There was a time when reaching your fans and customers on social media only involved a status update or some type of contest.

Times have changed, and now if you want people to see your posts on Facebook, Instagram or one of the other major networks, it means investing not only time, but money.

Here’s why that’s a good thing.

Targeted Resources

Paying to get your brand’s content in front of the right audience has, in the past, been a difficult task. Magazine, newspaper, TV, and radio advertisements can only be so specific, and online marketing through websites requires you to research and know where your target market will be in the vast space that is the internet.

With social advertising, you get an audience that is actively using the platform (Facebook has 1.65 billion monthly active users), and can be segmented out into very specific demographic and location based categories.

Is your target audience grandparents in the Tulsa area with interests in outdoor activities and cooking shows? Good news: Facebook allows you to be that granular with your advertising.

When you pay to place your special promotion, event, or any other type of content in front of a specific audience, you increase the likelihood of creating a thumb-stopping moment that drives the customer to take action.

Better ROI

Not only does putting money behind your social media postings give you multiple options for reaching a specific audience, but it also provides you with an incredible return on your investment.

Consider the results of a survey* of B2C marketers on the effectiveness of various paid advertising methods:

64% – Search engine marketing
61% – Promoted posts (i.e. promoted Tweets or Facebook posts)
59% – Social advertisements
46% – Print or other offline promotion
39% – Traditional online banner ads

There is no doubt that paid social media efforts have forever changed the way businesses reach their customers and potential customers, and based on the numbers we have right now, it’s changed for the better.

Answering Tough Questions

One of the unspoken benefits of paying to reach your target audience through social media is that it forces a business to identify some key factors.

First, the most effective paid campaigns have a clearly defined goal and audience. If you haven’t been thinking about who your audience is or don’t know what the strategy is for having a presence on Facebook, it’s a waste of time and money to pay for social ads.

Additionally, if you haven’t clearly defined what your key performance indicators (KPI) are, then you can’t know if your efforts online have been useful or returned any kind of ROI for your business goals. Putting money behind your social efforts should make you think hard about what it is you’re trying to accomplish, which means answering some tough questions regarding your goals for social media and your company.

Jay B. Wilson, research director for Gartner for Marketing Leaders, believes the shift to paid social efforts is forcing social media experts to re-evaluate the work they do.

“It’s not enough anymore to rely on vanity metrics like follower counts, likes, and shares as a way to measure return on investment in people, process and technology,” Wilson said. “Social marketers need to demonstrate that they’re driving business results—from increased awareness to driving traffic to their commerce sites.”

To reach your desired audience, your social media and other content marketing efforts should be comprehensive, including both organic and paid social options, as well as the multitude of other online and offline solutions. But don’t be surprised if paying to see results in social is the most effective way to achieve your business goals.

*Source: Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, B2C Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trans – North America