In the online media world, where most revenue is generated from display advertising measured on a CPM basis, the ultimate goal of social media comes into question. Is social media best used as a tool for engagement, driving likes, comments, shares and, ultimately, conversations and a meaningful user resonance and relationship with a brand? Is social media best used as a form of simple marketing to generate impressions outside of a brand’s or publication’s website or traditional marketing ventures? Or is social media simply a portal to the originating content destination, driving unique viewers and page views in a way to support and justify the reliance on existing ad structures?

Different industries have different strategies and tactics: a dessert company has the potential to create the same impressions on Facebook as it can on its website, yet a traditional display-ad-supported website will only reap potential revenue if a user clicks through Twitter to its site, inching the site closer to another CPM payout.

As long as banner ads are the revenue source of choice (or dismay) of websites, the click-centric, traffic-focused goals will continue to stay the same, until content marketing in social networking spaces are embraced and sought after. “You are more likely to complete NAVY SEAL training than click on a banner ad,” wrote HubSpot.

The opportunities that come from changing a CPM model of click-driven social media to content marketing and native advertising in social spheres are practically limitless. Whether Facebook posts, tweets, Tumblr listicles and detailed Pinterest pins offer exciting, insightful new branded content, or contests and giveaways that ignite the organic urge to join a brand’s community for a chance at a big win, the eventual shift from the use of social media as a portal into an actual medium offers exciting potential new payouts for both businesses and consumers.

“[Engagement] is the most important metric to know after your [Facebook] reach,” wrote Emeric Ernoult for Social Media Examiner. A user who likes a post or leaves a comment on a piece of unique content is interested enough in a brand to engage with the community—he isn’t simply clicking on an exciting headline to get the latest news.

Whether the point of a click on a brand’s social channel is to drive to an article or a coupon, an ecosystem will not be cohesive and productive without an established (or establishing) community, and such a community cannot be formed if every user is funneled out to a different location through link portals. Without exciting and exclusive content, stimulating conversation starters, and a comfortable and familiar website and community, there will be no reason for the users to return, whether to engage to or click through.

Social media is a medium in the same way an online publication, blog or newspaper is, and it shouldn’t be measured differently. But in order to create a healthy ROI, advertising models will have to change along with it, and strong, original content will lead the way.