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Paid Vs. Organic

There’s been a lot of talk over the past couple years over the use of paid vs. organic. While paid on search engines is commonly accepted, paid on social media is less so, and sometimes for good reasons.

So, which is better on social media: paid or organic? The answer is that it depends. After all, there’s a big difference to paying for reach, and paying for followers. When you’re paying for reach, your ads and sponsored posts are shown to real users. However, when you’re paying for followers and fans, that’s often not the case.

Some social networks (Facebook, for example) have been accused of deprioritizing organic reach in their algorithms in order to push users towards buying paid ads as these companies find ways to monetize. While that may be part of the goal, it’s not the only one. It’s part of a larger effort to make sure companies are putting up quality content instead of just spamming users. And as someone who has seen many company pages post links to the same site content over and over and over again, it’s something to be grateful for.

It’s similar to the algorithm approach from search engines, where they’ve fought very hard to minimize approaches to search engine optimization that were "spammy" instead of high quality. Of course, the downside of this is that there are now three ways to be seen: 1) create powerful, engaging content; 2) pay for ads; or 3) pay for ads for powerful, engaging content. The first approach is definitely the best approach, but bumping those posts up with ads can encourage genuine engagement amongst people who don’t know about your brand yet.

On the other hand, when you try and buy followers, you will most often end up with fake followers. Why? Because the people offering you 500 followers for $5 aren’t actually getting their friends to follow you. Instead, they’re quickly creating a bunch of fake profiles in the hopes that they can get enough people to buy their services to make it worth their time. Even worse, some of these "followers" are spam accounts hoping that they’ll be able to get you to click on some fake link, and then share whatever they’re promoting with your followers (sometimes a virus) without your prior knowledge.

For a business, the true problem with these fake followers is that they kill your engagement and discourage more people from following you. On Facebook, the algorithm promotes posts with high engagement (which comes from genuine followers) and hurts those that have a miniscule percentage of engagement compared to the number of followers. Even on Twitter, which doesn’t use a complicated algorithm, it hurts genuine engagement when you have so many followers, and so few favorites or retweets. With savvy audiences, it screams disingenuousness.

In short, it never hurts to promote genuine content to real people. It’s no different than any other form of legitimate advertising. On the other hand, promoting your content to fake followers will only hurt your cause, especially in the long run.

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