One of the early attractions of social media was the low barrier to entry. Basic access to all of the platforms was free and many services did not even have a premium option. The accessibility empowered small to medium sized businesses who had felt outspent in other areas of marketing by big business. A small company blog could compete with big business on a level playing field. Video put commercial production in the hands of anyone with a flip camera. Now that may all change.
Ning has announced an end to free. Twitter now offers “promoted tweets.” Many other free services have either dissipated or switched to premium models. There was always a danger in relying too heavily on platforms that we neither owned or co-opted with our dollars. The very thing that drove social media’s growth may force these companies to shift to paying models in order to support traffic and innovation.
While we still likely see free or low cost services available to all, the introduction of premium services may once again mean that he who has the most dollars can gain an edge.
I do not believe that we should abandon the tools but it is imperative to develop strategies that are not dependent on a specific platform or current day business model. Let us not forget that free also means lack of control. The recent issues with Twitter illuminate this fact.
We must have plans and contingency plans and all should hinge on the non-negotiable asset in all marketing – your customers. Relevant, quality messages will survive any delivery method. The ingredients are the magic not the plate on which they are served.
And yes, we must watch for those telltale signs of change and be ready with a plan should our tactics need adjusting. Change is one of the constants of this digital age. The one thing we cannot do is build a business or marketing strategy on the foundation of free, at some point, we will pay the price.
Have you ever used something that was free and then moved to a premium model? Did you continue using? What impact did it have on your business or life?
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- The free ride in social media is coming to an end (directmarketingobservations.com)
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- Ning Layoff 40% of Its Staff and Say No More to Their Free Service (crenk.com)