Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a marked shift from online promotion channels which are “free” (apart from taking up lots of time, of course). Now it’s difficult to get any sort of visibility for your business without looking at paid for options.
Do you remember the heady days of the dot com boom? When it was all about website visitors and traffic? With sales a secondary consideration and profit something to think about later?
That pattern has been repeated over the last 10 years as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter scrambled for users and put worries about how to make money to one side. This has given small businesses great free promotion opportunities. But with Facebook now a public company, the pressure is on to make a profit for shareholders.
Visibility of your page posts in fans’ news feed was pretty low through most of 2013 (around 20% according to most estimates) but plummeted again in December.
The result – you now have to either
- work four times as hard to reach your fans (post more creative content more often)
- start paying to promote your posts
- give up Facebook as a marketing option
Twitter is also working on paid options. It’s early days yet and with no distinction between personal and business accounts, it’s hard to predict what impact any changes will have on small businesses. But it’s an ever moving playing field.
Search is another area where it’s become difficult to get much exposure without paying. I wrote recently about the dominance of big brands and marketplace sites (ebay, amazon) within search results. And, of course, Google shopping stopped being free last year (and with Google giving more prominence to those paid for listings the space for organic search results has decreased).
The one exception is local search – Google Places is still free and for businesses which operate locally, this is a must.
But for those who operate nationally, and especially ecommerce businesses life is going to be very tough if you rely on promoting yourself via free channels.
The way forward in 2014
If you’ve been relying on those “free” marketing methods then it’s time to think again and have a serious look at how you spend your budget – both time and money. Don’t think of it as necessarily a bad thing – just a re-arrangement of resources. Done properly, paid options like Adwords can give a good return on investment.
And think how much you can achieve with more time to focus on the things you do best?