Advertising has transformed social media marketing. Some wonder if organic (nonpaid) social media remains an effective marketing strategy. Social ad spending worldwide will exceed $31 billion and make up 29.4 percent of digital ad spending by 2019, according to eMarketer. U.S. social network ad spending will surpass $21 billion this year and account for a quarter of all digital ad spending.
Facebook has continually reduced organic reach of brands in recent years, leaving marketers little choice but to pursue paid advertising. Other networks will try to follow its example. In addition, marketers and PR writers have inundated followers with content. Even if network alogoritms don’t bury company posts, gaining audience attention has become increasingly competitive.
Some PR and marketing players believe organic marketing is no longer viable. “You might as well take your budget to the bank, cash it out in greenback $20s, pile it up in the parking lot and light the money on fire,” Ogilvy’s Marshall Manson told eMarketer. Ogilvy, it should be noted, is an advertising agency; its answer for most marketing problem is “buy paid advertising.”
Others believe organic social media still maintains a crucial role that paid advertising cannot replicate and will continue to do so.
These some of the top advantages organic social media holds over advertising:
Brand validation. Almost all consumers research brands online before purchase. Many consumers visit a brand’s social media profile before completing a purchase. Providing helpful information on the organization’s social media pages communicates your brand values and ensures visitors will have a positive view of your brand.
Attract top talent. Job searchers often examine company social media profiles and view how they engage with others. “A sparse or non-existent social presence can be a real turnoff to job seekers who may wonder what you have to hide, or why you aren’t investing in maintaining your digital presence,” warns John Marcinuk, group director of marketing production for Blue Fountain Media, in a Forbes article.
Customer service and community management. Customers complain about products and services and also praise them on social media. For many, social media has become the communications channel of choice. Brands receive 146 percent more social messages needing responses than they did three years ago, according to a Sprout Social survey. Through social media listening, companies can quickly identify and resolve customer issues. Swift and professional customer service can transform a critic into a loyal customer and brand advocate.
User-generated content. User-generated content can be an enormously effective – yet affordable – marketing strategy. Organizations can share positive images, videos and comments that customers share on social media. Brands can solicit content through contests or uncover them through social media listening. In addition, marketers can repurpose user-generated content across other channels, including company websites and blogs. Most users are happy and even flattered when brands ask to share their content.
Emerging networks. Marketers can gain a head start on small and emerging networks that don’t stymie brands’ organic reach and may not yet offer paid advertising. “Most social audiences spend time on more mainstream social platforms. Nevertheless, early adoption is a great way to reach a younger demographic, build a presence on trending channels, and offset not having the budget to support a robust paid strategy,” says Cici DeWaal at Adobe.
Influencer marketing. Endorsements of celebrities and other social media influencers can encourage consumers to purchase a company’s products. While paying influencers provides more control over their content, unpaid influencer marketing often elicits more authentic endorsements. Social media listening and other tools can ease the workload and improve results.
Reputation protection. An active presence on social media can help safeguard an organization’s reputation. Unanswered negative comments, images and especially video can quickly spread, causing public relations disaster. Social media monitoring with real-time alerts can notify PR when negative comments spike and a high-level company response is required.
Bottom Line: As leading social media networks crimp companies’ organic (nonpaid) reach and social media advertising spreads, some PR and marketing experts say organic social media is no longer worthwhile. Others argue that nonpaid social media strategies offer benefits that advertising cannot. Most companies will achieve optimal results from a combination of both paid and nonpaid strategies.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.