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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureAndrew Knapp

Paid or Organic Marketing? Examining the options

Many people are confused by the term ‘organic marketing’. Simply put it refers to unpaid, or free, advertising in the form of social media posts that help establish your presence and promote interest in your business. It’s not a quick process but steadily builds valuable interaction with your audience. The only cost involved is time and effort on your part.

Depending on how valuable your time is, you may want to consider paid advertising. After all, you can define the demographics of your targeted audience more accurately, and the more budget you have, the more likely you are at driving your audience to your webpage or online business where the true sales process takes place.

In this article we’ll take a deeper look into when organic and paid adverts should be used. Both have enormous value and a combination of paid and organic advertising is advised to maximise your business results. Although we are concentrating on Facebook here, the same underlying principle can be applied to all platforms. And as users of all platforms have found out, organic growth is declining.

If this is true is it still worthwhile pursuing organic marketing? Apart from the very attractive cost implication, the answer is a resounding yes!

Where paid advertising can target a defined audience, you will be reaching them ‘cold’. They are people who are unaware of your brand, haven’t seen your previous posts and completely ignorant of who you are.

Most businesses have found that social media platforms are better used for brand awareness than for sales. Facebook offers you the ideal chance to organically generate and nurture leads with useful content that enriches their viewer’s lives. The ‘in your face’ advertising approach of a few years back no longer has a major role to play. Even if a blatant advert did find its way onto your news feed, chances are that you will scroll straight past it as irrelevant. ‘Promote and nurture from your social media platforms and sell from your website’ is the new norm.

Let’s consider why organic marketing has declined and why it is becoming harder to gain a following. Now that the process of sharing information has become a simple action for billions of people, over 30 million pieces of content are being published every month and it is impossible for news feeds to show it all. Apart from the lack of space, people don’t have time to wade through thousands of posts to find something that interests them. Depending on the size of your fan base, every time you log in there between 1,500 and 150,000 stories that could appear. Of all of these the news feed only shows approximately 300. Therefore competition for news feed space is increasing. Also, with this increase in content, people are liking more Pages, therefore exposing themselves to the possibility of even more daily content.

Facebook’s Hilltop algorithm filters each story posted according to a set of criteria matched to each user’s interests and allows for only the most relevant content to be seen. And how do you make sure your content s seen? As we discussed in a previous blog, “What did you say? – Why great content is crucial to your social media marketing”, you need to offer your audience value while engaging with and encouraging comments from your viewers. The more activity that is detected on your posts the more chance that they will be seen.

The process that the algorithm follows asks thousands of filtering questions such as:

  • What stories have been posted by your friends or publishers?

  • Who posted it?

  • How likely are you to comment of the post?

  • What is the relevance score of the post?

  • How recently was it published?

  • How frequently does the publisher post content?

  • The amount of interaction on the post

  • How often has the user interacted with the publisher’s posts in the past?

  • Past interaction with the same type of post

  • Negative feedback on the post

  • How useful is the post?

There are many more, but the above gives you a good idea into the depth of the equation.

But why? Facebook’s main focus is to improve their user’s experience on the platform by showing only high-quality content. This is why blatant promotional adverts don’t fare well in the rankings anymore. Promote your business by all means, but make your promotional adverts useful and valuable, and then balance these posts with social posts (news from your industry, events you are involved in, pictures of your working environment). This is covered in depth in my blog, “To post or not to post, How no to alienate your audience”.

A paid campaign can streamline the process of being seen but a new element comes into play for your strategy, Cost per Click (CPC). This is calculated by taking the budget allocated to the post divided by the number of clicks you have received on your CTA (call to action). The idea is to keep your CPC as low as possible (encourage a high click rate and the costs decrease). So, as a simple example, if you allocate ZAR 100.00 to a post and you receive 35 clicks on your call to action, the CPC is ZAR 2.88.

Paid advertising works if you are an entrepreneur who doesn’t already have an established follower base. A paid advert will get attention over a short period of time as they instantly start delivering results. Therefore paid adverts are especially effective when you launch a brand new product or service or have a major announcement to make. It is also the only method to promote any limited time period special offer. This can’t be done with organic marketing because you don’t want a prospective client seeing an offer after it has expired.

A well planned post (organic and paid) will include a ‘call to action’ (CTA), asking the viewer to click on a link, normally to your website, where they can sign up for a newsletter or receive a free download etc. By having a clear CTA you can also easily analyse your posts response rate in Facebook Insights. Insights is a must when analysing how your posts are performing. You can see your organic vs. paid reach, your engagement responses, clicks on your links, your CTA success, and a host of valuable demographics that will allow you to further fine tune your posts to produce you desired results.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Organic is great for targeting your followers

  • Paid is better for targeting a group of people with defined demographics and/or psychographics.

  • Organic is free while paid requires an investment

  • Organic is great for nurturing and long-term growth

  • Paid attracts visitors for the duration of the advert, so requires ongoing investment.

  • Organic works will with B2C business (business to customer)conversions but doesn’t show high value in B2B (business to business)

  • Paid works equally well for both B2C and B2C

So the answer to the organic vs. paid advertising is that it depends on your goals, your intended outcomes and, at the end of the day, how much time and/or money you have to invest in your social marketing. Hiring a freelancer or agency to manage your social media marketing is gaining in acceptance and popularity as the time demands on the business owner increases.

We’ll close this article with a word of warning. You may have seen adverts for companies that guarantee to get 5000 likes for a few dollars, and you may think that you are cheating the system by doing this and improving your Facebook rank, but in essence you are actually shooting yourself in the foot. These likes haven’t been earned, are not qualified leads, and tend not to interact with your post or page at all. Also, if you get flagged as a spammer you will possibly be blocked by Facebook which pretty much scuttles your social marketing campaigns. If you ever consider the ‘paid likes’ option ask yourself this question, would you prefer a smaller, responsive audience of qualified followers, or a large, random, undefined and unresponsive one?

The choice is yours, but I know what I prefer!

Cheers until next time - The Train Driver

The Design Train offers small business owners tailor-made social and digital marketing packages designed around your budget. We’ll grow your organic and paid influence with content rich marketing, schedule and publish your posts and conduct monthly analysis showing where, together, we can increase the potential of your business. Leaving you to do what you do best - run your business.

Visit our site on to find out how The Design Train can keep your marketing on track.

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