Understanding When to Use Organic vs. Paid Social Media - Duct Tape Marketing Consultant

Understanding When to Use Organic vs. Paid Social Media

Understanding When to Use Organic vs. Paid Social Media

By John Jantsch

Social media marketing is a multifaceted beast. Between your organic and paid efforts, there are a lot of angles to consider. It’s not enough for a business to only undertake either organic or paid social media. A strong social media marketing strategy incorporates both elements, and uses both sides of the channel to their greatest effect.

There are some things that a brand can really only do with organic social and other bases that paid social covers. Here, let’s take a look at which social approach is appropriate when and where.

When to Take an Organic Approach

Organic social media is about nurturing the relationships you or your clients already have online. These free efforts are a way for you to interact with people one-on-one in a way that you can usually only manage in in-person interactions.

There are also opportunities within an organic approach to grow your audience, but it’s important to note that growing an audience through organic outreach takes a lot of regular, thoughtful time and attention.

Here are the most useful ways to put organic social to work for you or your clients.

Share Meaningful Content

Brands that are smart about their marketing are regularly creating meaningful content. Whether you’re doing it for yourself or your clients, and no matter what form it takes—blog posts, podcast episodes, explainer videos—you want a way to share this content with a broader audience.

The people who regularly visit a website to check in on content without a little reminder are likely few and far between. Social media is a great way to alert fans that new content has been created, so that they will feel compelled to check out the latest from you.

This is a great use for organic social. Posting regular updates on you or your client’s business page, sharing content that you’ve either created or curated, is a way to stay top-of-mind with followers. Plus, it gives followers the opportunity to share your content with their audience, which is how you catch the eye of new prospects and grow your fan base on the given social network.

Additionally, savvy use of hashtags can help you to generate a broader audience for your content without having to rely on sharing or resort to paid tactics.

Engage with Fans

The greatest benefit to using social media is taking advantage of its most social aspects. A huge part of any organic social media approach is about engagement. The thing about that term, though, is that it gets tossed around a lot by marketers, and in some ways has lost some of its potency as a result.

What is engagement really about? It’s about taking the time to have meaningful interactions with followers. A smart social media marketer will set aside time to do this each day, responding to likes and comments, and re-sharing any social love that a fan might show for your business.

The key is to truly make these interactions meaningful. Anyone can hit the like button on a fan’s comment. But if you take the time to post a thoughtful response (or better yet, ask a smart question that can open up a dialogue with that follower or others reading the thread!), that’s how you get real mileage out of social media engagement.

Create Excitement with Contests

Another great organic social media tactic is to create contests for followers. Everyone loves some friendly competition, and social media contests are a fun way to generate buzz around a brand and to catch the attention of new people.

Having a contest where existing fans are encouraged to get votes from their friends is a great way to expand your reach organically. For example, starting a photo contest where the photo with the most votes wins encourages entrants to tap their social network for votes (and bring attention to your name in the process).

Join Relevant Groups and Conversations

Another organic tactic is to join existing communities that are relevant to your business. If you’re looking to do marketing work for local clients, consider joining a Facebook or LinkedIn group for the local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re managing social media for a client who runs a pet grooming business, you can join the local dog lovers group.

Once you’re in these groups, begin to contribute in a thoughtful way to conversations. If you come in with the hard sell from the start, that will likely turn prospects off. However, if you share relevant, helpful information and become the go-to source for advice in your field within a group, then people will begin to like and trust you, and be all the more likely to give you business down the line.

When to Turn to Paid Social

There’s a lot that you can do with organic social media, but it is often more of a slow and steady approach that wins the organic race. If you’re looking to grow an audience more quickly or get a bit more bang for your content creation buck, that’s where paid social can come in.

However, it’s important to note that while paid social has a place, organic social media is not dead and remains a vital component of your social approach.

Find a New, Relevant Audience

The biggest benefit to paid social media is that it allows you to quickly reach a much broader audience than the one you have cultivated on your own.

When you begin a social media ad campaign, you’re asked to define the audience for the campaign. You can pick certain attributes of people you’d like to target with your messaging. Maybe it’s those in a certain geographic location, or people of a particular age or gender.

Whatever the case may be, social networks have a deep, nuanced understanding of their users, and they share this knowledge and access with advertisers so that you can target your marketing spend at those who are most likely to find your business relevant.

Give Content a Boost

Beyond creating independent ad campaigns, social sites also provide you with the option to amplify the content that you shared organically. With a business profile on social sites, you can choose to boost an organic post, giving it a greater reach and upping engagement on the content.

From there, you can go back to your organic engagement tactics, reaching out to new faces who have seen, liked, or commented on the content.

It’s important to set a strategy and budget for boosting content. The social networks make it easy for you to promote existing content (of course they do! It’s more revenue for them!), but that means you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of casually promoting things here, there, and everywhere without a bigger plan in mind.

Only promote content that serves your broader purpose. For example, if you have a goal this quarter to increase the number of clients engaging you for your SEO services, and you create and share an explainer video with your top five quick fixes to improve a business’s SEO approach, that is the kind of content it might make sense to promote.

A great social media strategy includes both paid and organic elements. By taking advantage of the free capabilities of each social site and then enhancing those efforts with paid efforts, you can create a social strategy that nurtures your existing fans and helps you reach a whole new audience as well.


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