longer about a few thousand fans, it can reach tens of millions in a rich, engaging way. For businesses that work at scale, this means, at last, that it deserves meaningful investment.

More fundamentally, though, this focus on fans stands at odds with the penetration objectives of much major marketing investment. This is especially true for big FMCG brands needing to reach millions of disloyal consumers. While paying to reach an already "earned" audience may feel unfair, the introduction of promoted posts to go far beyond this actually represents a quiet revolution in the value that mass marketers can get from social platforms.

Previously, we built competition tabs to persuade people to follow us, so we might then communicate our messages to them. Now we can put our content in front of a carefully targeted, and potentially vast, audience whenever we need to. Social is no longer about a few thousand fans, it can reach tens of millions in a rich, engaging way. For businesses that work at scale, this means, at last, that it deserves meaningful investment.

This newfound scalability has driven business results comparable to TV for Mondelez. It’s no surprise, then, that it coincides with the announcements of its global social partnership with Facebook, adding to an existing one with Twitter as well as innovative trials of Google’s +Post format.

There is, of course, a rich creative challenge in producing content that can engage millions of consumers when they do see it, and that’s at the heart of Mondelez’s "Storytelling at Scale" approach. With great scale comes great responsibility, and brands that promote content people don’t want to see will only get an even bigger negative response to it.

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