Social media for brands and other businesses today aren’t just platforms—they’re arenas. At least, for marketing teams and advertisers, they certainly are.
Giants like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are where we see competition taking place every day. But fortunately, for modern contenders, winning doesn’t just take sheer luck and brute strength. There are digital marketing strategies to study and invest in to up one’s chances of trumping competition, many of which are all about finding the sweet spot between paid and organic social media reach.
Organic social media posts or traffic are anything brand posts that costs them no money. They can be status updates, photos, videos, links, or any kind of content that’s free and is likely to reach their existing customers (for example, individuals that have already liked or followed their accounts, follow their updates regularly, or purposely visit their accounts to check for new posts).
On the other hand, there are paid social media posts. This is sponsored content that a brand pays a social media platform to promote so that a wider audience is reached, thus increasing the chances of touching base with new customers. Paid content is either organic content that is boosted or its own campaign altogether.
Organic vs Paid
Both organic and paid social media content have their advantages. However, even though paid posts might appear like the stronger bet on the surface because of the faster rate at which your posts can reach a wider audience, organic social media is able to do several things that a paid strategy can’t.
Most notably, organic posts build trust in your brand and communicate authenticity. Customers that consistently feel that your content comes from a sincere place to meet their needs (sans the paid advertising to convince them of this) are more likely to become your most loyal fans.
This kind of loyalty that develops naturally over time is what makes customers choose you over competitors, recommend you to their friends and family, leave positive reviews about your products and services, and help you maximize customer lifetime value.
Thus, even though paid content may yield more instant results, it may only give you one-time success (you might only get one “like’ from one customer, only for them to never interact with your brand ever again).
More importantly, it’s likely to bypass the slow and steady process needed to build long-term relationships with customers that we now know are at the heart of a sustainable online business.
To help brands reposition their social media strategy and to get the most out of organic posts, here’s a toolbox of tips to keep in mind for your next campaign.
Remember that looks matter
Let’s begin with social media 101. The way you present yourself matters. This time, people are allowed to judge a book by its cover, quite literally. You can’t expect your customers to explore your content (no matter how good) if your cover photo or profile pic, your choice of font and color palette, and even the language you choose are unattractive. These components on your social media platforms are frontline experiences, after all.
So be consistent, first and foremost, and consider getting the advice of graphic designers or a social media agency with experience working with brands.
Prioritizing shares over engagement
Getting tons of likes, wows, heart reactions, and comments may seem to indicate that your organic posts are doing their job. However, the real measure of success isn’t engagement, but shares. Content that is shared creates the snowball effect you want that results in more people reached—especially new customers. Plus, content that is shared a lot is essentially the “free” version of what you hope to achieve with paid content.
Research prime posting days and hours
In the past, the general advice was to post during “peak hours”—but this was advice from years ago when competition for online customers was not as intense as it is today. If you posted organic social media when everyone, including brands, is all online, you’re likely to just get lost in the flurry. Instead, get to know when your industry’s products and services are most searched for. This covers the time of day, and day in the week.
For instance, general engagement is at its peak on Wednesday followed by Tuesday and Thursday. Food posts work best on Wednesdays, whereas health content gets the least airtime on Saturday, according to extensive marketing research done by digital expert Neil Patel.
Pay attention to word count
Excellent copywriting cannot be overemphasized when it comes to social media content. The goal is to say much with the fewest words possible. This is true for both short status updates and campaign taglines, as well as blog posts should your brand have a website. When it comes to blog articles, keep things below 2,000 words.
Customers can only maintain their digital attention span for so long, so you don’t want to lose them before it expires. This relates to shareability; the crispier content is, the more shareable it is.
Focus on sharing positivity
The Internet can be a stressful place full of bad news. A brand that creates organic content that is positive, cheerful, and light can stand out from the crowd. But do note that this kind of positivity does not equate to ignoring current social, political, or cultural movements in the spirit of neutrality.
