“Pay to Play” – Why Owning Your Audience is Greater than Renting It

permission marketing

Four Reasons to Get Back to the Basics of Permission Marketing

Shifting your focus from rented audiences on social media to owned audiences through permission marketing will level up your recruitment marketing. 

Over the past several months, I’ve had many conversations with recruitment marketing and employer brand folks. One consistent thread has been how reliant they are on social media and how little they focus on permission and email marketing.

This is top-of-mind because of a recent Tweet from Phil Nottingham, Brand and Marketing Strategist at Wistia: 

 


I replied that it was time to focus on permission marketing and owning your audience instead of renting it, and he agreed.

 

Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t put all of your employer brand and recruitment marketing eggs in one basket with social media. 

 


Algorithms Change

Social networks are constantly evolving, testing, and changing their algorithms to ensure you engage more and stay on their platform longer. 

Most don’t share these changes with their users, so it’s a guessing game about what you can do to increase your content’s reach and engagement. 

LinkedIn is the exception, and you can find a wealth of information by reading their engineering blog. 

They recently published an article on the importance of ‘dwell time’ as a key measure of engagement. Given this, dwell time may be the most important measure determining whether your content gains traction among your network or simply finds the relaxing but frustrating chirp of crickets. 

If you manage your brand’s social media and haven’t read this yet, I’d highly recommend it.

You’ll realize that if you’re still operating under the assumption that clicks, likes, and shares are the most important thing, you may also be wondering why those things have dropped off over time.

What does this mean? It means less control of when your message lands and who sees it. You’re at the mercy of a machine determining the relevancy and importance of your content and message. 

 

Targeting and Segmentation

When it comes to social media, anyone can follow you. You could argue that anyone could also subscribe to your email list from your website, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The difference is you have control of how you segment your subscribers on the backend. Just because they subscribed doesn’t mean you only have one list and email the same message to everyone. 

Segmentation is a huge advantage of email marketing. You can also invite people to subscribe, essentially ‘hand-picking’ the people you want to receive your messages. 

With social media, you could have 1,000 followers, and maybe only half of them are ones you want to engage with and stay top of mind. Because organic social reach is so low (more on that later), your message will only be seen by a small percentage at any given time, so the likelihood of it getting in front of the ones you want to see it are slim.

This isn’t much different from the engagement you would get by placing a display ad (aka banner ad) on websites through Google Ads or another platform. At least engagement as it relates to a display ad means clicks through to your website. That’s usually not the case with social network engagement. More on that later, as well.

 

Low Organic Reach (aka “Pay to Play”)

This is the big one. Organic reach on social media platforms has been decreasing, little by little, each year since around 2012.

The most recent stats I’ve seen on organic Facebook reach was about 5.2%. That means, if you have 1,000 followers, only 50 will ever see your organic post at any given time.  5-0. That’s it.

With email, even if people delete your email without opening it, they’ve seen your brand. The average open rate for email marketing campaigns is close to 18%, and the average CTR (click-through rate) is about 2.6%. You’d be lucky to get that from a paid social campaign.

I’ve also seen a disturbing trend pointing to an inverse relationship between your number of followers and organic reach. 

According to a Hootsuite study of Facebook, there was an inverse relationship between the number of fans your page has and the engagement rate. The average engagement rate for pages with less than 10,000 fans was 0.52% compared to 0.28% for pages with between 10,000 and 100,000 fans and 0.10% for pages with more than 100,000 fans. 

Essentially, what this means is even if you want to reach the people who have opted-in and want to hear from you, you’re going to have to pay. Social media is just another form of paid advertising.

 

Competing Priorities

Often, your goal of using social platforms as a distribution channel to drive traffic to your website directly competes with the platform’s goal of keeping you within its walls. 

As I mentioned, driving traffic to your website through organic reach is wishful thinking. Most social media platforms want your eyeballs to stay right where they are – on their platform. They want you to scroll, pause, scroll, pause. If you leave, it’s because you clicked on a paid post, and they got paid. 

As I previously mentioned, part of LinkedIn’s algorithm measures the amount of time you pause (aka dwell time). They want to reward the people who can help them lengthen the time people stay engaged on their platform.

If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, you saw how these platforms are engineered around our psychology. They’re essentially hijacking our minds and bodies for their benefit, not that of ourselves or our businesses. 

 

What Else Should You Be Doing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to stop using social media. I’m saying that if you’re mostly focusing on social media, you should reconsider your strategy.

Modern marketing is omnichannel marketing- meaning the way people consume and gather information contains multiple touchpoints.

Viewing social as one of many touchpoints is a good way of looking at it. Still, the most underrated and underappreciated marketing strategy is permission marketing. 

By building lists that can be segmented and targeted based on your business objectives, you will be taking advantage of your owned audience. 

When you rent your audience on social, you’re mostly hoping for a positive outcome. Stop hoping. 

Continue to leverage organic social, carve out a budget for paid social campaigns, and focus on ways to increase your reach and targeting through permission marketing. Ultimately, having segmented lists that you own not only will ensure your messages get in front of the right people, but it also offers a substantial competitive advantage. 

 

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Travis Scott

Travis has had what some would refer to as a ‘non-linear’ career path. He’s naturally curious and has always loved to learn. It’s no wonder that being in sales or recruiting, was not going to inspire him to do his best work and tap into his strengths and passion.


He has over 10 years of marketing-related experience, preceded by significant corporate recruiting experience sprinkled with a little sales and account management here and there.


Travis has lived in Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles, but now calls Spokane, WA home. He has an MBA from the University of Colorado-Denver and a BS from Indiana University-Bloomington.





Travis has had what some would refer to as a ‘non-linear’ career path. He’s naturally curious and has always loved to learn. It’s no wonder that being in sales or recruiting, was not going to inspire him to do his best work and tap into his strengths and passion.

He has over 10 years of marketing-related experience, preceded by significant corporate recruiting experience sprinkled with a little sales and account management here and there.

Travis has lived in Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles, but now calls Spokane, WA home. He has an MBA from the University of Colorado-Denver and a BS from Indiana University-Bloomington.

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