Organic vs paid social audience you have vs the audience you want


Organic vs paid social: the audience you have vs the audience you want

For those who live and breathe community management, or even for those who don’t, it will have not escaped your notice that your organic engagement is only going one way… downhill. Whilst the impact will vary per platform, the reality is this: algorithm tweaks are driving brands and agencies towards a “pay-to-play” model. Come on, let’s face, they have to pay back their shareholders… what did you expect?

There are serious implications of not having a weighted paid strategy to support all of the time, effort, resource and budget creating content and managing social communities; your content gets seen by very few and your community conversations are either non-existent or with the same core super fan group or customer service queries. But, there is something more at stake here? Do you actually even want to be fostering organic engagement with your existing community? Are they even your target audience?

Here are some watch outs to consider, some questions to ask yourself. Start each of these with “is the audience we have….” when analysing your existing social communities;


…a community of competition lovers?

Many of the brands we start to work with have this issue. Communities have been built through competitions: Like to enter, Retweet to win or similar. This technique for fan acquisition and building engagement within the channels were very common a few years ago and still heavily prevalent now. The problem is that you will now have amassed a community of “compers” who are experts in entering winning, liking and sharing competitions but have no interest in your brand at all. When you do switch to more meaningful content and communications, it falls on deaf ears resulting in low engagement because, go figure, you aren’t giving anything away for free (you can read more on this in a recent post by our very own Colin Jacobs here)

…a melting pot of customer service complaints?

Another common issue we see. Pages and communities are made up of existing customers, but they use it as a channel for complaints, and very little else. Fear not, this community is still VERY USEFUL, because you can harvest the data from your existing customer base to find similar potential new customers.

But you may want to consider whether this is the channel that should carry innovative brand/marketing led content. Or, maybe you should consider whether you target this content to your existing audience and exclude them? Food for thought.

…well, just wholly bloody unresponsive?

Hmmmmm, well there is a bit more at play here, especially if from your research that your community is largely populated with those who fit the bill as your target audience. This could well be down to the content itself. So, a few more questions to ask yourself…

  • In your posts, are you just thinly vailing a sales message to your audience? Is your call to action samey, and obvious?
  • Are you playing into your interests or pain points? No, really are you?
  • Is the content visual, rich (video, animation) and does it tap into the interests, pain points or moments above?
  • Are your posts being seen by many? Are you algorithm beating? (remember our view on organic engagement alone, you just might not be getting cut through)

If your answer to any of the above is yes, it is probably worth thinking about why you are creating content for the channel in question, what role is it serving, and who are you are really trying to talk to?

…made up of a demographic that just doesn’t fit our ideal customer?

Then what is the point anyway? You surely don’t really want to be talking to them? This we have seen happen for any number of reasons. It could be to do with the change of direction for your business, part of the business or brand; perhaps the community is full of “old customers” who would no longer be interested in your current world product or service.


If your answer is yes to any of the above, you are suffering from a common condition known as UAAYHNAYW. This stands for Un-necessary Acronym for Audience You Have Not Audience You Want.  Essentially, you need to have a re-think. Why are you even bothering creating any content or resourcing a community you don’t want to be communicating with? So, let’s think about the beyond the numbers impact of introducing paid media to the mix, how we can focus the attention on the audience you want…

Remember, demographics aren’t audiences!

Age band and gender mean nothing. There is no real correlation. The data is at your fingertips through social to build rich customer profiles utilising behaviours, interests, specific locations as well as the ability to match channels and device with stage of the journey you are looking to affect.

If you have ever done any pen portrait style exercises defining your customers then revert back to this and maybe see if you can add to it using social data. Start to define real social audience groups.

Use customer data and look-a-like audiences

Matching your existing database (literally uploading the address into the back-end of Facebook) will allow you to create a custom audience. This is a great starting point for your customers. Perhaps, depending on your CRM approach, think about creating multiple custom audience groups based on this data.

In any case, putting the rich social context to your email database and then finding similar customers is just smart.

Align your audiences to channels

Don’t assume that all social channels the same and don’t fall into the trap of seeing it as another content distribution channel. If you are targeting a 50-60 year old demographic it might be fair to say that Snapchat might yet be the most viable option. I have picked a glaring obvious disparity to make my point there, but essentially do your research.

Align your content to audience and channel

Knowing the audience you are targeting and the channels you are using to do so will help to inform the content you create. Brands are still in the habit of creating content first and thinking channel second. Video assets are still produced and shot, with TV or YouTube in mind. Does the story play out over a number of videos? Teaser videos pointing to main video? Main video asset sit site side with YouTube embed or just Facebook native?

Having in the locker what content works well (and preferably why) for each channel will help to plan more effectively for social.

Think about frequency of touchpoints, not frequency of posts

Putting out a post a day organically is not effective. Thinking of a social posting plan (social calendar, or however you want to describe them) as slots you NEED to fill is the wrong attitude. Think touchpoints, reach and engagements, but with the right audience. A series of two social posts with slightly adjusted targeted and message is going to be more impactful then posting organically 10 times in 10 day hoping the mud sticks to the wall with the right people.

Tailor your language, messaging & content

If you have tailored your audience, then you have the freedom to think and apply nuances throughout copy and messaging. The tone you use, the colloquialisms, the visual representation, the time of day then all start to become considerations… and that is good news! Relevance is key.

Attention! Stand out in feed!

You are competing for attention, in feed. We talk about “thumb stopping content”, let’s face it 80%+ of social traffic is on mobile. So that means the visuals or animated assets that you create need to POW, smack your audience right in the kisser!

Unless you are objective is to tell the full story in channel (think about that carefully), then remember, all you need them to do is pay attention, stop and most likely click in some capacity. Simplify, but be bold, and don’t be afraid to test and learn!


Applying some of the tips above with a sensible paid social budget, will help you move you from engaging the audience you have, to the audience you want.



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