ORGANIC VS PAID SOCIAL MEDIA | WHERE TO START
For small business owners, trying to keep up with how to promote your brand on social media can be overwhelming—especially when you're trying to decide if and how you should spend money to get in front of your audience on those channels.
As the saying goes, the only constant is change. Nowhere is that more true than on social media. Take for example the instant rise of TikTok. The short-form video platform introduced a new way for us to create and digest content. Beyond new platforms popping up and cool new ways to share content, there's a seemingly endless avalanche of product feature enhancements and algorithm changes on each of the social networks. It's enough to make your head spin.
In the beginning, social networks were intended to be a place of organic, authentic connections. Brands widely used this new medium as a way to engage with their audience. After the corporate offices at the social network giants figured out how to mobilize and monetize their platforms for the masses, the use of social media became a bit more muddled. Now brands could use social networks in their acquisition and conversion strategies, too. Or rather, social networks became a place to attract, engage and convert customers. A full-funnel sales strategy on one platform—and it could be measured! (Vanity metrics or not—a debate for a different blog...)
The addition of paid advertising didn't come without consequences, though. Especially for small business owners with limited resources, one of the biggest drawbacks was the impact on organic reach. In fact, as of late 2019, the average reach for a Facebook post is 5.5% of your Page’s following (even lower for brands with large followings). That means if you have 1,000 followers, at best 55 of them see your post. Yikes!
Today, it's not enough to create great content. If you want to be seen, you have to pay up.
More than once, I've told clients and companies I've worked for that if we aren't willing to spend money on social media, go stick a yard sign out in front of our offices. Because that's the equivalent reach we'll get with organic-only efforts.
It's clear then that it's not so much a debate about organic vs. paid, but rather a conversation about how to use organic + paid for the good of your brand—and where to start and how to do just that.
How do you develop the right approach to social media for your business?
First, let's review the general application of organic + paid strategies for brands, because this is a little bit easier than diving headfirst into the meat of this question. (Emphasis on the phrase 'general application' because I could spend a whole post on this section alone.)
Organic strategies are best for community management (responding to your audience when they mention you) and testing content types, messages and formats (video, photo, infographic, etc.) with your audience.
Paid strategies are great for teasing an upcoming product launch or feature enhancement, boosting content that performs well organically (because you already have some indication of success), and running deliberate, thoughtful tests for new messages and formats to attract prospective customers.
With that covered, let's get to the heart of the question and what it really takes to develop the right approach to social media for your business.
Before you can determine the breakdown of your time and resources on organic + paid strategies, first consider your brand and business goals. If you're using social media in any capacity outside of the context of those two things, you're not going to achieve bottom-line success. Sure, you might be able to grow your following to thousands of likes, but if they don’t translate into business or you can’t measure that conversion, then what’s the point?
Consider the following questions:
What’s your brand? Defining your brand forces you to understand your target customer, which is a huge advantage when you’re trying to decide where to direct your time and resources on social media. Your brand standards set your voice + tone and the visual aesthetic, so you can write, design and deliver a consistent brand experience across all channels.
What are your business goals? How can you be successful on social media if don’t have business goals? Of course, every business needs to make money, but you have a unique value proposition and mission for your business—how do you achieve those things? By starting here, you can figure out ways to use social media to amplify those needs and set the right KPIs for social efforts to tie back to real business goals.
What are all the ways you use marketing to promote your brand + business? Social media is just one way to promote your business. It’s incredibly helpful to outline all of the marketing channels and costs you’ll have outside of social media so you can better set + manage your budget for paid social strategies.
What are your KPIs for marketing tactics? Are you measuring your overall marketing efforts? How can your social media efforts tie into KPIs you've already set for marketing activities so it becomes a part of a larger marketing strategy? Connecting marketing KPIs to business goals highlights the impact of marketing on the business (this is especially helpful for the C-Suite!)
Armed with answers to these questions, you can create the right balance of organic + paid strategies for your business. There's no one-size-fits-all method to create an integrated approach to social media for your business. Anyone who says otherwise is misleading you.
All of your marketing efforts, social media included, should tie back to your brand and business goals. Doing so will help you realize bottom-line success and underscore the importance of these networks for the greater good of the business (very helpful when you need to justify or increase your spend on social networks!).
A large following on social media is nothing more than an ego boost if it doesn’t translate into business.
If you’re unsure of how to create the right social media strategy for your business, I’m here to help! I’d love to find a way to work together to help you be successful on social media. Simply click below to reach out to me.
Outside of building an online community for women, I consult with small business owners on their social media strategies. After getting my undergrad degree in communications from Wartburg College, I went back to school and got my graduate certificate in social media from the University of Florida (go Gators!). Equipped with over 12 years of Fortune 500, small business, B2B, B2C, digital and traditional marketing + communications experience, I'm excited to work together to create a plan that works for you, your brand and your business.
For more about my experience, see my LinkedIn profile.
To work together, please reach out to me here.