Organic vs paid media

The rivalry between organic and paid media has often been characterized as an epic battle when really it’s a story of partnership in the common fight for audience attention, affinity, and action. So if you’re asking which investment is necessary to compete for candidates today—organic media (social media posts, career blog posts, career site) or paid media (PPC, job ads, social ads, and job boards)—the answer isn’t one or the other. It’s both.

To understand why, let’s go over some key characteristics and differences.

What is organic vs paid media?

Organic media

Organic media refers to content you publish without any paid promotion to support it. Social media, blog posts, newsletters, SEO, PR, and earned media all represent organic media. On social media specifically, organic media refers to social posts (text, image, video, etc.) published across your company’s social media profile or feed, as well as those of your recruiters, hiring managers, and employees.

Lego sword fighter representing the battle between organic social media and paid media for talent acquisition

Paid media

Paid media refers to published content supported by paid promotion. Job boards, job ads, and PPC campaigns are common paid media in recruitment marketing. In the context of social media, paid media refers to boosted or sponsored posts, social ads, and purchased ad space on the platform.

Paid media gives a momentary boost in brand exposure.

Organic media drives steady, sustainable engagement to reinforce brand recognition, recall, and referral.

Both organic and paid social media posts help you build your social audience but in different ways. ​Paid social media ads​ offer a short-term boost to your content allowing your posts to reach existing as well as new audiences who are currently outside your organic reach through ad targeting. When you stop paying, there are no residual results; it just stops.

Unpaid ​organic social media posts​ give both loyal and new visitors a reason to stay and interact with your brand, follow your page, and join your community—driving continuous engagement and long-term ROI. Organic posts can also expand your brand to new audiences through content optimization and hashtag and keyword targeting so your posts become more likeable, shareable, and searchable on social networks. And search engine indexing of social posts and profiles also drives traffic over the long term. To build a loyal community of advocates and candidates, you need an organic social strategy and solution that scales.

Relying on paid media alone to build impactful brand awareness would be too expensive to sustain. Conversely, giving your best-performing organic posts a sponsored boost could only help you win new audiences. To earn and keep their attention, maintaining a strategic and frequent organic content publishing schedule has proven to be the most effective and cost-effective approach.

Active candidates are more likely to see and act on paid media. Passive candidates need more social proof.

Passive candidates are often the top performers in their company and field, and unlike active job seekers, they likely aren’t spending a lot of time visiting job boards or clicking on job ads because they’re not actively in the market for a new job. Since they’re typically choosier than active job seekers, passive talent need more convincing before clicking “apply” even after your job opportunity catches their eye. In fact, both passive and active talent do extensive research and check social media sites to learn about your employer brand, reputation, culture, and employees.

But when they visit your social media page, they don’t see a collection of your paid media and social ads. They see your organic social media posts, activity, and community. Passive candidates are also more likely to learn about job opportunities through their peers who share job recommendations and referrals via social media.

0
%
of job seekers use social media when searching for a new job
0
%
of all job seekers consider employer brand and reputation before applying for a job. For passive job seekers, the percentage is even higher at 89%
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Facebook tops the list as the go-to site to research employer brand and reputation, topping employer review sites like Glassdoor
Hand holding up gold star

In hiring, you don’t simply want more candidates, but more of the best-qualified applicants. When the best candidate in the talent pool is likely a passive candidate, building an organic presence and community on social media will help ensure you don’t miss out on top talent.

The stronger your organic presence on a hiring channel, the less you’ll have to spend on paid media on those channels. This means more money left over to invest in other sources of hire or to support hard-to-fill roles. Decreasing paid spend on high-performing channels is a common strategy for online marketers who want to maximize ROI across paid and organic investment.

A strong organic presence can help reduce and reallocate your paid ad spend.

Organic taps into the network effect of social media. For paid media, a set ad budget determines audience reach.

You can’t like, share, or engage with job board postings or PPC ads like you can with organic social media posts. Additionally, on social media your brand exposure doesn’t stop once your ad budget is met.

CareerArc’s social recruiting solution was designed to maximize the inherent network effect of social media by intelligently pushing job-related social posts to your recruiters’ linked social channels. By systematically delivering share-worthy content on your recruiters’ social channels, you help bring employees—and their extended peer network—closer to your brand with every like, share, comment, and follow. Each moment of engagement gets more eyes on your jobs, more applicants in the pipe, and more time back to your recruiters.

See how Ulta Beauty uses recruiter auto-posts

The more you look at the differences between paid vs organic media in recruiting, the more you realize the relationship isn’t competitive—it’s complementary.

You need to invest in organic and paid strategies to ensure you are reaching the best active and passive talent available

94% of those who use job boards to hire talent also use social media. These hiring professionals cite social and professional networks as their most-used hiring resource second to job boards, topping employee referrals and job advertising.

However, while most employers claim to be on social media to recruit talent, we found that the large majority are not social. In fact, the large majority aren’t currently employing critical practices that could effectively expand their brand reach, resonance, and recall.

Those who did invest in social recruiting software were exponentially more likely to apply these best practices and increased the benefits derived from their continued social recruiting investment including the ability to reach passive candidates, increase candidate engagement, and source candidates for hard-to-fill roles.

0
%
of talent acquisition professionals who use job boards to hire talent also use social media
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