Attracting attention and growing a brand are key to developing a company. One way is to use social media as an effective PR and marketing channel, sharing the latest announcements from clients that will best position them in the spotlight. However when it comes to social media there is a choice to be made – do you take the paid or organic route?

There are benefits to both. Small businesses often have to compete with large multinational companies. These have a wide, established reach and a satisfied audience. Breaking into this market is difficult enough from a PR perspective, let alone social media. Paid can be the answer here.

However, meaningful messaging is often more important than follower numbers. Hitting the right note with an audience and consistently delivering content that will actually be returned to and engaged with can have a better impact on sales than paid can achieve. Here, organic growth is the answer.

Paying for followers
Paid advertising is an immensely powerful tool – especially on LinkedIn, where you can target an audience. A little bit of funding goes a long way, giving social media teams a helping hand in competing with larger, well-established companies. Follower numbers grow quickly and many platforms allow businesses to jot down lists of contacts that will then help out the sales team. It seems to be a no-brainer.

The process is attractive and almost addictive, especially for those who have been trying the organic route for years.

Is there even a point to organic?
Building a Twitter or other social following from the ground up is a challenge – anyone who has tried it can attest to the often complicated process of creating interesting content, following the right people and pushing handles everywhere possible. It can at times feel like begging for an audience to listen to you.

However, by taking away the shortcut of paid, an interesting dynamic is created between follower and company. Check most generic company Twitter accounts that boast millions of followers and you’ll quickly notice they get five or six retweets and a handful of likes per post – who is listening to their content if not their masses of fans? Head to a small, hand picked company Twitter account and you’ll see similar – if not more – engagement. Organic growth means that the people who follow an account actually care about the content being put out.

Speaking of content – removing the shortcut of paid creates a quality requirement. If what is being posted isn’t good enough and fails to attract an audience, there is no other way that account is going to grow. We recently completed a campaign for World IP Day, sharing one Tweet per hour that celebrated a leading woman innovator. With videos, blogs, social cards and more, the client’s organic following ate up and re-shared this content with abandon. A lack of paid required a new approach – one that put the company in the spotlight.

So what company are you?
There is something to be said for getting a message out to as many people as quickly as possible, and nothing will do that better than paid. Unless, of course, the social media team can come up with a cracking, one-of-a-kind campaign. Again: it all depends on time, money and available resources.

The choice your company needs to make is whether they value large follower numbers and a wide reach more than a core, hand-picked group of followers that actually care. The choice is yours, but we advocate a mix, with an emphasis on organic. This way, when it’s time to boost a campaign, core followers are there to actively share and promote the content, encouraging a wider audience to participate. It’s a win-win situation that effectively builds on the strengths of both approaches.

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