Organic vs. Paid Social Media: And The Winner Is…

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More than 55% of the world’s population uses social media. As one of the world’s 4.33 billion social media users, I utilize various social media platforms to stay connected to friends, stay current on events and connect with brands that I love, but companies across organizations are leveraging the power of social media to raise awareness, connect with their target audience, engage with customers and grow their businesses

If you want to reach this massive audience, you better make sure that you have a strong organic and paid social media plan. When paired together, paid and organic social strategies work to engage and nurture your followers while extending the reach of your brand to a broader audience.

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

Organic Social Media: Free! Free! Free!

Organic social media is any activity on social media that does not involve paid promotions. The foundation of every digital marketing strategy, organic social media is the best way to nurture a connection with your customers and engage with your online following.

Organic social media is cost-effective and allows you to directly engage with and assist your audience, providing an excellent forum for ongoing customer service and interaction to build relationships. An active social media profile gives customers a legitimate location to post compliments, concerns and complaints.

Most importantly, organic social media can help establish your brand identity. You can show your brand’s personality through organic social media efforts with a solid sense of humor, sound advice or any other qualities you’d like your audience to associate with your brand. To that end, Entrepreneur reports that numerous brands have successfully added humor to their brand voice to enhance their marketing efforts.

However, it is important to keep in mind that organic social media does have some drawbacks. For starters, it can be time-consuming and confusing to understand. Consistently creating engaging content and actively interacting with your audience are full-time jobs that take a lot of time and effort. If you don’t have a dedicated social media team maintaining your organic social media, you might find yourself in a massive time suck.

Even more confusing are those fun and volatile algorithms. The content your audience sees on social media is dictated by algorithms that are designed to sort posts by relevancy instead of when it was published, so understanding the algorithms is crucial, but that’s easier said than done. Furthermore, organic social media limits your immediate reach. The efforts only extend as far as your followers take it — so you can only expect your organic content to reach your immediate audience and the people they share it with, leaving you without the ability to zero in and distribute your content to specific demographics.

Paid Social Media: Money, Honey

Advertisements, “boosted” posts, sponsored content or anything that requires the payment of money to a social network to display to audiences beyond their followers is considered paid social media. By paying for social media placements, you can target specific audiences to expand your reach, allowing you to pinpoint the specific audience demographics you are looking to reach.

Paid social media advertising allows you to sort users by age, location, gender and even specific interests. Most importantly, paid social media campaigns can suit virtually any budget, especially when using the pay-per-click (PPC) strategy. PPC only charges you if users interact directly with your paid social media campaigns via impressions or clicks to generate leads or drive conversions.

Much like organic social media, there are also drawbacks to paid social media. For example, you might not see meaningful returns on your investment if you are lacking the know-how and skill set necessary to coordinate your paid social media strategy, which often results in wasted resources. Keep in mind that competition is high and finding your place in a space this crowded might mean dealing with particularly high PPC rates and a high dollar ad spend to reach your target demographic. Plus, paid social media requires a lot of attention. Your paid social media efforts need to be analyzed, monitored and consistently adjusted if you want to get the most mileage out of them.

At the end of the day, paid social is often only as effective as the effort you put into it, and, in many cases, that will take a huge amount of time and patience.

Go and Leave Your Mark

It’s impossible to say whether organic or paid social media is better than the other. What’s certain is that your presence on the social media platforms that make sense for your brand is crucial to your larger marketing and PR plan. Organic and paid social media suit different companies with different goals in different situations. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a way to incorporate both methods into your overall social media strategy, but if you find it overwhelming, give us a call! We would love to help you build your social media presence, whether using organic or paid tactics — or both!

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