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Pay to Play

Are you using social media to promote your business? The New York Times says, “The major social media platforms are, in some hard-to-define way, essential to modern life.” In other words, social platforms are here to stay. So, let’s figure out how to work with the algorithms that govern what users see in their feeds. Here are some suggestions.

Spread Out Your Content

Some social media posts contain lots of text and too many images. Instead, you should make it easy for users to digest your content. Divide one big post into multiple posts. People move quickly through their feeds, so write short post copy—about 115 characters is all you need. By stretching out your content you can create more impressions.


Use hashtags to attract a larger audience, but don’t overthink them. If you’re a specialty contractor and you want to tout the solutions you offer, you might think the hashtag, #InnovativeSolutions, would do the trick. But that hashtag has only about 800 followers on LinkedIn. Consider switching it to #GeneralContractors, which lacks the word “solutions” but having 16,698 followers packs a bigger punch with the LinkedIn algorithm. Just don’t pad your posts with too many hashtags. The algorithms will penalize you, thinking you’re a spammer. Four hashtags per post, maybe five, is all you need.


Tag users. Tagging uses the @ symbol to nudge the named user, an individual or a company, to engage with your posts, allowing you to garner more impressions.


What is the lifespan of a social media post? According to The Refinery, Twitter is 15 minutes. Facebook: 6 hours. LinkedIn: 24 hours. Instagram: 48 hours. The lesson? Post regularly and repost often. Your audience will miss much of your content anyway and you’re picking up new followers all the time, so reposting gives more of your network a chance to see your messages.


How long should you wait before reposting content? Three days in my team’s experience. Seven should be fine. Of course, every social media account is unique, so test and analyze your results.

Reach a Defined Audience

Free content on social media has been declining for several years now. It means that social media marketing has become a pay-to-play endeavor.


In 2021, for example, Facebook’s paid U.S. revenue was nearly $115 billion. Clearly, Facebook is charging to post, not making it easier to post for free. Furthermore, Hootsuite says the average reach of a “free” organic Facebook post is 5.2%—only one in 19 of your followers sees your non-promoted Facebook content.


Here are three key points about paid social:


1. Paid social can reach a defined audience. A paid, granular, targeted approach to social allows you to reach the exact general contractors and architects in a precise region and gives your company the most benefits.


2. Paid ads are measurable. The data can help you refine your message and keywords and help you build a more holistic understanding of your audience. These paid-for insights will come much faster than they will organically. Advertising also helps you to glean an understanding of which platforms best reach your target audience.


3. Machine learning can help optimize your campaigns. Google has a responsive advertising program that uses machine learning. The ads “learn” the best combination of phrase-matched headlines—headlines derived from actual phrases you set and that are used in Google searches. It allows for a dynamic ad execution that’s auto tested to reach your target audience and maximize your post impressions.


One industry player recently invested $350 in a responsive Google ad campaign for a month. The campaign garnered a 7% click-through rate (CTR), a $0.60 cost per click (CPC) and generated 8,850 impressions. Based on Hubspot’s reported averages—1.91% average CTR and $2.32 average CTR for all industries—the campaign did its job for less than what others paid.


Clearly, you don’t need a big ad budget to get started with paid social. But having said that, remember that organic social media marketing is still important. Many feel it’s the foundation of a successful social ad strategy. “Behind every successful ad campaign with high paid reach is a consistent and creative social media presence that strengthens the brand,” Hootsuite says.


Yes, social media is part of modern life. Are you taking part in it?


Mark L. Johnson writes for the wall and ceiling industry. He can be reached via

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