Organic vs Paid social media – why you NEED to be using both

Despite all of the pressure that social networks are putting on brands to spend money on paid social (particularly ads and the ‘boost’ option on Facebook and Instagram) in order to reach their target audiences, it’s important to understand that both organic and paid social media are needed to be truly successful and grow your brand.

To achieve the best results from your social media activity, you should explore a mix between ‘organic’ and ‘paid’ social media. So, what is the difference between organic and paid social media? Pretty much what it says on the tin!

Organic social media – content with no paid support

Paid social media – when you pay a platform or influencer to place an advert or boost your content so it is viewed by a larger targeted audience

Let’s delve a little deeper into what each of these keywords mean…

Organic social media:

As a lot of you may have noticed before, engagement on organic content will vary significantly. This is based on how relevant and interesting the algorithm deems your content to be. Believe it or not, even the most engaged brands will struggle to reach all (or even most) of their followers with their organic content – the algorithm can be a bit tricky at times!

Reports show that where Facebook pages don’t invest time into planning and creating the right content for their audience, reach can average at about 6% of their total following. That means that if you have 1000 followers, only 60 are seeing your content. Of those, say 80% engage with it – that’s a shockingly low 48 engagements on an account with 1000 followers, all because they didn’t properly plan and create their content. If your channel is experiencing low engagement rates, then you may need to invest in either a social media manager or a mentor to help your brand reach its full potential.

The people you do reach with your organic content are likely to be your most engaged existing customers, fans and advocates – target your organic channel with content tailored to these people. This type of content that serves the informational needs of your existing audience is often referred to as ‘help’ content, and works well in the form of infographics. Focus on showing your customers ways to get more out of your products/services.

The extent to which you can be promotional with organic content is something you’ll need to trial and error depending on your audience demographics. Some engaged audiences will welcome regular discounts and incentives that make them feel part of an exclusive club. On the other hand, some audiences will primarily be there for information and/or entertainment value and won’t interact with promotional content. Use your content planning and marketing strategy to test this and find a balance that works for you and your brand! Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula and it may take you a while to fine-tune your balance.

Paid social media:

Alongside your organic content, it’s worth investing a little bit of money to pursue your social media objectives via paid advertising content. This is a completely different approach to content planning as it reaches a broader audience (which, remember, won’t always be a good thing). I’d recommend that your paid content includes all the content types you will publish alongside purely promotional content.

The key point to remember with paid social media is that each piece of content only exists to the audience it is put in front of. You can publish content to meet any of your overall brand objectives, from awareness and engagement through to conversion and loyalty.

Paid social media also allows you to experiment a lot more than organic social media. The ability to tailor and place content in front of any audience gives you a wider scope of approaches to test. You can find out which pieces of knowledge your existing followers are hungry for, whilst seeing which of your products/services are most compelling to new prospects!

So, what are the benefits?

An organic social media strategy nurtures your relationship with your customers or audience. It helps you:

  • Establish and grow your brand’s presence where people are already spending their time
  • Support and retain existing customers
  • Convert new customers by showing them what you’re about

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:

  • Reach a larger number of people
  • Target your ideal customer more precisely
  • Hit your business goals faster

That said, it requires a budget, and its own form of expertise (those ads don’t create and monitor themselves)

Why YOU should be using a mix of organic and paid media:

In short, while organic activity is necessary for relationship-building, it’s also true that network ranking algorithms (such as Facebook and Instagram) mean paid social is a must if you’re wanting to grow your brand on social media.

As you can see, for brands that want to be successful on social media, it’s not a matter of choosing either paid or organic approaches – both need to be used strategically in order to reach your audiences and then maintain the relationship.

By using each type of social media marketing strategy in the best and most appropriate way, you can achieve great results by providing an engaging brand experience for your customers!

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