Use of social media for marketing purposes has exploded in the past few years, but there is an ongoing debate about the most effective means of marketing on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Is paid, targeted advertising more effective than earning a following naturally through friend and customer recommendations? The latest evidence says “Not necessarily.”
Paid Advertising versus Building a Following Organically
The idea of paid advertising on a social outlet like Facebook relies on strategically placing your brand or offer where your target market will see it, typically on their newsfeed. The theory is not much different from other, more traditional marketing methods: put your product in front of the demographic that is most likely to see it, and perhaps a certain percentage will respond to it.
In traditional sales technique, we used to say that you’re likely to get at least one ‘yes’ for every 100 people who say ‘no.’ The more people who are exposed to your ad, the greater the percentage of them who will respond favorably; marketing by volume. On the other hand, organic exposure is the type of exposure a company or brand receives by building a following through likes, shares, re-tweets, and other electronic ‘word of mouth’ methods of advertising.
When you consider the large number of monthly users on social media platforms, statistically, this strategy of paying to get your brand in front of your chosen demographic might seem to have some merit. An October, 2012 report puts the number of regular Facebook users at 1 billion per month.
However, recent reports have established that it is the quality of the exposure, and not the quantity, that has a greater influence on consumer behavior. Research done by Ignite Social Media showed that organic impressions led to a 76 percent increase in visits to corporate or brand websites over paid advertising.
The reason for this would seem to come down to trust as well as the type of exposure. The fact that a product or offer is placed in a consumer’s line of vision doesn’t necessarily entice them to click that link or try that offer as much as friend recommendations will. People are generally better influenced by the actions of their peers when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
When a company takes the time to build a rapport and engage with consumers on a more personal, organic level, they are more likely to encourage a response from those consumers that translate to sales. When a user sees others on social media become excited about a product or service, they are more likely to visit the advertisers website and check it out for themselves.
Although the numbers indicate a trend toward a more organic, rapport-building approach to social media marketing, paid advertising can be effective in gaining wider overall exposure. A well-rounded marketing campaign should use a narrowly focused paid campaign in conjunction with organic social media marketing.