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Ad Free Social Media: Implications for Business Owners

Blog_october 5

The future of social media could be changing, and the implications for businesses are significant. As giants in the social media world, like TikTok and Meta, consider and test ad-free subscription models, the repercussions for businesses, especially small ones, cannot be overlooked. Here’s a deep dive into what ad-free social media might mean for business owners.

The Move Towards Ad-Free Social Media

Major platforms are exploring the possibility of offering users an ad-free experience, with TikTok and Meta leading the way. While it seems like a win for users seeking a clutter-free social experience, there's another side to this coin. As Jeff MacDonald, a social strategy director at Mekanism, mentions, "If you’re not able to have targeted ads, you’re really going to hurt small businesses or local businesses who really count on that ad targeting to raise awareness.”

Meta’s plan to charge European users for an ad-free Instagram experience comes as a response to the data privacy crackdowns by the EU regulators. On the other hand, TikTok is also piloting an ad-free model, albeit at a lower price. Fortunately for U.S. advertisers, neither platform has plans to roll this out in the U.S. yet.

The Rise of Influencer Marketing

If ad-free social media becomes the norm, where does that leave advertisers? The conversation seems to be gravitating towards influencer marketing and niche community marketing.

Influencers have long been powerful voices on social media. MacDonald says, “Those influencer partnerships are gonna grow in value if we start to see more people start to pay for their social experience, and receive less targeted ads.” This is supported by Digiday+ research which shows that there has been a notable increase in the percentage of brand professionals allocating their marketing budgets to influencers – from 62% in Q1 2022 to 73% in Q3.

However, Noah Mallin, chief strategy officer at IMGN Media, believes that while the focus may shift, the overall investment in social media advertising won’t diminish, emphasizing that it remains an essential platform for brands. 

Challenges in Influencer Marketing

While influencer marketing seems poised to fill the gap, it's not without its challenges. For starters, tracking the return on ad spend in influencer marketing isn’t as straightforward as traditional platform-generated reports. Moreover, working with influencers can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Public missteps or controversies involving influencers can inadvertently lead to negative publicity for associated brands.

Seeking Alternative Communities

The potential rise of ad-free social media prompts a fundamental question: Where will advertisers go? The answer might lie in more niche online communities and platforms. These communities can offer advertisers more targeted and engaged audiences, making them a worthwhile investment.

In Conclusion

Ad-free social media might seem like a far-off future, but with major platforms experimenting with this model, it's a reality that businesses should prepare for. Whether it’s by investing more in influencer marketing or exploring alternative online communities, businesses must be agile and responsive to these shifts to ensure they remain visible and relevant in an evolving digital landscape.

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