Paid vs. Organic Social Media: Making the Most of Both
Mar 30 2022
When companies first began using social media, the main focus was to establish brand identity. While this remains an important component of social media — especially for businesses — the medium’s evolution to include organic as well as the paid strategy allows businesses to reach their customers online.
However, a company can’t rely exclusively on paid or organic content. Successful ecommerce campaigns need both. Here are the benefits of each strategy and how to use them in a digital marketing plan.
Paid vs. Organic: Important Distinctions
Globally, people use an average of 7.5 social platforms each month and spend nearly 2.5 hours on social media each day. This is a vast audience for ecommerce businesses to think about when strategizing.
Features of organic social media
Organic social media is content that is viewed and shared by anyone who follows an account on their own. The posts appear organically in a follower’s feed without the influence of targeting or ad spend.
Organic social is essential for building credibility with followers (who may or may not be customers), but the reach typically doesn’t expand outside of their network. Combine that with the overall decline in organic reach, and relying solely on organic social can be limiting.
Features of paid social media
Paid social media is when an account pays for ads to appear on social networks. Paid ads appear in line with organic posts in social feeds; thus, they can seem less invasive or overtly sales-driven.
Advertisers can extend their reach beyond their followers with paid social. Creating lookalike audiences and using targeting tactics places paid ads in front of more people who share similar interests with an account’s current audience.
Paid social media provides a wealth of data advertisers can utilize when creating future campaigns; however, the data is only beneficial with proper monitoring and analysis. And more importantly, paid social media requires a marketing budget.
Which Is Better? Depends on Your Goals
Advertisers are expected to spend $56 billion promoting products on social networks this year, so it’s crucial to discern which posts would perform well with a monetary boost and which can perform on their own.
When to use organic social media
Organic social is rooted in conversation, engagement, and service. It is essential for nurturing customer relationships throughout the sales funnel.
Organic is also key for maintaining good customer relations and resolving issues. It is an excellent way to source feedback from loyal customers, whose input is valuable for future campaign planning.
When to use paid social media
Paid social is smart for lead generation and often geared toward acquisition and conversion.
A few important findings:
Statista reports, “54% of Gen Z shoppers and 58% of Millennials agree that social platforms are better than online searches for finding out about new products.”
Research from Sprout Social shows, “Over one-third of consumers expect their use of social to purchase products and services will increase through 2024.”
Over 70% of small businesses plan to sell on social media platforms by 2023.
These findings demonstrate an opportunity for consumers to bypass the sales funnel and go directly to purchase when companies use paid social media to capitalize on increased interest in social shopping. Essentially, paid social can create a shorter route to revenue and generate more quick wins.
Create a Mixed Social Media Strategy
One of the first questions to ask when deciding between strategies is, “Would this post be more relevant to new or existing customers?” The following tips can further streamline the decision-making process.
The case for organic
Not all posts should be paid. This would not only strain your budget, but it could also annoy loyal customers. The last thing you want is to drive people away from your brand.
Organic is best for posts designed to:
add value to their use of your product/service
cultivate brand identity
Understanding your audience helps to determine which posts fall under these categories. GWI found that young consumers gravitate toward brands appearing more intelligent, entertaining, and in tune with their individual identity, whereas older audiences value brands that are “practical, reliable and authentic.”
The case for paid
If paid social is new for your team, start on the platform with your highest audience concentration.
Devote your budget to posts that are tied to priority KPIs or are part of a larger campaign initiative. It’s wise to note which of your organic posts perform well, then use those as a starting point for testing paid ads. Organic audience data can also be used to develop a target audience for paid social.
Because the goal is to generate revenue and conversions, paid posts must have a clear CTA.
The right mix of organic and paid social media will depend on your team’s experience with social media, priorities for using social, and the overarching goals of your digital strategy.