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To Pay or not to Pay, That is the Question.

Dan Allocca  Follow

With organic social media reach at all time lows, brands are faced with the question of whether to use paid promotion to reach their existing followers.

Social Media is Not Free
Did you know that on average – just 5% (yes, 5%) of your brand’s followers are seeing your organic social media content? Said another way - on average - 95% of your followers do / will not see your organic posts at all.

As communicators, this decreasing organic reach is of tremendous consequence. The piece of thought leadership or video you spent weeks creating and thousands of dollars producing will barely get seen – even by your brand’s own followers – perhaps making the entire exercise moot to begin with. Afterall, what good is a piece of content if your audience doesn’t even see it?

The social media platforms that we spend hours per week using are not free. But either is Google, the “free web” and just about everything else we’ve been led to believe are free in our lives. Free almost always has a catch. In the case of social media, it is the sale of our personal data that foots the bill; who you are, where you work, who you’re connected to, the content you show interest in, the people you interact with, where you go, and thousands of other data points are all valuable assets that are sold to brands for the sole purpose of advertising. Brands are especially vulnerable since most social platforms are designed to under deliver brand content in favor of non-brand content – making a paid program an inevitable reality for any serious marketer.

So, what’s a brand to do? To Pay or not to Pay? That is the question.
So, in summary…yes, you must pay. Sure; you may have a paid program in place to reach prospects and to gain new followers – and chances are, it’s successful. Social platforms tend to be among the highest for engagement and conversion and outperform paid display and just about every other medium (other than paid search) by quite a large margin. But many brands fail to realize that they must also pay to promote their content to their existing followers.

For perspective, if you have 150,000 followers, you’re only reaching 7,500 of them with each organic post. Stated differently for dramatic effect – 142,500 of those followers do not see your posts – even though they’ve chosen to follow your brand. If this seems unjust – it kind of is – it’s really capitalism and the invisible hand of Adam Smith at work. And therefore, layering in a paid promotion plan to boost your organic reach is now a necessary component of any corporate social program.

  Platform Average % of Followers
Reached Organically
Average # of Followers
Reached Organically
  Facebook  2.2%  1 in 50
  Twitter  3.6%  1 in 28
  LinkedIn  5.3%  1 in 20
  Instagram  9.4%  1 in 10


The final word
Of course, these are just averages and your brand may get better reach or engagement than most – but if you’re a social media manager, I urge you to take a closer look at your most recent posts. I suspect the facts will reveal a lot of opportunity to utilize a paid promotion strategy. The good news is, a well thought out paid program can help you get the reach you need – and at a relatively low cost – and of course, Prosek can help.

References Cited:

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