As business owners, we’ve spent the better part of the last decade resisting, trying to figure out and then frantically pursuing social media as a platform for engaging customers.

We’ve grown accustomed to hearing consultants try to tell us how to get more customers by being authentic on Facebook or by optimizing our Vine feed. Now that most of us feel like we have a handle on our business’s Facebook feed, or at least know how we could be using it better, social media networks are coming along and charging businesses to advertise.

Last year Facebook began to tighten the nozzle on how many promotional business posts people saw in their Facebook news feeds. This move might seem like a way for Facebook to bully businesses to buy into their newer premium business advertising services, but it can also be seen as a way for the company to keep the product so many people love pure.

In their announcement, Facebook said, “One of the main reasons people come to Facebook is to see what’s happening in their News Feeds. Our goal with News Feed has always been to show people the things they want to see. When people see content that’s relevant to them, they’re more likely to be engaged with News Feed, including stories from businesses.”

At the same time, Facebook users were saying they were seeing too many promotional posts popping into their news feeds. These promotional posts weren’t things like success stories from local businesses they love, as much as pushy advertisements reminding people to tune in at 5 p.m. to the latest installment of a show or buy the newly released DVD box set.

Unpaid, or organic, posts on business pages that appear to be overly promotional will be targeted by Facebook and begin appearing in fewer news feeds, while paid posts have options for targeting, metrics and plenty of other data sets businesses can use to better spread their message.

Facebook has sound reasoning for this practice: “By making News Feed more engaging for people — with Page post creative [content] that is more relevant to them — we’re also creating a better platform for businesses to reach their customers and find new ones.”

They aren’t opposed to advertising, but they are working to keep the news feed a place where users see stories from the people they want so they can better target advertisements within the service.

This can seem a little frustrating for those of us who have spent the last few years trying to hone our organic social media marketing technique, but after all, we pay good money for the same kind of exposure in other places.

Why do we buy TV ads? Because people tune in every week to watch Monday Night Football and The Voice.

Why do we buy radio ads? Because lots of people tune in to hear Taylor Swift and Jay-Z.

We’re buying eyeballs. And social media networks have an advantage over many traditional media platforms in that consumers are willing to share almost all of their information with social media platforms, allowing you to target a very specific audience or conduct market research on the types of people you resonate with.

Social media is also a fraction of traditional media placement cost. Facebook only charges you for the people who see your ads and how much those views are worth compared to other advertisers. If you want to advertise to 25- to 35-year-old, tech-savvy males in San Francisco, each click or page view will cost a lot more than paying to reach a general 18- to 65-year-old North Mississippi audience.

The other thing we often overlook about social media advertising is how easy the paid ads can be. If you pay for ads or choose to boost your posts, you don’t have to play the social media game. Just like you don’t have to have a sitcom in order to advertise on television, you don’t have to maintain a widely followed Facebook page in order to generate traffic to your website or store through Facebook ads.

You can, and it very well may help your results, but the overwhelming majority of your traffic will most often come through paid clicks.

The odd notion is how much easier it is to buy “traditional” media like newspaper or television. By easier, I mean easier to justify. I believe this is caused by the notion that one must participate in

Facebook or other social media to buy advertising.

I’ll always advocate a social presence on social media (social is definitely the operative word). However, you can always buy social media like any other media.

It’s not necessary to create a television show to advertise on the evening news. Nor do you have to write a column to buy an ad in this fine publication. While you must have an account to advertise on social media platforms, it is an absolutely valid strategy to just purchase ads and point these to outside sources such as your website.

That seems a little strange, right?

I believe this is because we’ve been told social media’s main benefit is that it’s a free (or at least cheap) platform to communicate with your customer base. Absolutely, this can be true. However, the most attractive component is the sheer audience. Communicating organically with this group is fantastic, but buying this audience’s attention can give you just as much, if not more, exposure.