Insight June 9, 2021

Digital Marketing 101: An Introduction to Paid Social

Social media is no longer an optional piece of your business marketing strategy. It’s an essential way to reach customers, gain valuable insights, and grow your brand.

If you look at the numbers, social media gives you a fast, inexpensive way to reach half of the world’s population.

With so many people using social media every day, these platforms allow you to reach potential customers where they already spend their time. And as you continue to refine your targeting on each social platform, you can deliver the right brand message to the right people at the right time.

How do organic and paid social efforts help your brand succeed?

Organic social media refers to the free content that you share on your company’s social platforms. It can include posts, photos, video, memes, or anything that users share with each other on their social feeds. Both individuals and brands post organically every day.

When you post organically, your reach is somewhat limited. But you can expect that these followers will see your content on their feed:

  • A percentage of your followers (experts call this your organic reach)
  • People who follow your followers (if they share your content)
  • People following any hashtags you use

Paid social is a form of advertising that allows you to reach specific new audiences that you wouldn’t be able to reach organically. It puts your content directly into the feeds of more users who are likely to be interested in your brand. Typically, there are two methods for advertising to these audiences.

Boosted posts. A promoted or boosted post is an existing organic post that you make more visible by paying the social media platform. It’s a great way to ensure that your organic content reaches a wider audience. Many platforms offer boosted posts, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Generally speaking, boosted posts are used to extend the reach of an already well-performing organic post or create an ad from a post without having to design a whole campaign around it. If you’re struggling to find and grow your audience on a particular platform, boosting a post is a great way to introduce yourself to new people. It gets your content in front of people who may never have seen it organically. But the real benefit of boosting a post is that this type of advertising is so easy to use. You have already created the content, and the platform automatically formats it into an advertisement that appears in people’s feeds.

Unique advertisements. Unlike a boosted post, paid social ads are unique content developed specifically for an advertisement or campaign. This includes any advertising on social media platforms that you pay to have shown to the target audience, such as pay-per-click ads, influencer partnerships, in-feed ads, display ads, and more. One of the main differences between these paid social ads and boosted posts is the level of customization available. Paid social ads allow you to determine where your ads will appear, customize your audiences, optimize your ads according to your performance goals, and set a call to action, which tells your audience exactly what you want them to do when they see your ad.

Why should I use paid social?

Now that you know a bit about the difference between organic and paid social, you might be wondering whether you need paid social for your business. We’ve talked about why you should develop a paid social strategy before, but let’s dig a little deeper into the benefits of both organic and paid social media approaches before deciding which is right for you.

An organic approach to social media is all about nurturing your relationship with your followers. It gives you an opportunity to establish your brand presence where your potential customers are already spending their time. Organic social media lets you have a direct conversation with your followers to provide support when they need it. Plus, you can work on converting new customers by showing them what your brand is all about.

Paid social takes this a step farther, focusing not just on nurturing your relationships but also achieving your business goals. It gives you a way to reach a larger number of people and target your ideal customers more precisely. Paid social ads also include clear calls to action to help drive leads and conversions.

Both organic and paid social can help you gain new customers and followers. The advantage of the pay-to-play option is speed-to-market and message frequency. Organic social media traffic can take time to build due to the algorithms on each platform. Paying to promote your ad can help you improve that ramp-up time. Plus, with a paid campaign, you are targeting potential customers with an ad frequency that you can control. With an organic post, the algorithms decide when your audience sees your posts.

Ultimately, it isn’t a matter of choosing just an organic or paid social approach. You will likely need to use both – but when you use them will depend on your goals. Here’s a quick look at when to use organic versus paid social.

Brands typically use an organic approach when they want to:

  • Establish their personality, voice, and values
  • Build relationships by sharing valuable content with followers
  • Engage consumers at every stage of their buying journey
  • Support existing customers with direct customer service

A paid social approach is used when brands want to:

  • Raise brand awareness and attract new followers and customers
  • Target ideal customers
  • Promote a deal, new lead-generating content, events, or other offers
  • Generate leads and drive conversions

How do I develop a paid social strategy?

When it comes to marketing on social media, an integrated organic and paid social approach is ideal. You can delight your existing followers with high-quality organic content – and attract new eyes with paid social campaigns.

If you want to develop a paid social media strategy, there are two critical items you want to consider: objectives and budget.

Objective. The objective for your paid social media strategy gives you a goal to help guide all your tactics. You want to make sure every paid social effort leads your audience to your end goal, whether that’s a content offer on your website, an email subscription form, a product on your e-commerce site, or a call to action driving them back to your social media profile.

Budget. Paid social is one of the least expensive types of advertising available, which makes it accessible for businesses of any size. Typically, when you are setting a social media budget, you want to focus on your overall objective. For example, if you are trying to build brand awareness, you may focus on a cost-per-thousand pricing strategy, or if you are driving traffic to another location, you would be more likely to focus on a cost-per-click (CPC) strategy. Social media ad costs vary across platforms, but can start as low as $1 CPC. Spending is virtually unlimited, but you can set a limit for a specific campaign or a daily spending limit, depending on your needs. Just remember that once the limit is reached, your campaign will stop running, so you want to keep an eye on your campaign and adjust your budget as needed.

That’s our introduction to paid social. In our next Digital Marketing 101 blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what types of advertisements are available on some of the major social media platforms. Check back next month to learn more about paid social strategies for Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Are you ready to take your digital marketing to the next level? Let’s talk.

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