Stay Relevant with “Pay to Play” in Digital Marketing


Pay to Play to stay relevant in digital marketing

Even if you’re new to marketing, you’ve probably heard the term “pay to play.” This phrase basically means that you’ll need to spend money to get ahead. Think of the cliché “spend money to make money.” The “pay to play” strategy dominates digital marketing. With shifts in online behavior and channel updates, you can expect to reassess your digital marketing budget to stay relevant. The bottom line? If you want to reach as many potential or returning customers as possible, especially with a high frequency, you’ll need to allocate more of your budget toward advertising and marketing.


The Rise Of “Pay to Play”

the rise of pay to play and the differences between traditional and digital marketing

The concept of “pay to play” isn’t new. In traditional marketing, larger budgets typically mean more impressions and a greater impact on your audiences. In digital marketing, CPMs have been on the rise, requiring marketers to dig deeper into their pockets to stay relevant. Largely gone are the days of an organic social post going viral and driving sales. Algorithm updates and shifting consumer expectations require strategic evaluations and budget reallocations.


Though “pay to play” has its drawbacks, it’s here to stay because it’s effective. Search engine marketing and social media platforms give businesses more ways to reach potential customers, build brand awareness, and show ads when they’re ready to buy. Plus, with more people cutting the cord and opting into video streaming, there are more opportunities than ever to reach new audiences—if you’re willing to invest.


Digital Dives and Doubts


The growing turbulence within social media isn’t something marketers can ignore. In April, Meta—the company formerly known as Facebook—reported a 21 percent drop in profits for the first quarter of 2022 compared to the prior year. In the same week, Elon Musk purchased tech giant Twitter for $44 billion, causing many users to leave the site within a day of the announcement.

Meta (Facebook) stocks drop and Elon Musk buys Twitter

On top of business concerns, ever-changing algorithms have users and marketers alike frustrated. Facebook’s organic reach has been dwindling since 2018 and a recent Instagram update reportedly decreases the reach of reposted content.


As of January 2022, there a 3.96 billion social media users and adults spend an average of 95 minutes per day on social media.

Despite all the concerns, social media marketing is still one of the best ways to reach potential customers. As of January 2022, there are reportedly 3.96 billion social media users. Adults are spending more time than ever on social media, averaging 95 minutes of use per day.


Influencer Marketing

According to Nielsen, 56% of global audiences trust influencer marketing.

Many businesses may be hesitant to utilize influencers in their marketing strategy, hoping consumers will rely on the information provided to them directly from the brand. According to Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising Study, 56 percent of global audiences trust influencer marketing. Changing consumer patterns demand changes in consumer experience at every touchpoint. That means connecting with them where they go for information.


Finding and partnering with influencers aligned with your brand can reach new audiences. But don’t forget that you're expected to pay for their influence. Influencers are no longer just social media users and bloggers that accept and review gifted products. As with other media agreements, you’ll need to negotiate the cost, execute a contract, set goals, and measure results. Keeping your brand relevant now means paying to play across all channels.


If you need to update your social and/or traditional media strategy, we welcome a conversation. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363.

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