Organic or Paid Digital Marketing?
This is one of those areas that is confusing to most of the clients we have dealt with. And true, you could just take our title and paste it on google and see the
thousands actually millions of hits you will get about the topic area. Organic or paid digital marketing is both a direct question and a not so direct one, as we shall see.
But we do promise to make it so easy to read and follow through and to make an educated selection of the option that works for you.
There are pros and cons that each option, of organic or paid digital marketing, presents. We are confident that by the time we’ll be done with this article you will have gained insight in abundance.
…For example, organic means you don’t pay the platforms anything to reach your target audience while paid means you have to spend some of your business’s funds to reach some of your target audience.
And we get it! Free means there won’t be any distribution costs. The only challenge is that all business decisions cost something to acquire in-order to use them to grow assets. I know there is a lot of business lingo here. Don’t worry much about it. We shall be dissecting and masimplifying as we move along.
Well, let us get into the gist of the matter!
Let us start by swiftly reminding ourselves what digital marketing is. Digital marketing involves all the process and activities you will perform to promote your goods and/or services online. The short version is: Digital marketing simply is marketing using digital platforms. We have gone in-depth about what digital marketing is and what benefits it holds for your business.
Applications of Digital Marketing
I know! I know! It may not seem to make sense why we need to do this… …but have some faith and let me attempt to show you how.
Digital marketing going by the definitions above states that it is simply marketing using digital platforms. These platforms could range from websites, apps, social media platforms, email marketing softwares to search engines.
- Creation of brand awareness
- Lead generation (acquiring customers online)
- Customer Loyalty Programs (for example, online competitions, private members area for special offers and support)
- Customer service platforms (for example, Helb, Safaricom, KPLC, Equity Bank, KCB Bank social media accounts created specifically as customer service centres)
- Advertisement of products
- Selling point (E-Commerce) among many other applications
You probably have never thought that digital marketing could have so many applications. But if you own/run a business that utilises online platforms you can relate to all of these functions.
I will admit that I have not exhausted the functions, as you might know, could be endless especially on cases of fully digital businesses where there is no need for a physical interaction for the performance of a business transaction.
Why has it been important to go through those functions?
Understanding what you can do with online media and platforms gets you that closer. That much closer to answering the question of whether to use organic or paid digital marketing.
Let us now go a step further and see why this question of whether to go organic or paid comes from…
Social Media is FREE Why Should I pay a dime?
It is true that when digital platforms like social media platforms started they provided what some may term as “an unfair advantage”. Businesses that saw the potential of digital marketing secured their spots on those platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and WhatsApp.
It is also true that they derived a lot of value and business transactions as a result of taking on the risk on new tech, hence in a sense, they got rewarded for taking that risk.
Furthermore, at the time business models hadn’t yet been defined and codified and that is what entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg did. They monetised the internet in newer ways than the earlier predecessors. Additionally, they also made it affordable for even a duka owner to do business online.
These new strategies involved the development of new algorithms (algorithm simply means the procedure by which to solve problems by) to understand their users. These algorithms, in turn, would help them serve their users with content that would be most appealing to each unique user…
…and hence came mass personalisation.
Fall of Organic Reach…
…In their continued goal of connecting the world, the consequence is that the organic reach of a post even by the most active brand online is only about 6% of the total following (not likes) of the page.
But of course, there are strategies to increase your odds and reach a staggering 20-48% even as high as 78%. And as a matter of fact, most pages just reach a paltry 1-3% of their total following with purely organic posts. Hence, Facebook and other platforms like it are giant advertising firm underneath.
Time or money…What do you have in abundance?
Ancient wisdom tells us that you either have time or money. Everything in business will cost one of the two or a sweet combination of the two.
Going organic means you have adequate time to grow your brand and then business from the digital platforms. Paid means you have the money to run ads online. (Mind you, there is a huge difference between boosting posts and running ads.) More on that on a future post.
Furthermore, one of the biggest challenges is that both are extremes that could be dangerous to your business.
Let me explain. Organic posts even at the most active account/page will at best only reach 6% of the pages following. That is too slow for any business.
Additionally it means you are playing to their rules and whims. You should not have to run your business on someone else’s rules. (it doesn’t apply to government though!) Having said that, we strongly believe that you should strive to know other peoples and platforms rules so as to effectively plan on how best to utilise them.
Paid media could also be dangerous. I once had a client that spent up to Kenya Shillings 300,000/= in a period of two months running nothing but Facebook ads to get page likes! (You should never run just page like ads. Never!)
