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Combine organic and paid Instagram marketing for explosive growth

Here’s why you should try both paid and non-paid options for reaching Instagram users – plus 5 high-impact ideas to try for your business today.

Every experienced digital marketer knows that you have to target your audience in the places they like to visit. And nowadays, those places usually include social media platforms, like Instagram.

When marketing via Instagram, you might be wondering if it’s worth the time and effort to try and reach your audience organically, or whether you should just save time and pay for ads.

We’re here to say, why not both?

Read on to discover how you can combine paid and organic Instagram campaigns to get maximum returns for your time and effort.

>> Open Graph tags are your secret to good CTR on social <<

Why market your business on Instagram?

In case you hadn’t heard, Instagram is popular. Very popular.

The app has been downloaded 3.8 billion times, and if you look at a graph of the platform’s user growth, it looks like a staircase with steady upward movement.

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As of end-2021, this social media giant had more than 1 billion users worldwide.

Instagram is an especially great platform to market your services on if you’re looking to target millennials. If these comprise part of your target market, you definitely need to consider it.

A whopping 70% of millennials follow brands on social media, and over half of them do so in hopes of receiving cost-saving offers and incentives. Utilizing a social media platform like Instagram is not only accepted — it’s expected.

But how should you market yourself on Instagram? Should you spend money for targeted advertising? Or will you be alright just trying to reach your audience through organic social media posts? Let’s find out.

Organic vs. paid Instagram marketing

There are two ways to market your company on Instagram.

You could try your hand at getting more followers and likes with the hopes that your loyal customers will enable notifications on your posts.

While that’s ideal, given that it costs you absolutely nothing, it’s not always practical. Gaining an organic audience through Instagram is time-consuming and difficult.

But all’s not lost. There’s always paid advertising.

Instagram wants you to purchase ads. It’s one of its chief revenue-generating tactics, and it’s how the company saw revenue peaks of $24 billion in 2020. This accounts for 36.9% of Facebook’s annual revenue.

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These ads can be highly targeted, zeroing in on your target audience through parameters like age, location, interests, gender, and so on.

So, we know what Instagram wants you to do, but we’re not in the business of simply pleasing large corporations. We’re in the business of generating income through social media marketing.

To that end, we have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that organic social media marketing is attainable and expected of you. The bad news is that paid advertising is also needed.

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(Credit: Hootsuite)

With organic social media, you’re going to experience an increase in brand awareness, logo recognition, improved customer service, and the ability to build relationships with your customers.

Paid advertising allows you to reach a larger audience, target your content accordingly, and drive sales and traffic to your website easier.

Together, they can help you gain new customers, promote quality content, and get valuable insights on your target audience that you can use for future marketing campaigns.

But how can you use paid and organic Instagram marketing together? Let’s find out.

5 ways to integrate paid and organic Instagram marketing

Let’s break down a few ways you can effectively integrate both paid and organic Instagram content into your marketing strategy.

1. Use A/B testing to optimize posts

Before you can start creating beneficial content, both organic and paid, you have to do a little bit of research to determine what resonates with your audience.

We recommend A/B testing for both organic and paid content.

A/B testing runs two different campaigns or approaches targeted at the same audience and measures which performs better. This provides invaluable insight into the buying habits and interests of the people you’re trying to reach.

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(Credit: Ryte)

You can A/B test organic posts to see what kind of content your audience responds better to. Then, once you know this, you can use that knowledge to create ads that will appeal to them. This is invaluable data you can gather for free before you start allocating funds to a marketing campaign.

You should also run A/B testing on paid ads. This includes variations on some of the most important elements of an Instagram ad, like calls to action.

You should allocate a very small percentage of your monthly marketing budget for these tests and keep the targeted audience small.

When testing organic content, try out different hashtags with posts that have similar messaging. See which gets more of a natural response from your existing audience.

You also need to make sure that your Instagram bio is easily findable. Indeed, your bio should be optimized with keywords mentioning your brand and what you do. Spending some time optimizing your bio is time well spent, because it’s the only place where you can add a link to your website and drive traffic to it.

2. Set up instant replies to DMs and comments

If you want to run a successful Instagram campaign, whether paid or organic, you have to be reachable. Some people might contact you via direct message after interacting with one of your ads, or write a comment on an organic post.

