In typical ways, paid and organic social media techniques are two different weapons to harness for goals that are different from each other.
However, if you work a bit wisely then you can harness both of them in a balanced way to increase your conversions with a holistic approach. Although you need to be aware of the pros and cons of them both to get it right.
From the beginning of social media days, marketers have been trying their best to weight between these two ways of social media marketing.
However, things are a lot different after the pandemic that we are going through.
Today, people are confined to their homes and the usage of social media has increased more than ever, on a global perspective.
And, that occurrence has increased the number of advertisers a lot, simultaneously.
In the past year of 2020, marketers were tending to spend less amount for their endeavors. However, things have changed a lot in the present year, and it is likely to remain the same way in upcoming year too.
This change in the graph of social media spends has happened mostly after Apple’s release of the 14.5 update of their iOS, as it came with limitations in case of targeting social media users using iOS devices.
However, in case of organic social media, Meta’s (formerly, Facebook) algorithm update has turned it into a highly competitive arena for social media marketers.
And that is why they are not considering spending money in social media as an option, it has become a necessity.
Now, when it is about the social media strategy of your brand, it completely depends on what business goals you are targeting and looking forward to achieving.
Let’s find out more about the same.
By organic social media, we refer to the content that is posted freely from social media accounts and is circulated among one’s followers, be it an individual, a business, or a brand.
Such kind of content occupies most of the content that we often come across in our news feeds.
For a brand, organic posts conducted from their account will be reaching the below mentioned people:
Organic social media is undoubtedly the best way to get in touch and nurture the connection that a brand or a business has formed with their followers and customers.
Such brands usually use organic social media for the following reasons:
Here are a few examples of typical organic content from businesses:
@salonbonvivant on Instagram is a hairstylist who keeps his clients inspired and informed with a steady stream of portfolio shots that simultaneously give prospective clients insight into his aesthetic, while also reminding current clients how desperately they need him.
Yarrow Gold, an eCommerce furniture shop often shares user-generated content about their products out in the wild. This couch just happens to be in an influencer’s home, no big deal.
Pro Tip: Though the two are not mutually exclusive, paid social generally does not include influencer marketing, which is typically arranged directly. Read our full guide to influencer marketing here.
MoonPie is a snack cake brand that likes to Tweet warm-hearted jokes as if it were a person, not a snack cake, which draws attention and interaction from other official brand accounts, which generally pleases everyone.
Besides all of these there are also some cons of organic social media that you cannot ignore.
Most platforms, be it social or search, make use of ranking algorithms, but even after putting so many efforts into their posts, these are visible to only a small segment of audience.
In fact, Facebook allows individuals with just a 5.5% of reach among all their existing followers. In case of brands and business organizations, it is even less.
As social media platforms are moving forward to providing experiences that are meaningful as well as responsible, they are opting to decline the reach of posts to achieve the same.
So, it is quite clear that not all of your audience will be able to organically see your posts in their news feeds, without visiting your profile.
And that is a major reason behind brands shifting to the paid vertical of social media.
In simple words, paid social media is nothing but a good name for the advertisements that we come across on social media.
Yes, as the name suggests, brands and businesses need to pay social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc., to get a higher reach with their content.
Not just that, such brands can also pick and choose target audience segments who are more likely to be interested in their content and in taking necessary action.
They can do this either by designing special campaigns and running advertisements on social media platforms with the same, or simply by boosting a piece of content that has already been posted.
A survey by eMarketer enlightens even more on how the paid vertical of social media has managed to come back after experiencing a downfall in the year 2020.
Yes, after the pandemic hit the humanity in 2020 and left us all confined to our homes, people have started using social media a lot more than they used to in the past.
And, with this increased interest in the internet affairs, they have also grown a lot more interested in purchasing necessities from social media stores as well as from online shopping platforms or which we usually call eCommerce stores.
This approach of the mob has made paid social media or social media ads a lot more natural than what they used to seem before, and even more when businesses and brands design their paid social media campaigns with a lot more care.
But B2C retailers aren’t the only industry focusing on social advertising. More so than organic content, paid posts are the best way for brands to target new audiences on social media and convert them to customers. Businesses and organizations use paid promotion on social to:
Here are some recent examples we’ve noted.
Cloud-based CMS company Contentful used Facebook leads ads (ads specifically designed to, you got it, drive leads) paired with a cute illustration and direct, simple copy to get prospects to download their Digital Playbook.
A traditional approach is to target users who have already proven their interest in your niche. The London Review of Books, for instance, uses a tried-and-true formula: target people who follow similar accounts (in this case, FSG Books, Artforum, the Paris Review, etc.), offer them a substantial discount, and direct them to a frictionless landing page using Instagram Shopping.
One of the most common types of ads you’ll see on LinkedIn are Sponsored Content posts. Since they are most often organic posts that someone decided to boost, they blend right into your feed, so you often don’t even realize you’re looking at an ad.
This case study video by customer service SaaS company Zendesk is being promoted to reach potential customers who don’t already follow them on LinkedIn. It is exactly the same type of content it typically shares on its LinkedIn page.
Organic and paid social strategies each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s summarize them.
