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Organic content isn’t the answer for small businesses. Here’s why.

In the 21st century, and with the impact of Covid-19, it has become clear that building a digital presence for your brand is no longer optional. Just the last year has seen an immense increase in the amount of time individuals are spending online and businesses large and small have leaped at the opportunity to connect with audiences. While some have seen incredible success, it seems that for most businesses, leveraging social media remains a struggle.

This is because most brands that are new to social media, especially smaller businesses, tend to focus only on two things: the volume (frequency) of content, and the number of ‘followers’. Neither of these is necessarily a bad thing to focus on, but to focus only on these is to misunderstand social media and what it can do for your business. Gone are the days when the number of page followers mattered as something more than just social proof, and apart from a few platforms like LinkedIn, even frequency has become irrelevant as far as reach is concerned.

So, how can small businesses make the most of social media?

The simple truth is: you have to pay to show your content on social media. The quicker you accept this, the easier it will become for you to start leveraging social media to drive business goals, but why is this the case? First, let’s understand how social media platforms segregate content.

When you open up Instagram or Facebook (or any other social platform for that matter), you are shown two types of content, which are called organic or unpaid content, and sponsored or promoted content. Organic content is the content that you choose to see and that the platform thinks you will enjoy. This forms the major chunk of content that a user sees and includes posts from their friends, people they follow, ‘viral’ content, and such. Sponsored or promoted content is content that Instagram ‘forces’ you to see, in the form of an ad. Of course, there are many types of promoted content which include sponsored content (posts), ads (posts with a CTA button), promoted ‘stories’, and more. However, for our current purpose, just think of it as ‘free’ content (organic), and ‘paid’ content (promoted).

Most of us assume that when we post free content or organic content, it is shown to all of our followers and maybe even to their friends and followers. This used to be true many years ago, but with today’s algorithms, you would be lucky if your post is shown to even 5% of your followers. And while it may seem like this is some big conspiracy, it’s really just an outcome of the supply & demand for social media content. The basic principle is that as users, we have a limited capacity to consume content, but as a platform, social media channels have almost unlimited content to show us. And so, at some point, these platforms have to start prioritising content and must decide which users are shown which pieces of content. Naturally, branded content and advertising content rank very low on this list, since no one in their right mind would choose to consume such content voluntarily.

That’s where promoted content comes in.

With promoted content, you’re essentially paying Instagram to prioritise your content and show it to more people, which is how such platforms make their money. Doing so also lets you precisely target your audience based on their demographics, interests, and behaviours. As for the reach, it’s linked to your budget, or how much money you decide to put behind a piece of content, but depending on your audience, it can be surprisingly cheap! In India, you can get almost 10 to 15 impressions per Re.1, while in the US for example, you can get almost 300 impressions for $1.

Consider the following example to understand the numbers: Let’s say our target reach (or impressions) is 1000. On average, the organic reach on Instagram is around 1%, but let’s double that and consider 2%. This means that if we were to organically create a reach of 1000, we would need about 50,000 followers. On the flip side, if we tried to achieve the same results with promoted content, it would cost only about Rs.100 in India, and about $4 in the US. If you now assume that you are putting up 15 pieces of content in a month, your total spend would only be Rs.1500 in India, or $60 in the US. This means that spending Rs.1500 per month on promoted content gives you the same impact as having 50K followers, and that too with the added benefit of audience targeting, tracking, and performance analytics, all of which help to improve your content and reduce your costs.

Now that you’ve understood the numbers, it’s time to apply it to your business!

If you have already allocated a budget towards creating marketing content, consider reducing that budget and redirecting the surplus towards promoted content. Rather than trying to post every day or even every other day, consider posting only two or three times a week, and promoting all your posts, even if with only a small budget. On the other hand, if you are creating your own content or don’t have a content budget, consider investing a small amount towards promoted content as an experiment and see where it lands you. At the very least, you can reduce the time and resources spent on creating content and redirect that towards more productive outcomes. And if you decide to hire a marketing agency to help you, be sure to check out our quick guide to choosing an agency first!

The Invisible Paintbrush is a small agency for small businesses that offers end to end marketing services for pre-launch & early-stage start-ups, solopreneurs, family businesses, freelancers, and more. If you enjoy reading our articles, follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram to keep receiving updates! To share this article, use the social icons below:


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