Do you think that the days of being able to organically grow social media channels are dead, and all social media growth now requires ad spending??
Organic growth is for sure more and more difficult as social media gets saturated - and as platforms, especially FB, move their levers to favor ad spending vs organic growth. But it's definitely not dead, at least for those who have something to promote which has word of mouth potential.
Absolutely not. But companies have to realize that social networks live and die by their ability to enhance the social status of their users. That's their value proposition. So organic growth has to be predicated on it. If you have the kind of consumer product that people actually want to take a selfie with because it enhances their social status to be associated with you, then you'll take Instagram and Pinterest by storm, etc. It looks like your experience is with larger, more broadly based, brands. And those, by definition, are too broadly based to construct a brand identity with passionate appeal. Passionate appeal is going to be niche. Take a look at Warby Parker, which seems to be the beachhead of a larger retail style trend. I think large corps of the type you seem to have the most experience with face a real challenge here. They're going to have to become really good at portfolio management of smaller niche brands, and really understand how the social dynamics of personal and group identity are formed and maintained, especially with regards to inclusion/exclusion, and still figure out how to preserve economies of scale. It can be done. But certainly, the days of the Coca-Cola / Pepsi-Cola wars are over. Our cultural identity, at least in the USA, has fractured into social media vs. talk radio, etc.
It's not dead at all, however the results you achieve through solely organic growth of a community may not match your goals. Nearly everyone has a combination of both organic and paid. The degree to which organic versus paid are effective for growing your following depend a lot on what you're about (relevance and reward) and what other channels drive people to your social media realm.
I have read some data around facebook live videos has gone down by 51% since last november, and traffic from organic channel had been declining since 2012 and increase on advertiser spend is more YoY. That means growing organically isn't stopped we need to be more creative in sending out messages.