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Paid or Organic Social Media: Which is Best?

By Brian Savic on Oct 7, 2021

One of the issues marketers struggle with today is getting the balance right between organic social media and paid social media (social media advertising). In truth, relying too heavily on either is dangerous. Paid content often travels further, but organic social media posts complement your paid content without the need to dig deeper into your pockets. Organic posts are seen as more credible, and can be invaluable in nurturing your audience and encouraging engagement.

Even though you may opt to use both paid and organic social media, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use them both to the same degree. Let’s explore.

The Differences Between Paid and Organic Social Media

Paid Social Media

Paid social media was once about engagement and brand awareness. These days, it’s also used for customer acquisition, retention and remarketing. Investment in social media marketing is growing year on year and there is no question that it’s here to stay.

Paid social includes any posts that appear on a third-party social media platform and incur a cost. It is predominantly used to engage with new customers and includes strategies such as paid Facebook ads targeted at particular demographics, Cost-Per-Click (CPC) advertising and retargeting campaigns where you try to reconnect with consumers who have previously shown interest.

Examples of paid social include (among others):

  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Google ads
  • YouTube advertising
  • Boosted posts

Paid social generally requires you to create posts that will appeal to a specific audience and should include a clear CTA. This may be to purchase, sign up or provide contact information in exchange for a valuable information such as an e-book or other digital gift.

In the case of boosted posts, it may be that an organic post is performing well and getting lots of engagement, so you choose to pay a small fee to the social media platform for the post to be pushed to a broader audience. You can choose the demographic, or course, so for maximum benefit from a boosted post, it’s important that you know your audience well.

Organic Social Media

Organic social media carries no cost to publish. These will usually be about connecting with your followers and promoting brand awareness. If your posts prove instantly popular and garner plenty of engagement, social media sites will push them widely for you. So, it’s important that you opt for content that inspires or entertains.

While engaging with your existing client base is important, content that is shareable will increase your reach at no cost. Its worth noting that on average, the reach of organic posts is 6.4% of the users who have “liked” your page. That means that though organic social media is valuable, you can’t rely on it to substantially increase visibility or engage a huge number of clients.

Organic social posts allow you to play about and test ideas. Avoid controversial posts that could cause reputational damage. But don’t be afraid to be playful. A free social post that disappears into the ether without much engagement is no great loss. But if you find a post that flies, you can use it as part of your paid social strategy.

Paid Social vs Organic Social: Which is Best?

Each strategy has its own benefits, and the best solution is a hybrid model that uses both. A hybrid approach should consist primarily of organic content. When you go overboard on ‘salesy’ posts, your audience is likely to switch off. Most people are bombarded by ads every day, and people don’t like to feel as though they are being sold to all the time.

When to Use Organic

It’s important to view organic social media as a long-term nurturing strategy. Social content that uses humor, jumps on a trending hashtag or in some way adds value to its recipients has a better chance of being well-received. Posts that receive a lot of likes and positive comments, or are shared, are an indication that your organic posts are successful.

Once you have a dedicated following, your existing customers do some of the heavy lifting for you in terms of extending your reach with organic posts. They also have their guard down when they see organic vs. paid posts. Therefore, prospects are more likely to convert, since you will have built up a relationship and gained their trust.

When to Use Paid

Paid social is vital when you need to spread the word fast. If you are a new company or if you are launching a new product, paid social will help you hit your target market, promote your product and (hopefully) build up a following. It’s important to start your organic social strategy alongside your paid one, but until you have followers, this is a situation where organic social should not be your main focus.

The important thing to consider with paid social media advertising is ROI. This is no time to be playing about with hit-or-miss Facebook posts. There must be a clear purpose for each post and a target audience that you expect to respond to your CTA. If you are unsure how best to approach your marketing content, a Facebook advertising agency can help you develop a strategy to convince and convert.

When you pay for social media marketing, you bypass the organic social media algorithms by defining your audience. Targeting paid posts at the wrong audience is like tipping money down the drain.

Paid ads work. Experts estimate that paid social media ads will generate $1 trillion in sales this year. The trick is to ensure your users find your posts relatable and engaging.

Benefits of Organic Social Media

  • It’s cost effective.
  • It increases brand awareness.
  • It adds personality to your brand to tell its story.
  • It’s great for informal communication with customers.
  • Customers can communicate with you in their
  • Hashtags provide methods of increasing reach at no cost.
  • You can share your company values and build an online community of like-minded people.
  • You can tell good news stories.
  • Customers rarely buy on first contact so regular interaction can help nurture a relationship.

Benefits of Paid Social Media

  • You can get wide distribution even though you are new and have few followers.
  • You can connect with an audience that may not otherwise find you.
  • You can target high-performing organic posts to increase conversions.
  • You can follow up on nurturing campaigns.
  • Regularly appearing in newsfeeds enhances visibility.
  • Pay-per-click and similar formats are cost effective, because you only pay when users engage with your posts.
  • It’s easy to measure success

How to Maximize Your Social Strategy

A combination of paid and organic social media advertising will be far more effective and profitable than trying to use just one method. Social posts serve two main purposes: building trust in your brand and converting leads.

Your digital marketing strategy is a long-term commitment. It requires consistency across platforms, two-way communication, and most importantly, regular posting. The occasional Facebook or IG post, no matter how good it may be, will not provide any long-term benefit. If you need help developing a digital marketing strategy that makes optimum use of both paid and organic social content, get in touch with Umbrella Local.

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