Organic vs. Paid Social: Everything You Need To Know

Growth Marketing Agency Copy of smartboost 1

Growth Marketing Agency Copy of smartboost

Social media marketing spend increases each year in the United States. Compared to the mere $15.6 billion spent on paid ads in 2016, businesses in 2020 spent about $40 billion, and we’re expecting a steady incline through 2022. The nationwide adoption of social media marketing comes in response to more and more active social media users and better market research that comes from it. 


Social media is unique compared to other forms of advertising, primarily because it’s extremely personal. We use social media to connect with friends, families, and colleagues, but we also use it to follow our favorite brands and stay up-to-date on trends and influencer culture. Compared to air time on television and radio, some forms of social media marketing are entirely free, and if done well, it isn’t really seen as advertising at all. Instead, it’s seen as connection. 


Facebook launched its ad platform back in 2007, and social media has changed a lot since then. We’ve been introduced to the concept of career influencers and giveaway marketing that businesses were forced to adjust to. 


Even streaming has affected traditional marketing. Television viewership has steadily declined because consumers would prefer to watch ad-free television or listen to ad-free music on streaming platforms. With so many changes, where are advertisers supposed to go? 


Lucky for us, businesses still have an impactful place on social media. So how exactly does it work? Well, first, you’ll need to understand the difference between organic and paid social and determine what combination works best for your business. 

Facebook page of an entrepreneur's social media on desktop and mobile.

What Is Organic Social Media? 

Think grassroots, but on Instagram. Organic social attempts to create a unique brand image that draws consumers to buy your product or service. It refers to free content such as posts, photos, videos, memes, and stories that you add to your profile. Your content can be liked, shared, quoted, and reposted on any other user’s feed from here. 


Organic social media appeals to a company’s existing following, mutual followers, and interested third parties. Your followers see your content on their feed and share it with their friends, and your hashtags, location tags, and replies are seen by pretty much anyone else who seeks them out. One of the hardest tasks as a social media marketer is convincing people to press the follow button. Once that’s done, you have an impressionable audience (a marketer’s favorite thing). 


Organic social media is meant to establish an authentic connection between a business and its followers at its core. You aren’t necessarily pushing a product but adding to your company’s brand image by creating more content surrounding it. Businesses use organic social to do the following: 

  • Create and foster a brand personality
  • Interact with followers and customers
  • Customer service
  • Share informative, inspiring, and entertaining content
  • Build relationships
  • Omnichannel marketing


What Is Paid Social Media?

If you haven’t already guessed it, paid social is advertising that costs money. It’s when a brand pays a social media platform to have its content shared with new social media users. Promoted posts and advertisements would fit into this category. While you will gather some valuable data from your organic posts on a Facebook or Instag

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ram business account, paid social gives you more. Paid ads are the best way to convert new audiences to customers. 


When you use paid ads, your target market includes existing followers, but it’s aimed at people who don’t already follow you or engage with your content. Because social media platforms are constantly collecting information

 about their users (i.e., interests, hobbies, location, age, etc.), they can promote your ads to individuals who are likely to be interested. 


For example, if you decide to promote an ad for a camping stove on Facebook, it’ll probably pop up on the news feeds of people who post about camping and follow other camping accounts. As long as you provide some information about your business and your product in your ad campaign, Facebook can help blast it. 

Paid ads are usually shared in the form of full advertisements or promoted posts. These

 posts will be marked as “Sponsored” to create transparency. Paid social also gives you access to features meant to increase your CTR, like the “Scroll up” and “Learn More” buttons. Here are a few reasons to use paid social:

  • Reach a larger audience and attract new followers and customers
  • Promotion of a sale or event
  • Target ideal customers
  • Drive leads and conversions
  • Omnichannel marketing (again)


What about influencer marketing?

When a brand pays an influencer to promote a product (either by sending it for free or paying per post), that’s influencer marketing. Though it seems like a form of paid social, we don’t really think it fits into either category. It’s grassroots in the way that you’re using reviews and an influencer network to promote sales, but it’s paid because you’re probably paying for it in some way or another. 


If you’re thinking about incorporating influencer marketing into your marketing strategy, remember to stay consistent with your brand. Work with influencers who reflect your company’s values and be specific about how you want them to post. Though it can be tricky to navigate, influencer marketing is a great way to attract genuinely interested and engaged followers. 

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What’s Better: Organic or Paid?

The truth is, you want to adopt a combination of both organic and paid advertising. Cultivate an organic brand on social media that draws engagement from your followers and repeat purchases. Try to encourage followers to share your content and make good use of hashtags and location tags. 


At the same time, create paid ad campaigns that are aimed at bringing in new followers. Your paid strategy will bring in new customers, and your organic strategy will keep them with you. 

If you’d like to learn more about the perfect mix of paid and organic social and how it can increase your sales, smartboost is here to help. Send us a message!

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