Social media is no longer just about building communities and interacting but has emerged as a core business strategy and critical channel for customer acquisition. However, with organtic reach declining, companies are quickly realizing new tactics and strategies require significant investments. In 2017, social media ad spend is projected to top $41 billion dollars.
In Facebook’s Q1 2016 earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that users, on average, are spending more than 50 minutes each day across its suite of apps. Doesn’t it make sense to put your marketing budget where consumers are spending their time? Here is where the debate begins: Is paid social the only way forward for brands, or is there also a role for organic strategies in 2017 and beyond?
Whichever position you take on the debate, it’s clear that organic reach on leading networks is in decline. Amazingly, over one-million pieces of content are shared on Facebook every minute; yet, the average user misses over 70 percent of the feed. Throughout the past three or four years, Facebook has been adjusting the newsfeed algorithm to include the best balance of news and updates from friends to keep users coming back, and in the process, has steadily decreased brand reach. This both provided Facebook the chance to monetize its platform with brands and keep the perfect balance of interesting content for its users.
In contrast to Facebook, Twitter has retained a chronological newsfeed, though rumors continue to swirl that this may change. Nevertheless, with a running river of content, it’s easy to miss important segments of an audience, and paid strategies on Twitter can help resurface important messaging right to the audience you target. Brands on YouTube and LinkedIn are also relying more and more on paid social campaigns not only to bring messaging to their fans, but also to extend their messages to their target audiences.
Benefits of Organic — Branding Without a Budget
1. Lowering Marketing Costs
Perhaps the best advantage of organic social media is the fact that it’s free. For small businesses just starting out, this may be the only option. Like it or not, the choice to employ paid strategies on social media ultimately comes down to budget. Without adequate funds, brands are left to try to maximize organic content.
2. Utilizing Emerging Networks
Many emerging networks (think Beme and Peach) may not offer paid options but can still provide value as part of a comprehensive social-media strategy. Most social audiences spend time on more mainstream social platforms. Nevertheless, early adoption is a great way to reach a younger demographic, build a presence on trending channels, and offset not having the budget to support a robust paid strategy.
3. Facilitating Brand Development and Longevity
For brands that already have active and involved audiences, organic social media may be all that is needed to maintain an engaged community. After all, the goal is to facilitate brand awareness and develop your brand’s personality. Content that’s engaging to users builds loyalty and trust — pillars upon which a successful social-media presence is built. With brand awareness, loyalty, and trust as important differentiators, companies that enter into meaningful conversations and post content that resonates with users seldom need to do more, bringing in new community members without paying.
Benefits of a Paid Strategy — Extending Your Message
1. Increasing Reach and Enhancing Targeting
Having a budget that allows you to supplement social content means your message reaches a larger audience. And clearly, more impressions and more exposure combat declining reach. Rather than posting organic content with little control over who sees it, paid strategies allow you to place your message directly in front of those people with whom you want to interact. Content on the Photoshop Facebook page, for example, is delivered to users who have already liked Photoshop on Facebook. With a paid campaign in place, that same content can be delivered to photographers, artists, and creative types, targeting a much wider and more precise audience across Facebook.
2. Retargeting for Personalized Experiences
Paid strategies also allow social networks to bundle users who interact with paid ads as part of a remarketing campaign. Retargeting — a key strategy that’s only available through paid social — makes it possible to target users with more relevant content.
Essentially, retargeting makes it easy to create a conversion funnel using a series of content to drive a specific action. For example, if someone reads an article you published, you might want him or her to download a whitepaper. A retargeting campaign lets you view these different functions anonymously as they occur. By contrast, organic is often a one-time interaction, which means less-personalized experiences.
3. Improving Insights and Analytics
Beyond enhanced targeting, paid strategies offer more analytics and insights into performance than is available with organic. As companies continue to work through and identify the right measurement metrics with newly implemented paid campaigns, having more insights into performance is critical; channels are offering their own backend data to supplement paid campaigns.
Organic social can help brands pioneer new and upcoming market opportunities that may evolve into invaluable resources. On the other hand, the paid approach offers a unique defensive strategy to declining reach with improved analytics and exceptional targeting and retargeting opportunities.
While a winning social-media strategy ideally includes a healthy mix of both paid and organic content, staying competitive in an unpredictable marketplace requires a commitment to paid social strategies. We’ve heard the mantra — today’s social media is a “pay to play” environment, and brands need a dedicated social media-marketing budget. Is organic dead? Not in the least. But, whether you have one-thousand or one-million dollars to invest, if you’re not paying for social media, there’s never been a better time to start than right now.