An organic social media strategy nurtures your relationship with your customers or audience. It helps you:
However, organic is often slower to reach business goals, and while it’s technically free, it takes a lot of time, experimentation and/or experience to get right.
Meanwhile, a paid social media strategy is how you connect with new customers or audience members. It helps you:
That said, it requires a budget, and its own form of expertise (those ads don’t monitor themselves).
In short, while organic activity is necessary for relationship-building, it’s also true that network ranking algorithms mean pay-to-play is a fact of life on social, now.
The foundation of the majority of integrated social media strategies is using organic to serve and delight your existing customers, while attracting new eyes with paid ads.
Here we’ll outline the fine print on how to go about it.
First things first: only pay for ads when they can actually help you hit your KPIs and ultimately reach your business goals. Ads aren’t always the answer on social. (And even if they were, never forget the power of a well-crafted organic post that people want to share.)
For instance, when you’re announcing something new—whether it’s a partnership, a pivot, or a new iteration on your flagship product—your existing followers need to be informed. A creative, original, organic campaign will build buzz all on its own. Craft a compelling post, pin it to your profile or drop it in your Stories highlights if it’s big enough news.
For instance, Netflix launched the highly anticipated Princess Switch 3 as an organic post on Instagram.
All that said, if your organic activity isn’t getting the reach or impressions you’d hoped for, then it might be time to open the (corporate) wallet.
We say it all the time, but in our experience split testing is a step that’s skipped way too often.
Before you allocate your entire social media budget to an ad, run versions of it by a smaller audience to see if it’s any good. Test your CTA, your copywriting, your visuals, and the ad’s placement, format, and even the audience targeting. You can also test it among different audience demographics (age, location, etc.) before you commit to a larger spend. The benefit here is twofold: a more memorable, enjoyable and successful ad for your audience is also a cheaper one for you.
Meanwhile, for organic posts, you can set up manual split tests and track results by using UTM parameters in your links. Our complete guide to A/B testing on social is over here.
Retargeting campaigns can be highly effective at a relatively low cost, because you’re reaching out to people who already know your business. Often, these are people who’ve come to your social or web presence organically. Maybe they visited your profile or website, or even abandoned a shopping cart.
The idea here is that they may just need a reminder to come back and convert, and the right ad can convince them.
Your top-performing posts aren’t just here to puff up your vanity metrics. Probably the easiest way to dip your toes into the pool of paid advertising is to identify content that has really resonated with your audience and pay to show it to new eyes.
This is generally considered an entry-level tactic because it’s low-risk—you don’t need to come up with an ad, let alone an ad campaign. But most social media pros will tell you that when they notice they’ve got a hit on their hands, it’s time to consider supporting it with spend.
For instance, you could start by allocating a small budget to the top weekly or monthly post whenever you run your analytics report. Don’t just pay attention to likes, but also conversions, profile views, etc.
Pro Tip: With Hootsuite’s Boost tool you can customize triggers to automatically boost posts that are snowballing (for example, whenever your post gets shared 100 times.)
The more you’ve grown your social presence organically, the more data you have about your ideal customer or audience. Where do they live? How old are they? What are they interested in? What problems are they facing in their lives? How are you helping them?
Capitalize on all this information as you build your ads. This is the place where all your hard work building quality relationships with your audience pays off.
For instance, most social platforms offer the ability to create lookalike audiences based on your best customers, as you describe them. Perhaps these are your newsletter subscribers, or people who have engaged with your profile or content, or people who’ve bought a product in the last year. A lookalike audience will be composed of people with similar demographics and behaviours, but who haven’t been introduced to your brand yet.
The bottom line with combining paid and organic social is that it’s more: more money, more time, more know-how, more assets, and just more posting.
Whether you’re a team of twelve or a lone-wolf consultant, the key is to keep the busy-work to a minimum so you can focus on what’s important. To that end, automate as much of your everyday workflow as you can:
Watching a campaign flop is equally painful whether it’s organic or paid, but if you pay attention to your social analytics tools, they’ll tell you where you need to make changes to get better results.
Using Hootsuite Social Advertising, you can review organic and paid content side by side, easily pull actionable analytics and build custom reports to prove the ROI of all your social campaigns.
With a unified overview of all social media activity, you can act fast to make data-informed adjustments to live campaigns (and get the most out of your budget). For example, if an ad is doing well on Facebook, you can adjust ad spend across other platforms to support it. On the same note, if a campaign is flopping, you can pause it and redistribute the budget — all without leaving your dashboard.
Modern consumers are making it easier than ever for smaller companies and D2C brands to compete against large, established corporations. Shoppers’ desires for transparency, direct contact with companies, authenticity, brands with shared values, and a personal connection can often be better satisfied by D2C companies than legacy brands.
Social media is the ideal channel for communicating with these audiences and giving them a place where they can feel like they are part of a community. A sense of belonging, enthusiasm, and loyalty can be established through a thorough organic social strategy and reinforced through paid social campaigns. So, ultimately, paid vs. organic social media is an unrealistic choice to make. The modern marketing approach that genuinely pays off combines these two approaches in a way that makes each one stronger than if they were run independently.
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