If you’re not quick with a response, you could lose that customer before their buyer’s journey even begins.

You need to jump on these opportunities for interaction because it could keep these people coming back for more and help build customer relationships.

But you can’t always watch your Instagram messages like a hawk, waiting for inevitable conversations and comments. That’s where automation comes in handy.

Message automation has become easier now that the Instagram DM system has merged with the much more user-friendly Facebook messenger.

Consider sending an automated welcome message the first time someone reaches out. Let them know that someone will be with them shortly, and thank them for their interest. This is a great way to let the prospect know that you received their message and they’re not being ignored.

Engagement with comments and messages will endear you to the Instagram algorithm as well, which takes engagement into account when deciding what kind of content it will show organically. Instagram users are far more likely to see organic content from a brand they’ve interacted with.

You can activate message automation for Instagram through the Facebook Business Suite, or you can even use a chatbot. Some tools can help you instantly respond to comments and any story mentions that might come through.

Doing this starts the conversation and ensures that your organic posts and paid ads have a prime opportunity to pay off.

3. Identify your organic audience and target them with ads

Organic outreach provides you with an opportunity to get some much-needed data on your target audience. This is ideal for paid advertising, as you’ll get a far better picture of who you should be targeting.

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(Credit: Georgia de Lotz)

If you specifically know who you’re marketing to, you’ll be able to better allocate your marketing budget through targeting.

If you walked into an ad campaign with doubts about who you needed to target, you’d likely end up casting a wide net. That means what should be a laser-focused marketing campaign becomes broader and less accurate.

By identifying key demographics through the people who organically follow you, you’ll be able to put every marketing dollar to good use and target only the people who have the best chance of buying.

When targeting, remember that Instagram’s user data collection can be ideal for businesses, but it can be off-putting to users concerned about identity security. Instagram collects purchasing information, browsing history, and personal data from users to provide personalized content recommendations.

While this is useful when targeting your ads, doing so in a way that doesn’t raise any red flags for customers is important. If people dislike how their personal information is being shared or used, their purchase intent drops.

4. Use retargeting ads

Retargeting can be an excellent way to pull in some low-hanging fruit. By that, we mean customers who could be more inclined to purchase from you.

Retargeting is the process of sending ads to people who have visited your website or social media page in the past. These are people who likely have an interest in what you’re selling, so it makes sense to reel them back in.

Often, when pursuing a new product, someone might come across your page but then get distracted and forget about it before making that purchase. With retargeting ads, you can keep those people who have visited your page coming back for more. You’re also reminding them that your page exists, which could rekindle their desire to buy from you. Make sure to also work on a price optimization strategy to offer better deals when they are coming back to your site.

Through Instagram, you’re able to target people who have visited your profile or interacted with your posts. This presents an opportunity to utilize organic content to aid in your paid advertising efforts.

5. Boost high-performing organic content

Your organic content can quickly become paid content if it’s doing well enough.

If you have written some organic content that’s resonating with the audience or even going viral, you can push that content and target it with a paid boost.

This is a fairly low-risk tactic that mixes the world of organic and paid search. Many consider it to be entry-level marketing, but it really works and can help with brand awareness and relationship building.

Just remember that when you have a post like this, you have to be on top of comments and messages. See our earlier point about automation for more on this.

When people are resonating with something you published, put some resources behind it, and give the people what they want. Even if it’s a post that won’t directly lead to sales, you can still gain a lot of ground by getting your brand out there and increasing your following.

When you put something clever or funny in front of people, they’re more likely to follow your page and set your posts to provide notifications.

Try allocating a percentage of your monthly social media marketing budget toward boosting whatever posts performed well the month before.

Consider posts that are converting, but also pay attention to likes, comments, direct messages, and profile views when determining what to boost.

Conclusion: Paid vs. organic Instagram marketing

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(Credit: Gabrielle Henderson)

Instagram is only gaining users as the years tick by. If you want to run productive and effective marketing campaigns on this platform, you need to combine organic and paid marketing efforts for maximum results.

Use the five tips listed here to take your Instagram marketing to the next level.

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Published on Feb 14, 2022 by Mark Ankucic