Social media is an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy. With social platforms reaching millions of people, having a digital presence can have a huge impact on a business.  Businesses can have a presence on social media channels in two ways – organic posts and paid advertisements.

Inconsistencies between organic and paid social media efforts can mean organizational misalignment, which should be addressed. Inconsistencies might include different call-to-actions, differing interpretations of brand standards, contradictory posting schedules, and incongruous landing pages.

Organizational alignment is when all elements of a business are united, working towards a common goal. There are several types of organizational alignment to consider, which we will discuss, including strategic alignment, structural alignment, information alignment, process and performance alignment.  By acknowledging the different ways organizations and departments can and should align, organic and paid social media teams can collaborate on efforts to ensure consistency.

Strategic Alignment

The organic social media team might be told “post frequently” but the paid team might be told to post on a different schedule. Why the differences? If you’re not thinking about both organic social and paid social at the same time, then the departments involved will wind up diverging in their objectives, and strategic alignment won’t be achieved.

Most companies will have the same overall goal – to increase sales. However, the organic and paid social media departments have differing methods to achieve these goals.

An organic social media post might have a goal to increase awareness (the metric being “post reach”), whereas a paid social media post has a goal to drive traffic to a product page (the metric being Return on Ad Spend – ROAS). However, even with these different goals, both teams can and should still be aligned with the overall company goals.

For example, if company X has a goal to increase sales, it’s important for the paid social media team to focus on ads that will convert customers. A high-converting ad should include eye-catching visual elements, a strong call to action, and offer clear value to the customer. To understand how the organic social media department is contributing to company X’s goal of increasing sales we can cite the Rule of 7. The Rule of 7 is a marketing philosophy that a prospect needs to see/hear a brand’s messaging 7 times before they buy from that brand. Everything from TV commercials, billboards, signage (like McDonald’s big M), branding (Starbucks’ green straws), logos on packaging (such as on pizza boxes), influencers mentioning a product, paid social media ads and yes, organic social posts, count towards the Rule of 7.

Structural Alignment

Organizational structure matters. And types of talent matter. A paid social dept is often skilled in quantitative and analytical methods whereas an organic social media team is often creatively inclined. This type of structural misalignment can create issues. An analogy would be when a company’s CEO has a CFO type of background, vs. when a company’s CEO has a CMO type of background. Those CEOs bring different paradigms to an organization. The same is true when the types of people within different departments differ in their backgrounds. Awareness of this fact and working to overcome limitations this imposes, is key to achieving structural alignment.

Understanding roles in the organization is another example of structural alignment. Does every team member know their specific role in the company and how their work contributes to the overall organization’s strategy? For example, if you were to ask your paid social team why the organic social department exists in their organization, would they give you the same answer as the organic social department themselves gives you? And what if you flipped that question to ask the organic social department why the paid social department exists? It’s important to understand each other’s roles in order to know what each team is bringing to the table.

Information Alignment

Information needed by both departments involved in paid social and organic social includes headcount cost, ad spend cost, value of each engagement (such as a “like”), value of each conversion, time it takes to create a post (be it an organic or a paid post). In the end, both teams should be aligned on a “value for money” KPI. If you were to separately approach the leaders of the paid social department and the organic social department, would they each be able to cost justify themselves on a value-for-money basis in a way that would allow you as an executive to judge what the relative investments in each department should be?

Process Alignment and Performance Alignment

If you were to separately ask the leaders of the paid social department and the organic social department, “how do you determine the appropriate creative to use in a post or campaign?”, you would likely get an ROAS-based (return on ad spend) answer from the paid social department but an engagement answer from the organic team. But isn’t this a misalignment of process? Yes, you could argue that the media team needs to produce a return and therefore call-to-action based messaging is more important with a paid social campaign. But doesn’t investment in organic social headcount have to produce a return as well?

Organizational Alignment Benefits Businesses and Consumers

The differences between paid social departments and organic social departments often lies in a lack of organizational alignment. All too often, organizations simply default to: 1. “well, we have to keep posting,” and they delegate this to the organic social team; and 2. “well, our posts get no reach without money behind them,” so they delegate this to the paid social team. Both departments may post content that adheres to brand standards, but that approach is all based on the idea that if an organization invests money, it should see return. So, let’s end this article with you asking yourself… is pure conversion the only kind of return on investment you want? And if the answer is yes, then why does your organic social department exist at all? And if the answer is no, then why simply hold your paid social department to a ROAS metric?