Changing algorithms and user behavior can make social media marketing feel like an uphill battle. In many ways, it’s a necessary evil — but it’s necessary because it works. A strong social media presence can help your bank or credit union stand out, foster trust and loyalty, and reach new audiences. It can also be a highly effective conversion driver. This is what makes social media so powerful: it reaches users in all stages of the sales funnel.
Paid and organic social media marketing tactics are both essential and should be used together to accomplish unique goals. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between them and how best to leverage each.
Why Organic Social Posts are the Lifeblood of Digital Marketing
Social media strategy should start and end with organic posts. These should be the lifeblood of your digital marketing plan, as regular organic posts provide an unparalleled way to develop and maintain connections with existing customers and other followers. At its core, organic social is about relationship building, and without it, your paid social strategy is unlikely to succeed.
Organic social means getting personal, and the goal is to foster engagement. Focus your organic social media strategy around educational and supplementary content. It should not be used drive conversions but instead to fuel them — to help users understand your financial solutions and why they’re relevant to them. Share content that helps your audience navigate their life stages and accompanying financial decisions. Break down timely updates, like changing laws and regulations, by explaining what they mean and why they should matter to your audiences.
“Engaging organic content can set your institution apart and help reassure consumers that your bank or credit union is there for them.”
— Ari Mason, ZAG Interactive
The most effective organic social strategies involve two-way communication between a business and its audience. When users respond, engage with them, and do so in a timely manner. This makes your financial institution more accessible, demonstrates credibility, and provides a unique opportunity to cultivate relationships and trust. It also gives you better insight into what’s important to your users and how they interact with your bank or credit union. This, in turn, helps you address pain points and instill confidence, while informing a more sophisticated content and personalization strategy. The payoff is customer satisfaction and retention.
Paid Social Ads are All About Lead-Gen and Conversions
If organic social is about connecting with people and keeping them interested, paid social is about encouraging those people to convert. Use paid social tactics to balance your educational content with action-oriented promotions. Examples include display ads, sponsored content, and boosted posts.
Paid social can be an incredibly effective lead-generating mechanism that allows your financial institution to reach people in new ways. Facebook and Instagram ads, for example, target users who haven’t necessarily had prior exposure to your institution — they don’t need to follow your account to see your ad.
On paid social, your targeting strategy is the key to success. Users are intercepted based on their demographics, profiles, activities, and interests. While the targeting and impact of paid social can be similar to that of paid search, there is a nuance: On paid search, users are actively seeking information, while paid social passively intercepts them. For this reason, it’s important to illustrate the payoff in your paid social ads. What are the unique benefits of your products and services? Why should users give you their business?
Paid social is also a prime opportunity for remarketing. This allows you to reengage users who have left your site without converting, many of whom may still be in the research or consideration stage of the sales cycle. Maintaining a presence keeps your bank or credit union top of mind as these users move through the consumer journey — and a tempting offer can help seal the deal.
One thing to be cognizant of when it comes to paid social media is the changing landscape of ad policies. Starting in 2018, Facebook — and by association, Instagram — began cracking down on ad content that makes assumptions about its audiences. This can pose a particular challenge for loan advertisements, which must take care not to include language about a person’s financial status. To mitigate a vicious cycle of rejection and revision, it’s best to review all policies and regulations prior to publishing an ad.
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Why You Need Both Organic and Paid Social Tactics
If you have a robust organic strategy but don’t back it up with paid support, you might build strong relationships with existing customers, but you won’t reach new ones. Paid is about growth, while organic is about retention.
As social networks push paid advertising to monetize their platforms, organic reach is declining. According to Hootsuite, organic reach on Facebook dwindled to about 5.5% in late 2019, representing a continued downward trend. Algorithms have also shifted to no longer display posts in chronological order, making relevancy essential. Social networks now prioritize posts they expect users to find interesting, meaning the more these users engage with your account, the more often they’ll see your content. While paid social can’t — and shouldn’t — compensate for declining organic reach, it can complement it.
Consistency on organic is also necessary to the success of paid social. Consider the possibility that a consumer sees a paid ad and visits your page to learn more. If the user arrives to find sparse or uninteresting content, he or she is likely to leave and look elsewhere. It becomes a barrier to establishing trust. If, on the other hand, consumers find relevant, engaging content, they may explore further.
It’s all about building credibility. Financial institutions in particular must convey key differentiators to help audiences understand why not all institutions are the same. Remember, most new customers will have already worked with at least one other financial institution. Engaging organic content can set your institution apart and help reassure consumers that your bank or credit union is there for them — whether they’re existing customers or not. Failing to capitalize is a missed opportunity that can erode performance in the digital space.
You can also use organic to test the waters before putting media spend behind a campaign. While promotional content often does not play as well on organic, this tactic provides a lower-risk way to tease a new theme or idea. Use the data generated through organic social to inform your path forward on paid social. This can help maximize your return on ad spend (ROAS). If organic posts prove effective, you can also choose to boost or sponsor them. This puts them in front of new eyes and makes them more prominent in users’ feeds.
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Ways Organic and Paid Social Should Work Together
Consistency is key in developing trust and cultivating relationships. Many users are interacting with your financial institution in multiple ways and expect a similar experience across channels. Combining organic and paid social tactics delivers a comprehensive picture of your audience and can help you finesse content accordingly.
As changing social media algorithms make it more difficult for content to stand out, seasonality and timeliness become increasingly important. Capitalize on upcoming events and seasonal shifts by creating content around relevant themes and be flexible enough to adjust your plan as the world changes around your business.
The stories you tell across each vertical should correlate. This is the idea behind an omnichannel marketing strategy — communicating a single theme or idea in different places in different ways. Organic social, for instance, might point to a blog post about what to know before buying a home, while paid social promotes a special mortgage rate. You may also consider optimizing your bank or credit union’s homepage to highlight this offer. Your message becomes more impactful when it translates seamlessly from one platform to the next.