Organic vs. Paid Social Media

Young people sitting on stairs using smartphones for organic and paid social media

Weighing up the options between paid and organic social media? Not sure where to start? We’ll save you some legwork: you’ll find everything you need to know in this expert guide.

As a digital marketing apprentice, social media implementation is crucial. For instance, you’ll need to show that you have a variety of skills and the ability to run digital campaigns across different social media platforms. In this guide we’ve outlined the main differences between organic and paid social media, as well as including some examples to help you understand better. We’ve also chucked in some useful links to help get you started to becoming a social media wizard!

The key to social media is being social

Eli Fennell

What is Organic Social Media?

Organic social media refers to the free content that all users, including business and brands, share with each other on feeds. For example, this could include posts, photos, videos, memes and stories.

As a brand, when you post organically to your account, you can expect that people who see it are:

  • A percentage of your followers (also known as organic reach)
  • Your follower’s followers
  • People following any hashtags you use

Brands use organic social to:

  • Establish their personality and voice
  • Build relationships through informative, entertaining or inspiring content
  • Engage customers at every stage of the customer life cycle journey

Example of typical organic content from a business:

Pantone leveraging user-generated content

Pantone excels at the strategic use of user-generated content to build a stunning feed. For example, the brand uses aesthetically pleasing, high quality content to grab the audiences attention. Additionally, the short, punny copy doesn’t detract from the image.

What is Paid Social Media?

Paid social media involves brands paying money to social networks such as Facebook and Instagram to have their content shared with specific audiences. Paid social posts will show up in the feeds of whichever audience you decide to target and can be filtered by demographics, likes, interests and more.

Cost-per-click (CPC) is one of the most common methods of charging for this type of promotion.

Businesses and organisations use paid promotion on social media to:

  • Raise brand awareness and attract new followers
  • Promote new deals, content, events
  • Generate leads
  • Drive conversions

Example of typical paid content from a business:

example of paid social media
Moz stands out with colourful ad creative

Similarly to the the organic social example, Moz uses bright colours to stand out in the audience’s feed. It grabs the reader’s attention with bold colour choices. However, this ad is targeted to people who like marketing and marketing agencies, so a case study link makes sense here. Moreover, the strong, minimal copy gets the point across quickly and efficiently.

While paid social and organic social vary in their scope it is useful to know the benefits and drawbacks of each.

The verdict on Organic vs. Paid Social Media

Both organic and paid social media suit different businesses with different priorities in different situations. If your business doesn’t have the budget to implement a paid social media strategy, then try focusing on organic social media. Write thoughtful content and actively engage with your customers online. However, if your business has a sizeable marketing budget, prioritise your paid social media efforts to immediately spread brand awareness and draw specific audiences to your profile.

Ideally, you will be able to find a way to incorporate both methods into your overall social media strategy to improve your online presence. To take your social media marketing skills to the next level, take a look at more of our digital marketing blogs to become a social media pro!

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Digital Marketing: Do’s and don’ts of Facebook ads

There is few a tool more powerful in any digital marketer’s arsenal than Facebook. Despite the rise of newer social media channels, Facebook and Instagram (which are integrated on the same ads manager) remain unbeatable social media giants. 44% of the UK population have a Facebook account and 32.4% are on Instagram. That’s a lot of people to potentially reach! Therefore, a key component of digital marketing is running an engaging and impactful Facebook campaign. I’ve compiled this list of do’s and don’ts to help you make the most of Facebook and maximise your campaigns.  

Digital Marketing mobile

The do’s of digital marketing on Facebook  

DO define & refine your audience 

With almost half the UK population on Facebook, you don’t want your brand message to be lost into the ether. Instead, take time planning who you want your ad to reach and what stage of the customer lifecycle they are at (see Understanding The Customer Life Cycle). Facebook’s targeting options are the best in the digital marketing industry, so make sure you play around with narrowing your audiences based on location, age, gender, interests and language.  

DO carry out split tests  

Split testing is the simplest way of improving your campaign performance. Often referred to as A/B split tests, they allow you to change variables (e.g. creative, copy, audience) to see which variation of your ad delivers the best results. Although it may be tedious at first, split tests can boost your ROI by 10x when done properly. Best practice is to focus on a single metric to determine success of your split test and compare performance accurately.   

DO report weekly & optimise 

Campaign optimisation is a necessary step if you want to decrease costs, increase ROI and boost engagement. The easiest way to do this is to check your campaign consistently by pulling a weekly report and analysing your metrics. Is one audience segment engaging with your ad more than the other? Optimise toward them. Are one of your creatives underperforming? Turn it off and shift spend to a better performer. Facebook is incredibly competitive so optimisation is essential to compete with big brands.  

Digital marketing desktop

The dont’s of digital marketing on Facebook 

DON’T stop organic social posts  

While Facebook paid ads are a great method of driving engagements and sales, they should be seen as an addition to organic posts. When someone sees your ad, they will most likely view your other social media before they make a purchase. You should post regularly on organic channels and also use non-paid social to interact with your audience in ways that you can’t with paid ads. This maintains your brand image and builds a sense of community that paid ads cannot.  

DON’T use engagement bait  

Engagement bait is a tactic used to goad users into interacting with your post (think “share this post to win ££”). Facebook has a strict policy in place against engagement baiting and there are rules to ensure that it is not done. Not only does this deceive the customer, but it also harms your brand. The key to good digital marketing is to keep your posts authentic and then your target audience will engage with you without being goaded.  

DON’T overdo it on the copy  

It’s easy to think that because you’re paying for your ad, you want to get the most bang for your buck and fill it with copy. However, the average human attention span is only 8 seconds and on Facebook people spend an average of 1.7 seconds looking at a piece of content. Don’t waste your time writing long copy for no one to read, instead invest in your creatives. An engaging, thumb-stopping creative will be more impactful than lengthy copy.  

Conclusion  

When done correctly, paid ads on Facebook can reach your target audience and boost your ROI. Facebook and social media are always evolving so what works one week may not work the next. You should consider these do’s and don’ts as a general guideline of Facebook paid social best practice to navigate this ever-changing landscape. Now you’re ready to explore Facebook ad manager for yourself!