Paid Social and Content Growing to Greater Necessity

Regan Schiappa headshot

The way we communicate has shifted in this past year and will continue to evolve as the world does. But what does this mean for social media and content? With the world pivoting to an online landscape, many business professionals want to stand out, be different, and distinguish themselves in their industries. Andrew Grzywacz, Senior Content Manager, and Amanda Fountain, Director of Social Media Strategy, discuss the trends they are seeing in marketing and communications that are integral for clients.

Paid Social Media Support

Andrew Grzywacz (AG): Amanda, what do you think 2021 has in store for social and how it pertains to our clients? What do you see on the horizon and what do you think? What are going to be the biggest trends?

Amanda Fountain (AF): There’s been a shift and, and the shift has happened for a while and it’s becoming even more apparent in 2021. Social has been a place that you own the content and is a channel that, although hosted by someone else, you can put what you want and need on there. It has been a good way to directly communicate with your audiences. With everything virtual now, I’m seeing more requests to have very specific paid targeting on social. I’m having those conversations sooner with people or the conversations with clients is skipping right to, we need to do something else, because this owned content that has always worked for us isn’t working anymore.

AG: In the past, it’s been an uphill battle to sell clients on paid social and maybe work paid social into new business pitches. The default question for a long time was, why do we need to go the extra mile for paid social? Now it sounds like, they don’t need that convincing and that they’re already on board with.

AF: There was this perception of that if you’re on social, it inherently got you in front of people and it worked. Then, it became noisy fast. Business, like b2b brands, were often slower to adopt and took a little longer to understand and recognize their audience was there. It created a lag between consumer brands that recognize the value of social and immediately got on onboard with paid social versus a b2b company.

That’s why these paid conversations are happening now, especially with b2b because they’re able to recognize their audiences there. They skip the initial question of; Why should I be on social?  To How can I make the most of what I’m putting there and take the earned coverage that I’m getting somewhere else and making sure it’s in front of the right people?

The interesting aspect about paid social is that most of the platforms set it up, it’s partially self-service. The challenge there is if you don’t know exactly who you want to target. That’s where I’m having my conversations.

Social Media and Content Correlations

AG: I look at the analytics for some of my clients. I can see the graphs when social traffic takes off, when referral traffic takes off, and maybe not every time, but a lot of time, you can trace those spikes to when we started doing paid social campaigns. I feel like the results are self-evident.

AF: I think you and I correlate with these. Looking at the website traffic that you’re pulling, identifying when you had a new piece of content, when social launched a campaign, and being able to correlate all those aspects to show how they work together. Content and social go together. I’ve seen that with our clients too, one good piece of content should be amplified and then the amplification on social needs the little boost from getting some paid. So, later, you can look at your website traffic and see how all those things come together. Andrew, what trends are you seeing on content?

Sponsored Content

AG: Like paid social, paid content or sponsored content, is becoming more popular among my clients. In the past two years, most of my clients relied more on traditional earned content strategies, like a byline, white paper, or ebook. You would create the contributed asset and spend time and money writing it, but there is no certainty of what the outcomes will be once its published. Ideally, you understand your publications and targets well, refer your client to them as a good fit. Oftentimes it’s not guaranteed. Vocations through no fault of our own, will just pass it up. Maybe the publication’s queues are full, or they have other stories they are chasing. sometimes they express interest. And it just kind of sits in the review cycle for a long time. Dies a quiet death there. This trend that content, like social is becoming noisy and crowed has gotten worse over the last couple years.

What I have noticed is that fewer publications are placing content that isn’t sponsored. There are a lot of reasons for that. One is the lack of time and lack of resources internally to dedicate towards that. A lot of these publications have their own financial realities to deal with and there is more interest to create sponsorships for content than it is to accept content that is unpaid. This trend is in the clients benefits too, because now there is a better guarantee to get your content published, through these sponsorships. Two and half years ago, I had one client doing sponsored content. Now, almost all my clients are engaging in some form of sponsorships. Like paid social, which is self-evident, the numbers speak for itself.

Sponsored content is the result of everyone’s time, money, and effort going into one asset. Clients now find that the article will get published often and will get coverage results from it. We’ll also have the share of voice impact from it. It’s a validator of what you’re putting your time and money and effort into, will materialize in some way that matters. Our clients are so enamored with those results they are getting.

AF: You said previously in a conversation we had offline, that owned is not enough, you must get paid to get the full effect of the amplification. I think for both of us, that’s going to be such a big part of the conversations we keep having with clients. You can own a lot, but if you don’t have the vehicle to make sure it gets where it needs to go, it’s stuck.

AG: Clients probably see more value in it because there’s an extra level of attention but also time and focus on a sponsorship. It’s almost as if you’re paying a certain cost for a sponsorship for a quarter or a year, and seeing those articles and fruition, then there’s a dual benefit to it. One benefit is the numbers and the other is it builds relationships.

Some of my clients have long-standing sponsorships with certain publications in their industry. Not necessarily the Bloomberg or CNBC’s of the world, but more niche publications to their sector that are known for their corner of the market. We have these long-term relationships that established a certain rapport with editors. Whenever you’re pushing a new announcement, a new product, or a new story, whoever your sponsors are, those announcements are definite homes for that.

AF: Either way, we look at it, making sure that you have budget to help your own content go where it needs to go, feels like the trend we agree on from both social and long form.

AG: It’s important to have these conversations because part of making paid social and paid content more of your bread and butter, is redefining expectations of paid assets.


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