Spending on digital advertising is growing like crazy. With digital spend expected to overtake TV by 2017, investing in digital seems the be the way to go, as returns can be easily measured and digital is where people are (among other advantages).

To make sure they’re putting their spend where they’ll get the best return for their digital dollars, some have taken up a strategy of promoting first within organic channels (where there is no cost to do so) and then using the success there as an indicator of pieces which may perform well in paid. This may sound like a good idea, but it’s not a great indicator paid potential. Here’s why.

Organic Success Doesn’t Mean Paid Success

Paid and organic are two different things. While you may believe that content your organic audience loves is also likely to be loved by a paid audience, this isn’t true.

The audiences are key. When posting organically, you’re sharing your message with people that have already shown they like your brand by following you. Winning over the hearts of these people should be easy, as they’ve already expressed significant interest in your brand. The way current followers react to your messages should be FAR more positive than the general public which you target with paid ads.

Your organic following is also made up of many of your own employees. They’re far more likely to engage with your content than the average user, even though they will never be a customer. An example of this is employees that ‘Like’ everything you post. Because of this, unless you can remove all employee engagements from your measurement metrics, testing in organic before paid won’t give a good idea of future success.

What’s A Better Approach?

The better approach is just the opposite. First test your content with paid promotion. It doesn’t have to be a huge spend behind any single piece, but paid gets your content in front of people outside your own audiences, people that don’t already love your brand. This gives a much more realistic view of your content and how it engages others.

Then take the most successful pieces of paid content and share them with your organic audiences. If those that don’t know your brand love it, then people closer to you are sure to think it’s great.

I’ve tested both approaches with paid budgets of more than $200k, across multiple campaigns, and found that the clear winner is using successful paid posts as an indicator of good content for your organic audiences.

Greater Social Success

With the continued increase in social spend comes more pressure to show return for those paid dollars. Social media is no longer a place that businesses throw money just to experiment. They now expect positive returns on investment from social initiatives. By understanding the best way to identify content with the greatest potential return, we can all gain better results from our social investments (both paid and organic).

Use the process of paid testing and success to inform organic and gain better results for your social campaigns. You’ll get better return across the board and continue showing the power of social media marketing to connect with your customers.


Originally published at benbrausen.com on May 17, 2016.

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