Likes have never been a useful business metric especially for MSME’s (Micro, Small & Medium-sized Enterprises). The most important metrics relate to engagement. For example, the number of comments and their quality matters more. A metric such as the conversion rate, which means out of the reached people, how many performed the action you needed tells you way more than just mere likes.
Is your business active, engaging or neither?
Being active online doesn’t mean that you are necessarily engaging. You might be online, your business may have a presence but you are not talking with your followers.
If you are not seeking to understand who is most interested and has a desire, then you won’t know how to secure them. And as a consequence, you won’t be able to help them move closer to the needed action and conversion.
In a previous article on getting started with digital marketing we talk about the model of AIDA (Attention/Awareness creation, Interest maintenance, Desire maximisation and Action taking) which you can read here.
To be engaging means that you at the very least understand your suspects and prospects, customers and clients all have different information and nurturing needs. In addition, all your activities online should reflect this understanding. It is this understanding that will enable you to create different content for each segment: information that helps them move closer to taking the action that you intended. We have covered extensively what content marketing is for businesses which you can read here if you haven’t yet.
Organic and paid digital media working together. How?
In a nutshell, digital marketing presents a business with a number of functions that it can support. In an age where information is the new currency and organic reach has come down to an average of about only 6% businesses need to adapt. MSME’s need to understand the changes that are so rampant and so frequent so as not to find themselves resisting change that could launch them to the moon and stars.
Any business that is set up in order to grow and increase its brand equity, customer loyalty and solve problems that affect people en-masse will plan accordingly. Planning which is basically gaining the understanding of your target audience, what the goals and objectives of the business are and the scarce resources you have at your disposal to achieve those goals and objectives.
You must remember that people don’t majorly get online to keep up with businesses and what they are posting. They get online for vanity reasons, for rumours, for gossip, to keep up with family and “friends”.
The role of marketing at its core is not to create needs but to satisfy their occurrence in a people.Mwendwa Kilundo
Organic content could be created for purposes of gaining a deeper understanding of what type of content your fans, followers and advocates mostly resonate with. With that understanding you can craft campaigns around that content that is backed by data.
3. Go for the kill! Literally…
Organic content could also be used to identify what people have a natural affinity to and then promote that content as an advert to rake in more people. If one of your content pieces is being picked up by the algorithms and getting natural redistribution then that shows you that others like your audience will resonate with it.
Story time! As we wind up.
Back in 2017 with a real estate client where we were implementing this combination strategy of organic content pre-empting paid adverts we landed on a gold mine. There was an organic post that the client posted that was controversial (just how social media likes it). We didn’t know what we had on our screens until we started seeing unusual engagement on the post. From the comments to the shares, it was literally blowing up and becoming viral among the target audience.
Did we let this opportunity slide? Nope! We swiftly within a matter of hours converted that post into an advert.
Note: We did not just boost the post! Boosting only means it is shown to a lot more people and there’s no business in that.
So we made a banner with the same image as in the original post, kept the copy intact without changing anything and ran it as a lead generation advert. That single advert raked in more than 1,000 leads (and I am just being modest here!)
Cheat-sheet for businesses that want to grow
- Plan adequately and honestly
You can’t serve everyone. Understand your market and select a segment to serve. For example, Are you serving individuals or are you serving businesses?
The segment selected might still be large, so who are you targeting? Who in that segment represents the type of attributes and characteristics that your business does business with?
Is it Jane who is a working mom with toddlers? or is it Jane and Joe that have been married for less than a year with high paying jobs and focused on career development?
Finally, how will you reach that target market and what impression do you want them to have about your brand? This is called positioning. What is the promise you will make to for example Jane and Joe that have been married for less than an year with high paying jobs and focused on career development?
- Go back to your business objectives and goals or set them if you hadn’t before and refine them to the audience selected and the positioning selected.
- Take stock of the resources available to you. (Whether it is human resources, financial resources, time or skills)
- Match the resources to the goals and objectives set and take note of the scarcity of resources to the goals and objectives.
- Create content while keeping in mind the suggestions we outline in our previous article on Getting Started with Digital Marketing in Kenya
- Maintain a marketing budget (Marketing and Sales is the most important profit centre in your business. That means it contributes to revenues and profits that are used by other departments.)
- Complement your organic content with online ads to reach a wider section of your target audience
- Learn, test then implement. Remember, risk is a function of daily living. Risky on the other hand is a function of ignorance.