By Alexandra Zamfir

February 14th, 2017

Organic vs paid social media – for marketers this can seem a kind of clash of the titans. While many have declared the death of organic content and put their faith in ever larger advertising budgets, there is still a strong case to be made for organic social media posts and strategies.

In this article, we will show that paid and organic can actually complement each other and help maximize ROI for marketers.

At Falcon.io, we use a well-functioning mix of paid and organic social media. We have learned over the years that while paid can help you amplify your message, organic is a great way to figure out what that message should be, and what the best format for it is.

All of this can be easily figured out through A/B testing or multivariate testing, using tracking codes to identify best performers.

Here is our three-step process for optimizing paid social media with organic posts based on a real example:

1. Take a theory and run with it

Since Falcon.io’s social media presence is performance-driven, we are always on the lookout for new ways to boost our organic results. We are constantly experimenting with new ideas or variations of posts. Not only to identify the best performers but also to learn new things about our audience’s behavior.

To do that you first need to a control version of your posts. Then it is time to take a theory – anything from something you read to a hunch based on earlier performance – and adjust the post based on it.

Our theory
We went with the idea that changing the image size in a particular post, which also meant changing it from a link post to an image one, would increase its traffic to our website and conversion rate.

Link posts generally perform better than image posts on Facebook. In 2014 the network stated: “We will prioritize showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.

However, as marketers we also know that in such an overcrowded feed you need to stand out to stand any chance of winning attention. So we decided to see if a bigger-sized image could help us get noticed more by our audience.

We took a recent guide, “15 Trends for Social and Digital Marketing in 2017” and created two Facebook post versions to create awareness around it. One a link post and the other an image post. We used two different visuals, as the link post comes with a predefined dimension.

organic vs paid social media

2. Validate it on organic social media with A/B testing

To make sure we got accurate A/B results, we created unique links with tracking codes for each version of the post. This made it easy to monitor results in Google Analytics.

A/B testing is extremely important with customer-facing mediums, as it allows marketers to optimize processes and test ideas based on first-hand feedback from customers. It is like a survey with far more demonstrative results.

But it is vital that marketers create the perfect conditions: reliable and accurate tracking codes, logical and data-backed hypotheses, and easily identifiable factors for success.

3. Use the results to tweak your advertising budget

Once the results are in and you’ve decided on the best variation, you have two options for adding spend to it. If you want to keep benefiting from the engagement the post has already gained, you can boost the organic post. If, however, you want to create a more targeted campaign, you can reuse the elements in a dark post intended for a specific audience.

With the Falcon platform you can take control of your social media advertising budget by connecting your Facebook Ad Accounts and promote new or existing content directly within Falcon. Once the post is published, it is simple to go and promote it based on the latest engagement metrics.

organic vs paid social media

Or you can go and create a new dark post with more targeting, pricing and bidding options. We choose this option when we want to have a better control of who sees the ad and how much budget we invest in it.

 

Our test showed that the image post got a 65% higher reach, six times more post clicks, almost three times more link clicks and more than double the amount of downloads. All in the same one week period.

organic vs paid social media

These were great results for organic social, as it helped boost both our engagement and conversion rate. Once the test was completed, we used the findings to create new dark posts based on the winning variation. This resulted in one of our best performing campaigns to date, with three times more conversions than our second best-performing asset in the same quarter.

Of course, the experiment could have been done just on paid social. However, this would have required additional budget. The beauty of organic social media is that it is free, giving you the luxury of an unlimited number of tests.

Test for free, pay for even greater performance

For a performance-driven marketing department, there is no such thing as paid versus organic. A mindful social media manager understands that getting it right the first time is a lucky strike; and that testing your campaigns and posts is the proper way to create a scalable strategy.

As a rule a thumb you should always aim to use your organic channels as a testing ground for your paid initiatives. Backed by results like those above, we’ve managed to create a feedback loop between our paid and organic channels. It all adds up to a smarter, more efficient use of our budget.

Try it for yourself. A little trial and error could be the investment that pays the most dividends in your social distribution strategy – and makes your budget go further.

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