Organic vs. Paid Social Media: What's the Difference?

It's easy to confuse paid social media with organic social media. However, while they can complement each other to provide significant benefits to your business, they should be viewed as two distinct channels that can help you achieve different business objectives.

To make the most of your social media marketing strategy, it's critical to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever before are using social media around the world, increasing the number of people who can be reached. Globally, there are now 4.2 billion social media users.

Paid social media spending in the United Kingdom is expected to rise from 6.73 billion US dollars in 2015 to 12 billion in 2025. Despite Apple's iOS 14.5 update, which resulted in significant targeting limitations for Facebook and Instagram iOS users, spending is increasing.

Social media strategies have evolved over the last few years. Social media strategies used to be about engagement and developing an online personal brand presence. It is now used throughout the entire customer journey, including acquisition, remarketing, retention, and service.

If you're not incorporating social media into your digital marketing strategy, you could be passing up huge opportunities to reach new audiences, drive traffic, and increase sales. Social media is no longer just about generating conversation and content; it has evolved into an advertising channel to support business objectives and growth.

What Is Organic Social Media?

Organic social media is any free content (posts, photos, videos, memes, or Stories) shared by all social media users on their feeds.

This is an excellent way to capture the attention of potential customers without having to pay for advertising space. Organic social media allows you to build and engage with both potential and existing customers, whether you write and share blogs, share helpful posts, or share other people's posts.

When you post organically to your page as a business, you can expect the following groups of people to see it:
  • a portion of your followers (organic reach)
  • Followers of your followers (if they share it)
  • Anyone who uses the hashtags you use
Businesses use organic social media to:

  • Create a brand personality and voice.
  • Develop customer relationships by sharing interesting, informative, or inspiring content. 
  • Engage customers at various stages of the purchasing journey.
  • Customer service assistance

Pros of Organic Social Media

The key benefits of using organic social media include:

More Cost Effective

It costs nothing to post organically on social media. The only costs associated with organic social media are the time spent creating posts and content and engaging with your target audience.

Engage with and Assist Customers

Social media is an excellent platform for providing customer service and interacting with current and potential customers. Keeping your profile active and up to date gives customers a place to post concerns, complaints, and reviews and have them addressed. Devoting time and resources to responding to customers on social media will assist you in getting better results from your organic social media efforts.

Establish a Brand Personality

Social media allows you to develop personality and demonstrate to customers that your brand has something to which they can relate. This can add another layer to your marketing strategy by allowing you to create the qualities that you want your prospects and customers to associate with your brand.

Cons of Organic Social Media

Along with the benefits of organic social media, there are some drawbacks to consider in order to find the best strategy for your company.

Time Consuming

Creating content on a regular basis and responding to customers can take time, so you'll need to commit to it with dedicated time or resources. If you don't have a team or an agency to help you, this can be a huge drain on your time.

Changing Algorithms

The content you see on social media channels is determined by algorithms that sort posts based on relevance and how interesting they are to users, rather than when they were published. As a result, the success of your campaigns will be determined by your ability to get the posts in front of the right people.

Less Flexibility for Immediate Reach

Your organic content's immediate reach is only as far as your followers take it. This means that it will only reach your immediate audience and those with whom they share it. You must hope that the right people are following you and that their friends have similar interests to yours. You can't target and distribute your content to specific demographics or user types like you can with paid social.

Best Practices for Posting Organically

Posting organically differs from running paid ads on social media; here are a few best practises to follow to ensure your posts are as engaging as possible:

Reduce promotions by leaving sales messages in your paid ads. When posting organically, make it a point to share content that your followers will find informative or interesting.

Showcase your brand's personality – social media gives you a platform to showcase your brand and its values. You can demonstrate the people behind your company as well as your company's values and passions.

Reinforce your brand – what do you want people to know about your company's culture and brand? Make sure to create content that demonstrates what you do and that it is clear and consistent across all of your social media profiles.

What Is Paid Social Media?

Paid social entails paying to boost your content or advertisements on social media channels in order to reach a larger audience. You can pay social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to share your content or advertisements with specific audiences who are likely to be interested in your brand.

