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MS of IM Post 12: Organic Posts vs Paid Media Value


Key Article Takeaways: 

Main benefits from Paid Campaigns with Influencer Content: 
  • Easier comparisons to other marketing activities 
  • Cheaper on traditional metrics 
  • Easier targeting of appropriate audiences 
Main Benefits of Organic: 
  • Chance of virality 
  • Long-term SEO 
  • Better authentic connection with your audience


So far in this series, we’ve focused almost exclusively on the structuring and performance of organic posted content. To me this is the purest form of influencer marketing but the reality is that a lot of what is called influencer marketing includes paid boosting of content, sometimes on destinations that aren’t even social media platforms. In this post, we’ll explore why you might use paid boosting and performance variations between the tactics.  

Reasons for Doing Paid Boosting or Running Paid Campaigns Using Influencer Content 

Easier Comparisons to Other Marketing Activities: One of the most important disciplines of modern marketing is comparing marketing initiatives (“mixed media modeling”) to understand which tactics are working and which should be curtailed. Organic influencer marketing which mixes production costs together, has SEO attributes and sometimes returns limited results since the influencer isn’t actually the publisher in the same way as when one buys ads directly on a website. By boosting or running direct paid campaigns, these campaigns become comparable to other media.  

It Is Cheaper on Traditional Metrics: These is no doubt that paid media can deliver cheaper impressions and even clicks than organic influencer marketing, probably by a factor of at least 3x and potentially up to 10x. Even if you carefully separated out the production costs from an influencer marketing campaign, paid campaigns would almost surely still come in far cheaper. That said, we believe that paid campaigns dramatically underperform in terms of driving attributable sales relative to organic campaigns which is one of the reasons we favor organic work.  

Targeting Appropriate Audiences: To my mind, the best reason for using paid as part of your influencer marketing strategy is that it allows you to target audiences that are not naturally part of an influencer’s audience. For example, if you are marketing an athlete’s foot cure, you might want to leverage influencers who make workout videos or similar content but you might also want to target moms with teenagers, who catch athlete’s foot in gym class at school. The best way to reach those moms is to run an ancillary paid campaign targeting them. We always recommend paid media when the targeting within the influencer’s audience is not going to be a tight fit with the brand’s target and in extreme cases we might even recommend not having the influencer post on their social platforms. It’s a miss for the brand and for the influencer to post irrelevant content on their channel.  

What Do You Lose?  

No chance of going viral.  Viral might not be a strategy, but it sure is nice when it happens!  
No long term SEO. Similar but different and not to be under-estimated.   

No authentic connection with an audience. The two points above help offset the lower costs that we have already allowed that paid media has. But here is the crux of the premium you pay for organic posts. The whole point of influencer marketing is to associate yourself with an influencer who has credibility with their audience and to allow them to connect your brand with that audience, creating a deep connection and resonance. I can’t tell you the number of comments I’ve read over the years where the fans of an influencer are congratulating the influencer - who they believe they have a personal relationship with - for landing a sponsorship with my client (“Dude, you’ve made the big time getting this sponsorship! Congrats!”). Paid media using an influencer’s content is great…but it’s really just a new form of spokesperson marketing that has been around for ages.  

Finally, A Watch-Out  

Whether you prefer to do influencer via paid media or organic posting, the one thing I’d say is: know which one you are doing. These are very different tactics and my ‘concern’ is that there are vendors who are less than transparent on their tactics which amount to getting very cheap content from microinfluencers, running paid media campaigns and then charging clients as if the content was being organically posted. If the client understands that’s the service, all good, but to be clear: 1) that’s a very fat margin business for the vendor and should be benchmarked strictly against other paid media activities, 2) my sense is it is often less than clear to the client.  

Good luck!