Both organic and paid social media landscapes are constantly evolving. New networks rise to prominence (e.g. TikTok), new technology increases user participation and real-time content (e.g. Periscope) and existing networks enhance their platform and product (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram launching ‘buy’ buttons). Organic reach is also shrinking as the leading networks ramp up their paid social media channels to monetize platform investment.
If the first era of social was engagement, the new era is acquisition and conversion. Social commerce has been growing over the last few years, but in today’s climate that growth has rocketed. Many retailers I work with today are seeing social driving bigger % increases in retail traffic than any other channel.
Social is no longer just about conversation and content; it’s now an established channel for customer acquisition, remarketing and engaging existing fans/customers to support retention programs. It may be relatively immature compared to search and email marketing but it’s a channel in which most ecommerce teams are ramping up investment (people and tools).
This article discusses how you can leverage organic and paid social media when planning your social media strategy.
Defining organic and paid social media marketing
This is for people new to social media, if you already understand what each means, skip to the next section.
Organic social media
Using free tools provided by each social network to build a social community and interact with it, sharing posts and responding to customer comments.
For example, using Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule and publish tweets on Twitter is organic. You may pay for a license to use Hootsuite or Buffer, put there is no charge from Twitter for publishing your tweets.
Paid social media
Paying to display adverts (whatever the format – text, image, video, carousel etc.) or sponsored messages to social network users based on user profile e.g. demographic. A cost is incurred depending on the type of ad planned; for example many ads incur a cost per click (cpc).
Listening, learning and responding
Organic social is ideal for community management. You don’t need paid social media campaigns to listen to what people are saying about/to you.
However, you can use paid social campaigns to reinforce core messages that you’ve shared via organic posts. For example, if the company has been involved in a public crisis (think Volkswagen and the emissions crisis), then information you’ve provided to people who have contacted you can be used as part of a wider educational marketing program with paid ads to extend the message reach.
What’s important is that the listening and learning elements are part of your organic approach to social media; they should happen naturally by being actively involved with your community. If you’re not responding effectively on a personal level to enquiries and complaints, a paid program may attract further criticism.
Creating conversations based on a unifying thread
Social marketers look for ways to engage groups of people based on a shared interest/passion. Whilst one-to-one communication is the much-touted holy grail of social marketing, the impact and efficiency of communicating to a wider audience simultaneously is important to understand.
Hashtags are a great example. You can create a hashtag for free, or simply dovetail with an existing hashtag if what you’re doing/saying is relevant to that audience.
Using social media for content marketing
A content plan should sit above all your marketing channels, defining the key stories and when they play.
Social media can then be used to help tell these stories, whether it’s through one-off announcements (e.g. Facebook post), or a series of short posts that build the story over time (e.g. series of blogs, each being shared on key networks).
You can also use organic to increase audience engagement with your content. For example, let’s say you’re a ticketing website for sporting events and you know that some of your followers are rugby fanatics. If you have a new blog interviewing Dylan Hartley (current England captain), then it makes sense to personally contact them (or at least key influencers) via their preferred social network and tell them about the blog, and ask them to comment/share. It’s personal and increases the chance they’ll see/read your content.
Targeting based on interest
You can target people based on self-identified interests. For example, if you are selling pet accessories, you can specifically target social media users who have expressed an interest in pets. Marketers doing this typically experience higher CTR and conversion for social ads than for blanket campaigns.
Social media remarketing
You should get to grips with Remarketing lists. Remarketing involves marketing to people who have already visited your website, then promoting relevant content/offers based on the context of their visit.
A good example is Facebook Custom Audiences. Within this Facebook supports email targeting, the ability to upload customer email addresses and then target those users on Facebook with tailored ads. This lets you micro-segment based on your existing customer database. One application is customer loyalty marketing, promoting offers to existing high value users via Facebook ads.