You can pay for advertisements in a variety of formats, including videos, text, images, and carousel posts. You can target your ideal audience on social media by selecting from a variety of demographics, locations, and interests.

People are using social media more than ever before, and they are becoming more accustomed to online shopping via e-commerce or social media stores. Ads have become a more natural part of the overall social media experience, particularly when they are well-thought-out and designed to appear as natural posts.

Many businesses use paid social media to:

  • Raise brand awareness and attract new followers
  • Promote a new product deal, new content or an event
  • Generate leads
  • Drive conversions

Pros of Paid Social Media

The benefits of using paid social media include:

Connect with New Audiences

As organic reach on social media channels declines, paid social allows you to cut through the noise and reach people who are unlikely to find you otherwise. You can specifically target your ideal audience based on their location, demographics, and interests to avoid wasting money on people who are unlikely to engage with your brand.

If you discover that your organic content converts well, you can use paid social to reach out to a larger portion of your target audience and increase conversions.

A Receptive Audience

Many people now use social media to get shopping ideas, so the majority of your target audience may be receptive to your promotional messages and more likely to convert.

You can segment your target audience by location, age, gender, or interests, and then place targeted advertisements in their social media feeds.

Cost Effective

Social media platforms operate on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis, which means you only pay when someone interacts with your content. An engagement is determined by the goal of your ad, whether it is conversions, likes, or brand awareness.

Most platforms allow you to set a spending limit for your paid social efforts, ensuring that you never go over budget and end up with an unexpected bill. Some audiences are less expensive to target than others, so if it is appropriate for your brand, you can target a more niche audience at a lower cost.


You may already have a sizable social media following and want to keep previous or current customers engaged. You can accomplish this by retargeting them with ads that remind them of your brand and promote your most recent offers or news.

Cons of Paid Social Media

The main disadvantages of paid social media include:

May Not See a Good Return on Investment

No matter how much money you spend on paid social media, if you don't get the targeting right or monitor and improve your paid campaigns, you could end up with ineffective ads that don't drive conversions and waste your budget. If you're constantly experimenting and failing with advertisements, you'll burn through your budget without seeing a good return on investment.

Competitive Landscape

If your company operates in a competitive market, you may discover that the costs for paid social media are high, and you'll need to constantly create high-quality, attention-grabbing content to achieve the results you seek.

Takes Time to Analyse and Measure Campaigns

To get the best results from paid social media ads, you must monitor, analyse, and adjust your campaigns. Most platforms offer analytics, allowing you to see how your ads are performing in real time. This should have an impact on how you tweak your messaging and targeting on a regular basis to achieve the best results.

Best Practices for Your Paid Social Campaigns

Here are some of the best practices you should follow with your paid social media campaigns to get the best return on investment.

Target the right audience – combining the right messaging with the right targeting will help you get the most out of your campaigns.

Give users a strong and clear call to action – Tell them what you want them to do next by including a strong and clear call to action. Encourage them to buy now if you want to increase sales. Encourage them to learn more if you want them to look at a specific piece of content.

Keep it brief – your ads will appear in users' news feeds, and they may not know who you are. Because these people aren't actively looking to engage with your brand's content, keeping it short and engaging will increase the chances that they'll interact with your brand or remember you the next time they see an ad.

Campaign testing- entails experimenting with different messaging, imagery, and calls to action in order to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Is Paid and Organic Social Media Right for Your Business?

A paid and organic social media strategy will not be effective for all businesses. To determine which option is best for your company, consider what you want to achieve and whether you are willing to invest the time and money.

Paid social media can provide instant results at a cost, whereas organic social media can provide great results over time with no outlay of funds other than your time.

Consider carefully how you want social media to assist your business.

It can help with a variety of goals, and both organic and paid social media can help you achieve them:

  • Create sales and leads.
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Drive traffic to your website 

Here are some goals to consider, as well as the best strategy to employ:

  • Reach a large number of people quickly – use paid social media.
  • Engage your audience over an extended period of time – organic social media
  • Develop relationships with current and prospective customers by providing valuable content – organic social media
  • Reach out to a new demographic with paid social media.
  • Customer service – organic social media
Contact us right away if you'd like to learn more about using social media for business.

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