The days of reaching potential customers on social networks like Facebook for free are seemingly coming to an end. It was not long ago that the basis for social media marketing was the free or organic approach. However, there is a growing movement among social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others which is now moving towards a “pay-to-play” approach.

How Pay-to-Play is Changing Facebook & Twitter

Of all the social media sites, Facebook is far and away the largest and the most popular for marketers. Over the past few years, Facebook has seen the monetary potential of charging for advertising and has taken advantage thanks to their pay-to-play approach. Twitter is moving in the same direction as it is implementing a new newsfeed type of algorithm which will change how viewers see new tweets.

Instead of seeing tweets in one continuous feed that is done in real time, they will be shown in the order of importance that Twitter deems the most suitable. While the public story is that Twitter is trying to improve the experience of their users, the effect is to get more advertising revenue by restricting the normal free or organic reach of marketers.

On Facebook, the move away from effective organic or free social media marketing has been known since at least 2013.  In fact, the reach for pages that have 500 likes or fewer has dwindled at a greater rate if they employ free social media marketing techniques. It will not be long before the switch to pay-to-play will be complete.

The Monetization of Social Media

Today, more social media sites are turning towards monetization which makes free use for marketing purposes far harder to achieve. This means that small and one-person companies with limited budgets will have a harder time reaching new customers using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others. The reasons are simple, the revenue from the ads are such that it’s natural for social media to embrace their potential.

Whatever loss they incur from marketers who shun their sites because they lack free marketing is more than made up for by the low-cost ads that many other marketers will use to promote their businesses. The same is true for Pinterest, which is now using “Promoting Pins” which promises to boost the company’s revenue considerably.

Is Free Social Media Marketing Really Dead?

The answer is no, there is still plenty of organic reach even in Facebook where research shows that the top 1% of pages still reaches nearly 82% of their community. However, it is true that this type of reach is changing which means that new approaches will have to be used in order to reach your intended audience.

The key is using this form of marketing as part of an overall strategy which should be tied to long-range planning instead of trying to make a quick impression. It’s no secret that social media sites will continue to emphasize new revenue streams that will make it more difficult for free or organic approaches to work. However, it should be noted that using free approaches will require more planning, effort, and emphasis on good content.