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Organic Vs. Paid Social Video: A Comparison

9 Min Read

Social media is the cornerstone of any modern video marketing campaign. 93% of businesses have reported gaining new customers as the direct result of a video that they posted on social media, while branded videos on social media are the number one way that consumers have found out about new brands – beating out recommendations from their own friends and family! But not all social video was created equal. In fact, almost from the start it was purposefully divided into two distinct categories: Organic and paid.

Organic social video refers to video content shared using the free, built-in capabilities of a particular platform. Paid social video refers to adverts and promoted messages shared through a platform’s marketing/ecommerce toolset. Though there are a number of important differences between them, both types of video ultimately have the same goal: Converting potential leads into loyal customers. But how can you decide which one is best for your brand to pursue?

Let’s break down some of the essential similarities and differences between these two types of video content in order to make your decision as easy as possible. While there is no one “right” strategy to follow through on, hopefully this analysis will help your brand make as informed, enthusiastic, and effective a choice as possible going forward. 

Organic Video

We will start with organic video because this type is both a) the most easily accessible for all users, and b) the most cost-efficient. Every social media platform comes with a built-in set of capabilities that basically any user can tap into from the moment that they first log on: Posts, hashtags, likes, shares, etc.. These are the bread and butter of your social media presence – the basic building blocks of everything you do on that platform.

Because these features are available to the platform’s entire user base for free, all of the video that you share with them is just another organic, unobtrusive part of its content sphere. You are engaging with the platform the same way that any ordinary user would – albeit with the goal of promoting your brand and converting potential customers, instead of making friends. Unless the social media platform in question has tier-based hosting pricing, you will not need to spend one additional cent spreading your organic video. 

The audience for organic video is arguably the best you could ever hope for: People who are already genuinely interested in your brand and its products/services. Rather than having to actively seek out converts, you will have the opportunity to engage with viewers who have chosen to follow you because of a legitimate crossover of their wants and needs – wants and needs that you can (hopefully) help to fulfill. 80% of users on Instagram already follow a brand, while 60% of users on Instagram use it to discover new products. That all adds up to hundreds of millions of individuals who have chosen to invite a brand into their lives – and by focussing on organic video, that brand might be yours. 

Though the inexpensiveness and intimacy of organic video has its temptations, there are a lot of major downsides to consider. For instance, while it’s easy to talk about engaging with your audience, that means you need to have an audience to begin with. Unfortunately, attracting viewers in the first place is where organic social video tends to falter. As algorithms continue to shift and the number of brands with a social media presence swells, drawing in a crowd can become more difficult. For newer business, this is an especially potent challenge to overcome, no matter how incredible your video content may be. 

Pros:

  • Inexpensive – or free
  • Engages existing audiences
  • Easy and intuitive

Cons:

  • Tricky to build viewership
  • Unpredictable over time
  • Oversaturated market

Paid Video

Next comes paid social video, which lacks the inherent accessibility of organic social video, but potentially makes up for it with focus and impact. All the biggest social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, offer business and brands (as well as some individuals) the chance to stand out with paid content – usually in the form of promoted video posts that appear in the feeds, stories, etc. of users that your brand may never even have engaged with before. Their marketing mechanisms run parallel to the basic, organic toolset that comes with every ordinary account, giving your brand certain advantages over the vast majority of other users.

But that’s not to say paid social video is unpopular. Over four million brands advertise their content on Facebook; a number that continues to grow with the platform’s determined pivot towards video. This trend speaks to the incredible engagement video generates, particularly when that video is targeted. Through paid social video, your brand can hone in on specific audiences in markets worldwide using age, location, and an array of other factors to determine if they are the right fit for your product or service. Some platforms will even guide you through the process by allowing you to select “lookalike” audiences for similar brands. While you still have to woo these potential customers with your video, they are much more likely to become loyal brand devotees than some random viewer stumbling across your company account. 

Compared to organic social video, paid social video is much better at connecting your brand to new audiences and actively chasing leads. But one significant downside is that when you use paid video, you lose some of the “social” in social network. We’ve already written about how younger audiences crave authenticity from their video content. Well, nothing is less authentic than a “Promoted” tag on your video or post. Some viewers can become downright irritated by having unrequested videos pop into their feeds. Even if those videos relate to topics that they might be interested in, it’s the open artificiality, the raw pushiness of it that repels them. Social media is supposed to be a safe, unbranded space – for that reason, many brands attempt to mimic the look and feel of non-promoted posts with their video content. 

To counteract uninterested audiences, some platforms will allow you to opt-in for a cost per click sales model. That means instead of just paying to host your video, you will only be charged for viewers who watch a significant portion of your content and/or click-through. Either way, always make sure that you know exactly what you’re paying for before promoting any content. 

Pros:

  • Targets valuable demographics
  • Reaches global viewers
  • Grows your audience

Cons:

  • Potentially cost-prohibitive
  • Undermines authenticity
  • Alienates media-savvy users

Often, the best strategy is to utilize both organic and paid social videos at the same time. Production companies like Lemonlight can provide long-term, personalized content packages, allowing you to gradually release multiple social videos across different platforms according to your brand’s unique needs. Every piece of content serves its own singular purpose – so why limit yourself to one or the other? Explore how video content of every stripe can elevate your business today!

 

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