For brands looking to be heard on Social Media, they won’t be able to do it for free.


social-media-marketing-ann-arbor-michiganSocial media is positioned for the most part to make brands feel as though it’s a free way to communicate with people. And the fact remains that social media is still free to use; however, it’s starting to and has been, a pay-to-play environment if brands want to be noticed or to gain more followers and fans. In the last decade, brands were able to more easily get their names out through various social media channels without having to exhaust that much financial effort. However, in the last couple of years, that dynamic has changed.

Running contests to gain more followers and attention to you brand.

This may already seem obvious, but to run a contest or promotion to gain more followers and fans to a brand, the prize(s) is going to have to be something that will cost money. For the size of the brand, there is the possibility that the larger a brand is, the more money that will have to be allocated to the prize(s) to reward people for following that brand. Consider this, a tanning salon could gain more followers and get more attention to their brand by giving away an iPad on their Facebook page. If a company like Best Buy were to do a contest to gain more followers, giving away one iPad won’t cut it. Instead, Best Buy would have to look to give away several and possibly hundreds of iPads to make a splash where users of social media would want to take the time to enter to notice what Best Buy is doing.

Promoting the Contest: It will cost more $$$

Hopefully, by now it is becoming more evident that money needs to be invested to promote the contest. Granted, some contests can take off and be a hit a viral hit, but for the rest of them, they need to be promoted to see any success. There is the timeless question of a tree falling in the forest, and if it does fall in the forest and no body is around to hear it, does it make a sound? With social media, that tree can fall like a contest promotion, but if no one knows that you’re running a promotion, it won’t make a sound.

Falling Tree

The best way to promote a contest or a giveaway for a brand will be to use paid advertisements such as, Facebook ads/boosts, and or promoted tweets on Twitter. Soon, Instagram will be in the ad business, as well. Advertising a promotion on social media will undoubtedly give the brand some success if the prize is relevant, and the contest/giveaway can also be successful if the content is memorable and the effective use of hashtags are taken into consideration. If all of that is executed successfully, then a brand has a good chance of raising more awareness to it.

Social Media Advertisements, not for giveaways, but for raising awareness for a brand.

Facebook Boosted Post_AdobeWe have all seen them on Facebook, they are those ads on the top right-hand side of your newsfeed that feature brands that are looking for one thing: your LIKE. They are called “sponsored stories.” Recently, Facebook has made available a new type of ad called a “Boosted Post,” where a brand can create a status update, share it, target and promote it, then it will show up in other users’ news-feeds even without that user being associated with that brand. With Twitter, it is the same thing, except for the tweet will show up right in your feed of other tweets.  These ads are ran to not only spread the word about a brand looking to get more engagement on a contest, but more to drive awareness of that brand. Promoted-Tweets-Twitter-advertising

Now that you are aware…

In the grand scheme of overall marketing budgets as they pertain to money spent on advertisements and raising awareness, social media can still be the MOST cost-effective route to use when trying to reach more people online. Running Facebook ads to promote brand awareness is a lot more cost-effective than to produce a television or radio commercial, then spend even more money to purchase advertising space to broadcast that commercial. The point of this blog post is to make sure that you are aware that promoting a brand on social media still has its price—just not as much. If you’re using a social media strategy as part of a marketing mix to a brand that you are working for, make sure that you create budgets for contest prizing and for ads.


Constine, J. (2014). Tech crunch. Retrieved from

Gin, W. (2014). Advertising on facebook – still not using it?. Newswire. Retrieved from

Lee, J. (2013). 5 social media advertising trends to watch for in 2014. Search Engine Watch. Retrieved from

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5 Responses to For brands looking to be heard on Social Media, they won’t be able to do it for free.

  1. Ashley says:

    Hi Jared,
    You summarize some great points. I would be interested to know your insights about how to justify raising awareness as enough for paying for the resources and time for social media. For both the business and NPO I work with, they are interested in achieving leads from our social networks, and don’t see the value of awareness alone. I’ve tried to reason with both of them why this is so valuable, and while I think I make a reasonable case, I always feel like my position is on thin ice. Any suggestions on how to justify this information?

  2. jasonwilson says:

    Hi Jared,
    Great post. I work a lot with the marketing students at a few of the local Universities, and the perception of “free” social media marketing is still quite prevalent. Social media marketing is still something that is generally misunderstood, and is sometimes thought to be a low-cost magic wand, that will solve all of the marketing issues. In reality, it is a separate media channel, that needs to be approached differently than others, and this requires much more strategy than other channels.
    Great post.

  3. Pete says:

    “Pay to play” is the right term. Congrats! Superbly done post. If people thought they could start a FB and Twitter account and post weekly or even monthly – and they would be in the 21 century and in business. How wrong could they be? It is about ‘freshness’ and a business cannot be fresh and remain so — unless they communicate daily and often within the spheres of social media. And people have their own jobs, niches within a company, therefore it has become necessary in the marketplace to have social media staff or even “evangelists” who will maintain and speak your language on your behalf to the cyber- and global public square. My wife’s (whom she works for…) billion-dollar international I.T. company has dozens of these so-called ‘spokespersons’ on the payroll right now. Again, relevant and awesome discussion piece, classmate!
    Fight On, Pete

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Hi Jared,
    Really informative post, nicely done! Your final point about social media still being one of the more affordable advertising options (if approached correctly) got me thinking. Since most types of entertainment are starting to transition over to streaming services, and with the rise of social networks and mobile apps, I wonder if there were come a day when so many people have abandoned traditional television that the advertising for it drops to bargain prices? When all the algorithms have been perfected, will these social media marketing endeavors be much more expensive (though much more effective), overwhelming any impact or relevance TV used to have? Just musing aloud, no need to respond directly – it will be interesting enough to find out in the coming years!
    Thanks for sharing!
    -Jeff M

  5. Fiona Chan says:

    Hi Jared, thanks for the great insight. I always heard from our social media team that how affordable and how effective the social media ads are. When working on media plan, I notice that many traditional media likes to include social media as an added-value for advertisers. You post does help me think more about future social media strategy and budget planning. Thanks for sharing!