Pay Attention: How digital platforms are upending the need for public relations
Years ago, Facebook rolled out the red carpet for advertisers. At the time many experts believed that the move heralded the beginning of an end of traditional marketing and communications. The logic was simple. Businesses were supposed to create their space on the platform (which was growing by leaps and bounds), invite their stakeholders to follow them for instant updates and forget the challenges of their messages reaching the target.
Of course, there was a small price to be paid for getting the right audiences to follow your page but that was pennies compared to the traditional marketing dollar. Businesses heaved a sigh of relief. The typical spray and pray approach would give way to focused targeting – all they had to do was get the message right. Remember, this was the time when Facebook was cleverly marketed as a country with rapidly growing population.
The dream soon turned into a nightmare when Facebook changed their algorithm. No longer, they said, will your messages reach all your followers. Instead, only a small percentage of your audience will be shown your message and if you want to reach the rest, you will have to cough up some dollars. All this while spending more money to amass new followers in the ever-expanding digital country.
The changing digital media model
The nightmare of yesterday seems a case of just one bad dream today. Why? Because digital platforms are no longer satisfied with charging businesses for reaching their audiences but want these audiences to chip in with some dollars as well. They want paid subscribers! Whatever happened to Facebook’s decade long promise of keeping their platform free for users you’d wonder.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, have all either introduced or are in the process of introducing some form of toll for ‘Creators’ – a title which if they had their way should apply to each user who has something to say on their platforms.
With both businesses and audiences asked to pay, the friction free-digital platforms that promised unparalleled reach will soon resemble superhighways lined with invisible toll booths charging money for two-way traffic albeit at different rates and frequency.
So does this spell doom for the small and medium businesses? Hardly. Advertising revenues of digital platforms, which at one point seemed like defying gravity, have started declining, thus signalling a change of strategy even by big brands.
Implications on digital marketing and advertising by SMEs and start-ups
If you are a solopreneur, small and medium sized business or even a start-up, it’s time to pay attention to the reversing fortunes of digital platforms and act quickly.
To start with, exit the superhighway.
This does not mean that you quit the digital platforms or stop your digital PR efforts. On the contrary, you will need to double down on digital PR by either hiring the right talent in-house or working with an external agency that help navigate the journey to your audiences. Instead of blindly following the route decided by the platforms which seek to maximize their toll, it’s time to use them as per your priorities and preferences.
You call follow this three-step process to maximize your digital efforts.
1. Create your content
2. Own it
3. Build your network
This way, you can use the digital infrastructure available for all but only utilized by businesses committed to getting the best returns on their marketing dollars.
– By Hemant Bohra
Hemant Bohra, a communications veteran, has shaped and executed communication campaigns, structured, and contextualized narratives, and assisted leadership teams to achieve business objectives. As the Founder of India Opportunity Partners, he now helps European firms conduct Reputational Due Diligence in India and assist them on an entry communication strategy. India Opportunity Partners offers independent integrity assessments of counter parties, bespoke reputational due diligence and guide marketing and communication efforts for clients.
(The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal views.)
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