Social Media Marketing vs Social Media Advertising: Who Will in 2018?

Organic Social Marketing or Paid Social Advertising?

Which is the more effective traffic generation and customer acquisition channel between the two? Where should a social media marketer invest their resources – time, effort and dollars (or bitcoins) in 2018?

In the social ecosystem, there has been a roaring debate going on for a very long time over the use of Paid Advertising vs. Organic Marketing, and which one provides better value for a brand’s social marketing strategies.

So, let’s dive into compare the two contenders and find out which one is likely to win the ‘Game of Thrones’ in 2018:

Contender #1: Organic Social Media Marketing

To play and win the game, you must know the rules of the game. So, let’s understand how social algorithms work to get maximum organic social traffic to your website.

Learning about the rules: Understanding the math behind social algorithms

Easy to say, difficult to do!

Understanding the working mechanism of social algorithms is not a piece of cake. The algorithm for each social platform works differently. For instance, on Facebook, a core factor that affects the rankings of a post is its relevancy score, whereas on YouTube the total watch time of the video per session decides whether a video enters a ‘Recommended Video’ section or not.

To add to the woes of social marketers, engineers update these social algorithms from time-to-time; making it next to impossible for social marketers to keep track of each and every social platform’s algorithms on a regular basis.

However, after thoroughly analyzing a few social algorithms, social media experts have found that just like Google’s algorithm, social algorithms are also basically designed to give users the best experience possible. In short, the goal behind any social algorithm is pretty simple – ‘To promote the best content to the most relevant people.’

With the similar objective of delivering the best user-experience possible, in mid-2017 Facebook tweaked its News Feed algorithm to reduce rankings of posts that include a link to a low-quality website.

In short, the only key to amplify your website traffic with organic social marketing is to post quality content (which falls in any of these 3 categories – informative, inspiring or entertaining) with quality links that are relevant for your target audience.

Strengths of Contender #1: When organic social marketing boosts traffic

Now that we know how to crack the social algorithms, let’s see instances where it is beneficial to go for organic social marketing to generate traffic for your business website:

  • Your target market are social followers: When you are not looking for a specific target audience segment – i.e. people belonging to a specific location or falling into a particular age bracket – to market your products/services, it is ideal to go for organic social media marketing.
  • Tight marketing budget: It is difficult for a company with a limited marketing budget to consistently invest in paid social ads. Such companies must therefore opt for organic social marketing to turn a loyal social follower base into website visitors.
  • For long-term gain: Getting noticed by a social audience will take time. Also, turning these social followers into website visitors won’t happen overnight. Be consistent and you will enjoy sustained traffic.

Take a leaf out of Microsoft’s Instagram channel – they share inspiring stories of people who use Microsoft technology to pursue their passions; thereby encouraging potential customers to similarly leverage Microsoft products.

Microsoft's Instagram channelContender #2: Paid Social Media Advertising

A large number of social media marketers believe that paid social ads deliver results. That’s a half-truth. Simply investing dollars in paid social ads will do you no good; rather your ad should be click-worthy!

The ROI of your paid social ads largely depends on how enticing the ads are. To make the most of your social media marketing budget, ensure your ads have the right call-to-action buttons with a link to your website or alanding page.

Strengths of Contender #2: When paid social ads boost traffic

Here is the list of instances where a social media marketer must opt for paid social ads over organic social marketing:

  • To create brand awareness: An aspiring entrepreneur will not have a huge follower base on social channels for their start-up. So, to grab eyeballs in a short period of time you could take the road of paid social ads.
  • To drive instant traffic to your website: Unlike organic social marketing, paid social ads instantly deliver results. The moment your ad goes live on social channels, you will get to see a large number of visitors on your web pages. Paid social ads are therefore ideal when you are planning to make a new announcement or if you are launching a new product/service for your brand.
  • Targeting a specific audience segment: With optimized paid social ads, you can target a specific group of people based on their demographic or location details. These narrow bands of people are highly likely to click on your ad and visit your website as they are prospects who might be looking for a product/service that you are offering.
  • For a limited time offer: A social media user needs to know about your special or limited time offer before it expires. Posting such ads on your social pages will do you no good if a follower stumbles upon it after it has expired. So, if you are marketing products or services with an expiration date, you absolutely must go for paid social ads.

Check below how the social team of Sherman Carter leveraged sponsored posts on Facebook for their limited-time offer ad:

Sponsored Facebook PostFactors that determine the winner

Here is a list of factors that will help you decide the social strategy (paid or free) that you must opt under a given circumstance in 2018:

Organic Social Marketing Paid Social Ads
Target Audience If only targeting your followers If targeting a specific set of people (Based on their gender, age, hobbies or other such factors)
Cost Free (The only cost is of having a social marketing team) Requires an investment
Website Traffic Sustained traffic in the long-run A large number of visitors as soon as the ad goes live
Time Period Shows long-term benefit Only while you keep investing in ads
Business Model Ideal for B2C Ideal for B2B as well as B2C companies

Apart from the above mentioned factors, analyzing your competitors’ social strategy, the industry your business falls into, and individual social platforms will also help you in deciding the right social strategy. For instance, last year Facebook reduced the exposure of organic content, so for exponential results on Facebook a brand must go for paid ads.

Deciding the Winner: Monitor and Analyze the Stats

There is no one size fits all formula when it comes to social media marketing. For instance, a fast food chain restaurant could find a large number of people ordering food on their website with a single organic Facebook post, and on the other hand a medium-sized mobile app development company may see dramatic results with a promoted post on LinkedIn.

A social tactic that might work for one, may not work for another!

So, closely monitor and analyze all yours, and your competitor’s social marketing activities. Find the kind of posts your followers and target audience find interesting by analyzing social channels, campaigns and posts.  Figure out what works best for your brand in a given scenario. Based on the inputs you gain from analyzing your social channels, craft the social media marketing strategies for your company.

However, do keep in mind that as per the top digital marketing companies, when it comes to social media marketing (be it free or paid ads), there are 3 main factors that matter:

  • Time-spent by users on the post
  • Engagement of the post (likes/tweets/shares)
  • Relevancy of the post

So, to boost your web traffic through social platforms, you need to post contagious content that will compel your social followers to visit your website.

Over to you: It’s your time to start playing!

It is clear from this article that there is no single winner when it comes to selecting between paid social ads and organic social marketing.

Paid ads will help get the ball rolling and gain the initial needed exposure for your start-up, but to continue gaining traffic you definitely need to have concrete plans for organic social marketing. It is therefore advisable for you to use both the strategies in tandem to see significant growth in web traffic.

So, as you layout your social marketing plan for 2018, don’t forget to keep the above points in mind and ensure you select the right social strategy under a given situation to amplify your web traffic.

Which form of social media marketing are you planning to leverage to boost traffic in 2018? Share with us your thoughts and experience of using social platforms by commenting below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Guest Author: Kim Smith is a Content Consultant at GoodFirms, a full-fledged research firm that offers a transparent and unique platform for software development companies to stand out from competition and magnify their industry-wide credibility and visibility. Online you can find her on twitter: @contactkim11

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