Paid vs. Organic Social: Why You Need to Combine Them
- April 26, 2022
- 10 min read
- By Kirti Goyal
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A solid social media strategy can help small and medium-sized businesses reap many benefits. But crafting one requires a good understanding of the differences between paid social ads and organic marketing.
This post takes an in-depth look at the two and discusses their cons and benefits. By the end, you will know which one to choose for your social efforts and how to bring them together for maximum impact on your target audience.
- Organic social media marketing lets brands connect with their followers and drive engagement over a sustained period. But it depends on volatile ranking algorithms for that and may not directly boost ROI.
- Paid marketing involves spending money on social ads and campaigns to reach a highly targeted audience. It’s a great tactic to capture leads and drive conversions but needs considerable resources and efforts to deliver results.
- Organic works for small businesses just entering the field and want to build customer relationships. But paid ads should be a core part of the marketing strategy for any scaling enterprise with the budget and expertise to invest in social ads.
- Business owners can hit their revenue targets by integrating paid social with organic marketing. A well-rounded strategy helps them reach new audiences while maintaining valuable relationships with their existing followers on social.
What is organic social media marketing
Organic social media marketing denotes activities brands perform to share content with their followers on social platforms. These involve sharing multimedia assets such as posts, reels, and stories to drive engagement and build a community.
It is popular with small businesses because organic social is a free way of reaching new people and converting them into loyal brand ambassadors over time.
That’s what Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist of Canva, meant too when he said:
“A large social media presence is important because it’s one of the last ways to conduct cost-effective marketing. Everything else involves buying eyeballs and ears. Social media enables a small business to earn eyeballs and ears.”
When you use organic social media to share helpful content, it wins you a community of followers who may or may not convert but still play a major role in boosting your credentials.
Or, as Sinziana Ecaterina puts in the below image, organic social media does not directly generate leads, but it’s a ‘business card’ that consolidates your brand in the online market.
Image Source: Superpath
For example, FII is a small India-based digital media and news company whose marketing strategy is nailing organic social.
While its primary aim is to cover the Indian political landscape through a feminist lens on social media, FII has built an amazing community of followers that buys from its merchandise store and helps it find opportunities for business collaboration with similar companies.
Check out its handles on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
A large social media presence is just one aspect of organic social. It has other benefits and drawbacks that you must consider when deciding to use it in your marketing strategy. Let’s hone in on them in the next section.
The pros and cons of organic social media
Organic social puts you in front of a large audience. But when these users share your content on their handles through the stories feature or DMs or tag their connections on your posts in the comments, it sets off a chain reaction that guarantees even greater visibility for businesses through what is as good as ‘word-of-mouth’ in the online world.
Apart from traction and brand credibility, organic social media marketing helps small businesses to:
- Establish a distinct brand personality (more on it in a sec) and voice
- Nurture customer relationships by sharing resonating content
- Directly connect with customers and offer qualitative engagement
- Provide instant customer care support services and manage reputation
Despite these benefits for lifetime value and customer retention, organic social is steadily declining due to ranking algorithms. Hootsuite’s Digital 2020 report shows the organic reach for a Facebook post is about 5.5% of your follower count and even lesser for big brands.
Algorithms curb the spread of organic posts, and their volatile nature makes it difficult for busy business owners to adjust strategies on the go to stay relevant with the trends. Other cons to consider are:
- It needs massive effort to churn out quality content and actively interact with users on different social media platforms daily
- It doesn’t let you distribute content outside of your social following
- Its ROI can be difficult to measure as organic is for branding than sales
As Prasad Bambarkar notes in this LinkedIn comment, organic social is an awareness channel that works magic if businesses focus on branding instead of promoting their services. They need to invest in value-adding content and be patient with the results. Here are a few best ways for acing branding on the organic front.
Best practices for organic social media marketing
The benefits and drawbacks listed above suggest that organic social media marketing efforts are best suited for businesses just getting started and fixing their social operations.
As the chief aim during the early funnel stage is brand awareness and building relationships, they do not need to spend many dollars on targeted advertising. But they must solidify their organic social efforts by:
- Minimizing promotions: Instead, the focus should be on creating informative and helpful social content that positively impacts users. While a local hairdressing business can share pro tips on hairstyling via reels on its Instagram page, a SaaS startup can post thoughtful takes on current problems in the industry and how their product solves them.
- Showcasing brand personality: The content should mark your visual identity distinctly and always conform to branding guidelines. It’s easy to get swayed by viral social media trends, but picking up the wrong ones can do more harm than good to your business image.
Stick to niche-specific discussions and create content highlighting your brand values.
- Addressing topic gaps: Produce content that answers users’ urgent needs during micro-moments. These are times when customers surf social networks with a definite purpose.It could be checking out an easy tutorial or a product demo before making the final purchase.
Perform competitive research and use social media listening tools like Sprout Social to create in-demand content.
What is paid social media marketing
It’s a marketing strategy in which businesses pay money to social platforms for running social ads and campaigns. Unlike organic, which has a limited reach and depends on ranking algorithms for content distribution, paid social media is a surefire way of getting in front of a broad and specific target audience by boosting organic content and advertisements.
Take this Sponsored Content on LinkedIn from Nielsen, for example. It’s a boosted organic social post that blends right into the feed and doesn’t stand out as an ad.
The social media ad market is the largest in the US, and it will surpass the $200 billion mark by 2024. This trend becomes particularly poignant when seen alongside the changing preferences of consumers during the pandemic and their social media habits.