The trick is to reframe how your brand communicates its involvement or stance in these matters. As a rule of thumb, don’t post content that polarizes people. Do away with strong opinions that could spark a comment section war. This is not the kind of engagement you want. Instead, create content that softens, not heightens, emotions about current events.
Content that unifies and highlights shared experiences—as opposed to content that points fingers and yes, “throws shade” at one group—is the way to go.
Ride the news wave
News-related organic social media content remains to be the top performer on all platforms. It consistently gets the most engagement and the most shares, too. Therefore, regardless of the industry you’re in, creatively finding ways to relate your core business to relevant news is a lucrative strategy.
Jump on trending topics that create real-time opportunities to get your brand in on ongoing conversations.
Amp up videos
Organic video content may not be the easiest to create, but it has a more powerful impact than content that is just visual or purely text.
Videos are informative, entertaining, and appeal to emotions all at once; regardless of whether they make people laugh or cry, organic video content is the most shareworthy. When we hear about viral content from brands, it’s almost always in reference to a video. Rarely is it a photo, a copy, or a hashtag.
In contrast to this, brands can afford to lessen infographics. They’re the weakest link in the slew of organic social media content and fail to pique customer interest, let alone get them to share them.
Balance promotional and informative posts
Organic social media content has to be a good balance between self-promotion posts (posts that simply promote what you sell) and informative content (posts that educate and entertain, for the sake of adding to your customers’ knowledge and enjoyable browsing experience without necessarily ending in a sale).
Showing you have a good ratio of both tells customers you’re not only there to dig into their pockets. It communicates that you want to create a welcoming online environment where they are free to check out your brand without the pressure to make a purchase. Online customers don’t want to feel the virtual equivalent of an in-person hard sell.
Don’t forget about evergreen content
Evergreen content is a must. This is content that never expires and should be interspersed with more time-sensitive posts. On slow days or in-between campaign periods, you’re still going to need content that’s forever shareable to maintain momentum and presence.
Explore expert-backed content
Organic social media posts also do great if they’re backed by experts in the field.
Content that features people who can credibly explain the “why” behind things has been found to be just as popular as the ever-present listicle post. Get a quote from an expert to share in status or art card or share a link to a full-length article featuring their advice or opinions about what you know your customers would love to learn more about. This is a great way to get your customers to alert their friends and family who would be interested in the same things—a hallmark of effective organic social media content.
Promote your social media presence
Include links or clickable icons that lead to all your social media platforms, on all your web pages. This makes it easier for customers to find you and connect with you.
Do the same on traditional marketing platforms, too. If you have physical stores, printed brochures, a magazine, or flyers, make sure your social media pages are clearly advertised in the right places.
Respond to customer reviews
Active engagement with customers who leave reviews on your organic social media posts is the best way to announce that your brand has customer service that exceeds the minimum. When you try hard to remedy a complaint or thank satisfied buyers, you’re being incredibly transparent and promoting a genuine customer-first approach, while humanizing your brand. These posts with reviews behave as another kind of marketing tool. Though it doesn’t leverage on shareability, it does build awareness and more importantly, trust.
Do a competitor scan
If your competitors are not on certain social media platforms, it’s likely that any kind of content from you doesn’t belong there either. This could mean that they know something you don’t, so it may be time to return to the drawing table and see where you can best focus your efforts.
At the end of the day, brands are still advised to rally between organic and paid social media posts. As mentioned above, both strategies bring their unique set of benefits to the table.
Paid social media posts, though lacking some of the shareability and long-term relationship-building advantages, ensure that your brand is at the forefront of your customer’s pool of options. It’s also a much more targeted approach that lets you reach better-defined market segments, whereas organic posts can be a hit-or-miss strategy and pose smaller and slower customer growth rates. More so, because of a more targeted approach to customers, brands can increase their chances of turning leads into conversions, and eventually, into a sale.
Ultimately, a brand that’s able to discern how much paid and organic content to employ and on which platforms they work best is the most poised to succeed.