Social media is a powerful marketing tool. But it can also be costly if you’re unsure when the best time is to use organic versus paid content.
Paid and organic social are different elements of marketing that you can harness for your goals.
However, there’s a time and a place in your business where you should use organic versus paid.
If you want to ensure you’re driving more results with social media, consider your goals and use the tips below to help you define your strategy.
You Need to Reach New Audiences
When your business needs to reach new audiences and fast, paid ads make the most sense. That’s because paid social media gives you more control over who you’re targeting.
On the other hand, the only people who will see your organic posts at the point of release, are the ones who follow you. It’s only when followers interact with those posts that the reach grows – but this does mean you have more potential to reach audiences outside of those defined targets of paid ads. This is where a hybrid approach could work.
If you’re garnering attention and an organic post is performing well, you’re likely to reach and engage with new audiences that you may not have considered with targeted ads. If that is the case, you may want to consider supporting your organic content with ad spending to really make the most of the engagement with this new found audience.
You Need to Promote a New Product Or Service
If you’re looking to promote a new product or service, you need to get your content in front of the right audience to drive as much relevant and qualified traffic as possible, as quickly as possible. Since you have less control over who sees your organic posts, paid ads will serve best in this case as they can be more closely controlled.
You can target your ads to specific demographics or a group of people with similar characteristics and interests, if you know who you’re reaching. But if you don’t know who your audience is yet, paid ads offer the opportunity to find out. With paid content, you can split test different audiences and messaging, and use the data obtained from doing this to understand what works best.
It might take multiple rounds to figure out the audience you’re trying to reach. Nevertheless, using paid social is great for promoting a new product or service so you can really drill down and target your ideal audience and reach those that are most likely to buy into your business.
You Need to Scale Your Social Platform With a Similar Audience
If you have a healthy social media following and want to increase profitability, paid traffic is best.
Though organic traffic is great, scaling doesn’t doesn’t always work well with large followings. That’s because your momentum diminishes over time, making it difficult to achieve more growth during the process.
You may be achieving rapid growth at first, but it will fizzle out eventually because that particular audience is finite – which is where you need a quick boost to gain that momentum again and open up your offerings to new audiences. Paid social gives you that boost and allows you to explore new, similar audiences and will hopefully skyrocket your social media following in a shorter period.
You Don’t Have Many Followers
Growing followers requires a lot of effort if you’re going the organic route. It can also be painstakingly time-consuming when you have zero followers. And while the organic route is great if you’re time rich but cash poor, if you’re building an audience from scratch, your best tactic is to use paid social media ads to begin, which will help create that foundation of engaged followers.
As we mentioned before, organic requires followers to interact with your content to build reach, but no one will see or share your content when you have zero followers. Using paid social at the very beginning of your social journey can help you gain the initial traffic you need to build engagement and spread awareness of your brand.
And if you’re not able to foster engagement, it’s less likely your following will grow as you want it to. Therefore, your social media efforts are often irrelevant to your business in the initial stages. While it is possible to build a following organically, it could be a while before you see any serious return from it.
Meanwhile, paid traffic can cut your time in half and get that ball rolling straight away.
You Have a Time-Sensitive Offer
If you have a time-sensitive offer – such as a giveaway or a promotion – paid ads are best. That way, you get your message out more quickly.
Though you can use organic to drive awareness and traffic to your site or landing page, and you can build a whole strategy around promoting your offer, organic content doesn’t have the same urgency as paid ads so is better used in a supporting capacity. Paid social will give you more room for flexibility and control over timing and targeting.
Essentially, paid content is an easy way to ensure your audience doesn’t miss out on the opportunity.
You Want to Build Emotional Connections With Your Audience
Emotional connections are the most important thing for brands to build. It can mean your audience is excited to see your posts, more invested in your cause and more willing to share your posts with their friends. That way, you’re building a relationship with your audience as well as trust with a wider audience by-proxy.
That’s where integrating organic and paid social works well. Primarily, you can use organic posts to help you establish emotional connections, while paid content can help you reach more people faster and maintain that connection.
Organic posts are more likely to attract higher engagement and are often more trusted from an authenticity perspective, since you’re not forcing the post upon your audience in the same way you are with paid content. As a result, users would rather interact with organic content than paid posts, so encouraging interaction with organic posts will often go down well.
Paid social content is crucial from a maintenance perspective in this instance, and should largely be used through remarketing as a way to remain relevant. Social media users often follow many brands, and you want to remain at the front of their consciousness when it comes to the type of product or service you offer.
Just be sure to post at the right time, so people have a higher chance to see your content – whether paid or organic.
You’re Hoping to Drive Immediate Sales
When you don’t have a large presence on social media and you’re looking for new channels to explore without committing a huge amount of time, and you also need to drive immediate sales – paid social media will always be the best option.
Paid ads can get your brand seen by a new audience or promote a product or service that hasn’t been established yet in the marketplace.
Once you have established an audience and get your ads in front of them – this tactic can drive traffic back to your site and eventually convert it into sales.
However, there’s one thing to bear in mind. While this may lead to more people following you on social media, it’s important to maintain those relationships going forward with some sort of organic strategy. If you don’t, you run the risk of always having to rely on paid ads to get anywhere on social media – which may have a negative impact on trustworthiness and lack that emotional connection users often look for.
Make Social Media Work for Your Business
The key to making social media work for you is first thinking about your goals. Then, it’s all about creating a strategy to get you there. Now that you know when to use organic versus paid social, you can use these tips to make the most of your social media strategy!
If you need help digging deeper into your social media management or paid social advertising, or you’d like to take advantage of a full social media audit, just get in touch and one of our experienced social media marketers will be on hand to help!
This article was written for the Boom blog by Eleanor Hecks, editor-in-chief of Designerly.