We miss yesterday, when all you had to do was to set up a social media account, invite people and all and sundry would see your posts. It was a marketing dream come true. Direct reach to thousands of potential customers at zero cost – almost.

Today, only a handful of people can see what we post, only a few like and share the content posted. Anyone in the technology space will tell you for free that this was always the business model – gather as many users and build a business case for paid media. Fast forward to NOW and we realize that we are THERE!

Social media has made the shift from Earned Media to Paid Media and an integrated approach is best to crack this much coveted space.

This shift is due to the fact that the social media space is becoming increasingly crowded as more brands and people engage on the various platforms. According to industry estimates, fewer than 10% of a brand’s Facebook fans see content that is posted by the brand. Eager to connect with and engage their target consumer, brands are fighting for attention in this fragmented and crowded space, and can no longer rely on smart content distribution alone to drive engagement and organic fan acquisition. As a result, it’s important for brands to look to paid media as an integral part of overall community strategy.

It could be that Twitter will also become a so-called ‘pay-to-play’ network for marketers, as it recently hinted at plans to implement a news feed-style algorithm.

This means users will no longer see tweets in one continuous real-time feed, but will be shown the content that Twitter deems to be the most important or relevant. Apparently the aim is to improve the user experience, but a cynic might suggest Twitter also wants to monetize the platform through more ad revenue from brands by restricting their organic reach.

“Everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand’s messages – but on average, you only show each brand’s posts to 16% of its fans,” says Nate Elliot, report analyst, Forrester Research.

Separate data published by Ogilvy in March this year showed that organic reach on brand pages had plummeted to just 6%, a sharp fall from 12% in October 2013. The situation is even bleaker for pages with fewer than 500 fans, as they saw organic reach fall from an already low 4% to just 2.1%. Ogilvy also quoted anonymous “Facebook sources” as saying that it wouldn’t be long before organic reach hit zero.

This is further asserted Facebook has been relatively open about its desire to restrict organic reach. In a sales deck distributed to ad partners at the end of 2013, Facebook stated: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

What this means to marketeers is that Social Media has to be included in planned media spend just as traditional media is. Planning in silos limits opportunity and prohibits marketers from optimizing each channel. An integrated strategy ensures continuity of voice across platforms and generates comfort, authenticity and familiarity for users as they engage with the brand. Brands must take the proper steps to identify their brand advocates and create an authentic, relevant voice across all communications.