Social media; the platform that has revolutionised the way in which we communicate, both personally and commercially. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages; it was mostly free of charge.

Tumblr users recently saw a new layout, as the site starting selling advertising space. CEO of Tumblr, David Karp recently stated that, although he was “pretty opposed to advertising”, his views have had to change rapidly to meet industry requirements.

Facebook has been selling advertising for the past five years, whilst Twitter has sold ‘promotional tweets’ since 2010 and are, this year, introducing political advertising for the American Presidential elections.

The business case for allowing advertising on the sites is, of course, easy to understand. After all, there were some questions as to whether or not the free use of the sites would be sustainable without the use of revenue generated from advertising.

However, this does prompt us to ask the question; is social media for sale?

For me, the primary question is to the tolerance of social media users. As businesses can pay to promote their tweets, and pay to feature tailored advertisements alongside your Facebook news feed, are users likely to be deterred from the use of the platforms entirely?

My view is that, for as long as the advertisements are not changing the way in which users can interact with the sites, they are likely to continue using them. However, with the launch of concepts such as Facebook’s ‘Sponsored Stories’, I believe that there will come a time when users begin to express privacy concerns. (For those unfamiliar with them, a sponsored story is purchased by a business to highlight to other users when their friends have interacted with the business- either through ‘liking’ it or commenting on it.)

As a consultant to organisations from a wide range of industries and sectors, I also feel compelled to question the commercial value of these advertising opportunities. Whilst I have witnessed many successful social media marketing campaigns, I remain determined to highlight the results that can be achieved with a compelling content strategy, using free platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

In a recent ‘Social Media Benchmark’ study, conducted by The Chartered Institute of Marketing, we were reminded that social media users were not receptive to sales messages that were repeatedly ‘blasted’ over social media. If we are aware that this is not effective when transmitted via a company page or Twitter profile, I need further convincing that social media advertising can truly generate quality leads.

Happy to hear your opinions to the contrary though. Please get in touch, to share your experiences, or ask any questions.