Beware the Social-Media Pitch

Facebook's new platform, Paper, is a part of a new breed of social-media platforms. But, as far as businesses are concerned, it's more of the same

Written by Wayne S. Roberts

The super-cool kids over at Facebook have developed a new social scene that is sure to have folks everywhere posting and sharing and sharing and posting and€¦good grief!

It’s called Paper and you might soon be expected to get all up on it. Or pay for some other super-cool kid to play with it for you and send you the bill.

Paper is basically a prettier, non-list format version of Facebook. The app shows you news from outside sources (in categories you’ve chosen). It looks like Flipboard, but it also shows your Facebook newsfeed.

Read: Which Social-Media Site Gets You The Most Traffic?

Right now, Paper is available only in the U.S. and it works only on your iPhone. If Paper catches fire and you love burning time by posting your life story online, get your baby pictures ready. If, however, you’re a smart and sensible small-business owner, then keep your head up and stay alert. The purveyors of magical business growth, the digital ad agencies, may be pitching this at you like baseballs by July. You may start getting invitations and eventually promotional ideas from quick-off-the-market digital hucksters who will help you understand how you will get rich using it. Don’t be too eager to swing away.

Every single social-media platform is either desperately trying to or comfortably succeeding at monetizing its audience so that its community of users can be sold to ad agencies and their clients. These committed and active social-media sharers, likers and tweeters are fertile ground for brand imagery and messaging for spenders like banks and credit cards issuers€¦and sex phonelines. That’s because this group of social-media butterflies is perceived by some digital-ad types and their susceptible clients as having the attention span of a gnat. Not entirely wrong.

Read: Not All Great Marketing Campaigns Include Social Media

Embracing the “new thing” is relevant to many social-media users. Partly because these platforms have become more and more focused on offering a marketplace for advertisers. So, users have shown a tendency to move away from (or around) them as opportunities for personal sharing. “Why engage,” they are saying, “when all I’m doing is laying down more data for ad types to target me. Booorrrrring!”

The result is that more and more “innovative and engaging” social-media platforms like Paper will be coming online.

Right now, Paper is free to all who want to sign on and start sharing. But once the floodgates of imagery and posts open up, Paper is expected to create a brand community that can be identified, dissected and explored for ways to move it, shape it, grow it€¦and, yup, sell it stuff, just like its parent site. If the promo video is any gauge, it’ll be picture frames and diapers.

If Paper does gather steam, you might start toying with the idea of advertising on it. Before you do that, consider a few things, like this piece I did back in 2011.

Then, consider that investing in any social-media platform to drive leads, raise awareness and enhance equity in your brand community means more work for you. You’ll need to build a content strategy that evolves your brand narrative over a prolonged, indefinite time frame. Or you’ll have to create powerful promotional events that don’t last long but work great! And you’ll have to make all of it relevant and actionable so you can measure it. Oh, and run your business at the same time. Not likely.

Better still, sit tight. Check in online now and then to see if Paper will be delivered to your door. Explore doing some online advertising. It can be relatively inexpensive and yield some metrics that might encourage you to invest further—or run for the exits.

Do it yourself if you can, or enlist a partner if you fee you can afford it. Pick one who sees social media, like all media, as a brand community-building tool that needs to be ruthlessly and skillfully used to yield sustainable results.

Read: Can You Pull Off DIY Branding?

Paper, in my view, is a trial balloon that Facebook is hoping will expand enough to suck the air of the room for other, less robust and increasingly irrelevant social-media platforms. Should that happen, there’s no percentage in being first to get on the Paper. If it’s worthy, it’ll be there when you need to go.

Wayne S. Roberts is president and chief creative officer of Blade Creative Branding, a Toronto-based company specializing in strategic branding, creative advertising and innovative online solutions.

More from Wayne S. Roberts

Originally appeared on