Marketers get really excited when we think we have the opportunity to promote something for free. And why not? It makes sense to take advantage of those rare instances of free promotion. The reality, however, is that rarely can you get something for nothing, especially when it comes to marketing. In 2017 we're looking closely at how and where we invest in paid media because the fact is that paid media is a critical component of any digital marketing strategy. Here are a few reasons why:

Diminished Organic Social Reach

It used to be that social media was the place to be for brands who were looking for ways to get out in front of their audiences without having to pay for it. But Facebook has sharply decreased the organic reach of brand posts in the past few years, and it looks as though Instagram is definitely heading in the same direction. In 2016 they updated their algorithm so the posts users seem most likely to engage with are now shown at the top of the feed, whereas previously posts were shown in the order they were posted, beginning with the most recent. That means that as a brand, if your users are less likely to engage with your posts (and let's face it, users are often less likely to engage with posts from brands than posts from people they know), your placement in the feed will suffer. These blows to organic social reach mean that in order to ensure that the content we create gets discovered, it's necessary to put some investment behind it.

Display Ad Fatigue

Using fatigue with display ads to justify investing in paid media? I know, but bear with me for a second -- We're starting to see a lot of fatigue with certain types of advertising. Check out the top reasons survey respondents give for blocking digital ads. The top three sound like some serious display ad fatigue to me.
A lot of us think popups and ads placed between content are really, really annoying:
I know that for me personally, it's gotten to the point now that there are sites I simply won't use, regardless of how valuable the content is, because those sites are so cluttered with pop-up ads, videos, and display banners that automatically expand to push down the content I'm actually trying to access, that it's just not worth it. Look at the screenshot below. It's technically an article, but at the moment the page is made up entirely of ads! You can't even tell from looking at it what the article is about.
What this means for brands and marketers is that we need to be smarter about how we advertise. Paid media is more important than ever, but we need to be clever about how we deploy it. Gone are the days when spamming users with ads that had no relevance to them (I'm looking at you, random Amazon hat, and you, bank where I already have a chequing account) was seen as a legitimate and valuable use of ad dollars. Now is the time for investing in paid media that will engage and even delight users. That means creating high quality content that has value for users and using your ad dollars to promote it. In 2017 we should be thinking less about how we can make our ads more intrusive so people notice them, and more about how we can create branded content so irresistible, users won't even care that it's technically an ad.

Importance of search

Marketers and brands know first-hand how important it is to have visibility for key search terms related to the products and services we sell. Most of us use Google as our primary -- or singular -- search tool. We turn to search to answer our every question, to solve our every problem, and to validate our every purchase.
As marketers we also know how difficult it can be to achieve good organic rankings for competitive search phrases. Modern SEO is all about creating valuable content and earning real, quality links from other sources and it takes time (months and years) to achieve those things. SEO is a long-game -- totally worthwhile, and valuable -- but a long-game nonetheless. So in the meantime, if you want visibility, you need to be investing in paid search. Paid search will ensure your brand shows up when those key phrases are searched, allowing you to capture traffic you would otherwise miss.

It all comes back to....Content!

These days a lot of us are investing time and money into creating content that users want to engage with. The problem is most users are not going to come to your company blog looking for that content. Users who aren't familiar with you already are not subscribed to your newsletters, and they don't follow you on social media. So how do you get your amazing content out in front of them? You run ads on Facebook featuring your content, you promote your tweets, you run a native advertising campaign. In a nutshell: you pay to promote it is how.
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