Nothing stimulates heated discussion among marketers more than the age-old question: paid versus organic content – which works better? But savvy marketers will tell you that that’s not the real question. What every business should be asking is “How does paid and organic content work, period?” because, the truth is, they both work, they just work differently.

Organic content works better in building relationships with your brand’s target audience. That’s key for developing loyal customers and repeat sales. Of course, it takes time to build relationships, so the true value of organic may only be seen in the long term. It’s a slow process that involves a long-term commitment to provide high quality content over time.

On the other hand, paid social media campaigns have a set time period and amount of exposure, so their effects are faster and more controllable. The aims of paid content are improving brand awareness, promoting specific things (products, services, and events, for example), driving conversions, and supporting organic content by giving it a “boost.”

support organic content by giving it a “boost.”

So what does “organic” and “paid” really mean?
Organic content is created by the business and posted to its website and social media platforms. Ideally, it has value for the prospect – it is NOT a sales message. Instead, organic content answers questions prospects have, provides solutions to their problems, and offers insights they can use. All of this valuable information builds interest on the part of prospects and provides links to further information and ways to contact the originator. Any specific piece of organic content exists as long as the marketers chooses – days, weeks, months, even years.

A key characteristic of organic content is that it is keyworded to enable prospects to find that content online through search engines. If the search results look interesting, the prospect will click through to the content and begin the process of establishing a dialog and entering the “sales funnel.” Hopefully, this becomes the start of a long and beautiful relationship.

paid social media campaignsPaid content, on the other hand, usually takes the shape of an online ad campaign. An ad, or ads, are created and posted for a certain period of time on specified websites, social platforms, and online publications, after which that ad content is gone. The power of paid content is the level of control the marketer has over it. They can choose when and where people will see it and who will see it – decisions that can be made using demographic, geographic, and/or behavioral determinants. Paid content is completely driven and controlled by data.

The goal of any content is to generate two things: traffic for your website and, eventually, sales. The trick is how to drive that traffic. It’s important to note that most businesses need both organic and paid content. Each has a role to play when it comes to your marketing strategy and it’s important to use them in their proper place to maximize your return-on-investment.