In The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey has a line that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making us think he isn’t real. Well, the greatest trick Facebook (and in some ways Twitter) ever pulled was in making you think that Likes are real. Facebook wanted you to think that social engagement for talent acquisition mattered. They worked really hard to sell you the idea that you should build an audience of fans on their platform so they can help spread your message far and wide.

That never really happened, did it? Your fans aren’t really listening, and you are spending as much (or more) to reach them. For all the bragging that everything changed, nothing really did.

I wonder if 2015 is the year we stop pretending social media marketing is different? Is this the year we stop separating social media from our other marketing channels?

[pullquote]Is 2015 the year we stop pretending social media marketing is different?[/pullquote]

And the answer is clearly “yes.” Social media isn’t special any more. In the same way that we’ve stopped separating digital marketing out from marketing, social media is just an aspect of marketing.

Ten years ago, when Facebook was still just a fun toy only college kids got to play with, social media was novel. It allowed anyone who could create an account to talk to anyone else with an account. Each user could post a “status” that all his or her friends could see and like. While it was cool, in the colder light of history, is there anything there so revolutionary that it demands its own separate initiative?

[pullquote]Your fans aren’t really listening, and you are spending as much (or more) to reach them.[/pullquote]

Over time, Facebook allowed people like you and me to target individuals based on their behavior and interests, and that was pretty cool, too. But now entire ad networks do exactly the same thing.

Heck, half the time, Twitter’s 140 characters feel like a 30-second radio spot.

And then we have the news that Facebook and Twitter will have built-in shopping in 2015, taking their cues from Amazon.

Social Media Is Just Another Commercial

Clearly, social media isn’t all that special any longer. It has made the slow turn from semi-personal communication device to yet another way to push a commercial to people. At the same time, it is losing what made it interesting: the engagement.

It used to be that the people who saw your message were people who friended you and wanted to get your message. We used to be concerned with the number of likes and followers we collected, but that metric is as stale as last year’s meme.

The issue is that over the last two years, Facebook has made sweeping changes to its own organic reach policies, rendering it almost worthless to brands and talent professionals. If you have spent a lot of time and money to build a fan base of 100,000 people, you might feel pretty good about that. But when you post to your own Facebook page, 1-3% of your audience will actually see it unless you open up your wallet. This means Facebook equates to a pay-per-click channel that a billion people log into every day.

[pullquote]Pushing your message on Facebook is different from a Google AdWord or display ad network how?[/pullquote]

Let me put it another way: Pushing your message on Facebook is different from a Google AdWord or display ad network how?

I’m not suggesting that social media can’t work, or that it doesn’t need some technical skill to get right. I’m saying that treating it like it is so different that you need a separate strategy is very 2014. Or really, 2010. It’s not a different animal. It’s the same animal with different stripes.

Stop trying to grow your audience base, because they won’t see your posts. Stop counting your likes, because they don’t directly lead to clicks and applications. Focus on having killer content (great headlines and compelling reasons for people to click through to your site) in the same way you sweat the text of a search engine ad or display ad. Then push it to appropriate audiences.

Social media is a marketing channel, like SEM, PPC, job boards or even TV. You use it to push a commercial for something and pay to make sure it gets seen. No magic at all.

The primary benefit is that you can think about it in parallel with all your other PPC strategies, achieving an economy of scale that you couldn’t by separating it out.

Follow @thewarfortalent on TwitterSo make 2015 the year that you stop pretending social media is any different from your other channels.