They spent a good deal of time on social channels browsing products during the lockdowns and bought directly through social eCommerce.
As the number of active users on these platforms continues to go up and likes and retweets influence shopping behavior, businesses need to design their social media campaigns and ads with great care (more on it below) to stand out from their competitors.
But before involving your marketing team to get paid social media underway, check out its benefits and drawbacks for a better understanding.
The pros and cons of paid social media
When Apple introduced additional privacy features that allowed iPhone users to limit ad tracking, marketers debated the value of paid social media to reach their business goals. But, half of the adults said that when brands use their data in advertising, it lets them discover useful products and services.
A broad reach is the top benefit of paid social media, here are others:
- Target particular demographics that’d be interested in your brand
- Capture leads and drive conversions
- Promote the latest releases, events, and deals easily
- Move people through the various stages of the customer journey
- Track results and refine your marketing strategy
Ad tracking is a great way for some users to keep up with the latest offerings. But for others, the thought of social media platforms collecting their personal information is off-putting.
The Facebook data breach that exposed millions to Amazon’s cloud computing service and the criminal negligence charges have made customers wary of sharing personal info with social media platforms– making paid marketing relatively tricky.
While that’s one thing to keep in mind when opting for a paid social media strategy, other cons include:
- It may be difficult for small businesses to match a high PPC rate to reach their target audience by consistently creating high-quality content to get returns on paid budget
- It’s a massive waste of money if the efforts don’t yield desired results
- It needs constant monitoring to understand how your ads are performing and pivot if the analytics are not up to the mark
Let’s dive into the best practices for social media advertising in the next section.
Best practices for paid social media
It’s not hard to nail down paid social media marketing using the following tactics:
- Select the right audience: Social ads work best when they carry the right message at the right time and for the right audience. Make your paid ads effective by pairing laser-targeted messaging with the intended users to drive results.
- Craft a clear CTA: The value of paid social ads lies in the business objectives they help serve. If the aim is to capture leads by sharing informative content like an in-depth guide, the ads should carry a direct CTA like ‘Download Now.’
Include strong (and relevant!) CTAs in your paid campaign to help people take the next action.
- Be brief: Paid social ads target a large demographic that may or may not have heard about your business. To win attention, keep your ads – be they graphics or videos- catchy and concise. Share resonating content with your target audience and limit your video ads to 15-30 seconds.
- Track performance: As I said before, paid social ads can be expensive and need constant monitoring to ensure you don’t end up wasting resources.
Social media management tools help businesses measure analytics and take a data-informed approach to their marketing strategy.Use these tools to measure the impact of your ad campaigns and make necessary changes.
Watch this space to learn the best practices for paid ads on different platforms!
6 methods to combine organic and paid social media marketing
An all-round social media strategy takes the best of organic and paid content to hit business goals. It leverages the ability of the former to build a community and nurture valuable relationships.
Simultaneously, it relies upon paid ads to attract potential customers and boost conversions. Here are six ways you can integrate them to truly serve your audience:
- Decide upon the promotional posts: Reserve the social ads only for content tied to measurable KPIs. While most big businesses use advertising to promote their latest release and announce new events, organic can be a great way for growing companies to do the same through a creative and compelling organic post without spending much.
- Boost organic content: Use social analytics tools to identify the organic posts that got the most traction with your target audience and boost them through paid ads.
It’s one of the low-cost methods for small businesses that may not be well-versed with the ins and outs of social ad campaigns and equipped with the resources to run them on scale.
- Use A/B testing: Test paid ads with smaller audiences before allocating a large budget for social spending. See if your messaging, positioning, visuals, copywriting, and ad format hit a chord with modern shoppers and offer them an enjoyable experience.
Set up manual split tests for organic content and track its performance using UTM parameters.
- Align target audience: Remember what I said about selecting the right audience for paid ads earlier? It’s mostly the lookalike of your followers or newsletter subscribers (for example), having similar likes, choices, and demographics.
The only difference is they haven’t had the chance to interact with your social media content. Use your customer persona and data on the organic following to run social ads with this lookalike audience.
- Use retargeting ads: It’s a highly effective and budget-friendly means to capture leads who already know your business organically but need a reminder about the latest product or offering from your company.
Craft a compelling ad with the right messaging to nudge them to come back and check you out.
- Automate: Use a social media tool for not just tracking the performance of your organic and paid campaigns but also for managing the workload that comes with combining the two social media marketing tactics.
Streamline your content creation process, schedule the organic posts in advance, and create customized alerts for boosted content.
Before wrapping up this post, let us take up two FAQs on paid vs. organic social marketing.
Frequently asked questions
Should a startup go for organic or paid social media strategy?
It depends on many factors, including business type and objectives. Social media marketing is saturated for B2B SaaS and B2C organizations.
They may need to include paid social ads as a core part of their overall marketing strategy to reach new audiences and drive conversions. But the same doesn’t hold for firms offering services to other companies, as organic social can help them achieve the same results without any considerable ad spend.
Is organic or paid marketing better for Facebook?
You get better results from paid marketing on Facebook. The average organic reach of a Facebook post is a small percent of an account’s follower count, and organic reach, in general, has been in a steady decline over the years.
To talk numbers, only one in 19 fans see a page’s non-promoted content– stressing the need for businesses to blend ads into their organic strategy.
Paid vs. organic social: final verdict
A flawless marketing strategy leverages the potential of both paid social media and organic to meet different business objectives at different times. Book a call with us to pair you with an expert marketing virtual assistant to handle your social media operations and help you establish a solid brand identity.