This is not a rant. It is an intentional questioning of the motivation, ethics and practical value of digital marketing; also known as inbound marketing, social media marketing, social selling, content marketing, etc., etc.

It strikes us at #SMXChat that the emergence of pay to play wars in digital marketing is in full swing. How so, you ask? Well, how about a couple random statistics:

a) Facebook organic reach for business pages: About 16% of subscribed users.

b) Percentage of mobile users using ad blocker software: 20% (and counting)

Recent controversial announcements by Instagram and Twitter that they will be employing news and image feed algorithms, in order to, show users ‘moments that are most important to them. That’s a paraphrasing of language from both platforms’ announcements of the changes to how we see our feeds and timelines.

digital media.pngWhat’s the motivation behind these changes? To be fair, as these platforms have grown in users the complexity of our feeds is remarkable. And some users actually do benefit from seeing their important contacts’ content in prioritised fashion. What does this mean for businesses and brands? For marketers who have built strategic plans on social media and for content marketing?

Lest we forget, social media platforms are proprietary. Yup. That means that the Terms of Service that you clicked automatically when you signed up actually obligate you to follow their rules in using the platforms. This is particularly significant for brands. While we all enjoyed a really nice honeymoon period of almost unfettered freedom, the time has come where the pendulum swings in the opposite direction. These platforms are now public corporations, beholden to Directors, Shareholders, and Wall Street Analysts. Oh, and users, too.

We all knew the other shoe was going fall. That sooner or later we’d be paying the piper if we want to dance. It’s go time now. Sure, the entrepreneurs that created social media took some risks. They started small businesses, like many before them. Then, they got their venture capital funding. And they grew, and grew. And connected the planet. You have to give them credit for that. It’s the elephant in the room, right? These (founders and coders of social media platforms) are really smart folks. The monetisation of digital media was a foregone conclusion, way back when…

And the monetisation of digital and social networks is the beginning of the end of the democratisation of information and media. This is actually starting to sound like a rant, isn’t it? Ooops 🙂

It’s no accident that it played out this way. So if business and brand marketers want their piece of the digital marketing pie, they are going to pay for it. And users too! We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Our attention is the currency that brands and digital platforms exchange.

Q1) Organic reach is a myth. How do businesses best use digital and social media platforms to their advantage?

Q2) Are there new ways to reach audience organically? Discuss costs and give examples.

Q3) One in five mobile users has an ad blocker. What now?

Q4) Pay to play in digital marketing has long been ignored and it is here to stay. Where do you see it going for businesses?

Q5) Who’s getting rich in the digital age of marketing? Is there a model where all parties benefit?