Organic vs paid social media: Choose the right channel
May 22, 20236 min read
In today's digital age, social media marketing has become a vital component for businesses looking to reach their target audience. As social media usage continues to grow, with over 4.76 billion active users worldwide, businesses are presented with the challenge of deciding between organic and paid social media. This can often be a daunting task, as each approach comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages that businesses need to consider before making a decision.
According to recent studies, organic social media generates 100% more leads than paid social media, while paid social media has seen a 27.7% increase in spending since 2019. With such significant disparities, it's essential to understand the advantages and drawbacks of each approach to create an effective social media strategy for your business.
In this article, we'll dive into the key differences between organic and paid social media, explore their strengths and weaknesses and provide insights and references to help you make informed decisions about your social media marketing efforts.
What is organic social media?
Organic social media refers to the free, non-paid content shared on social media platforms. This can include posts, photos, videos and stories shared by individuals or businesses without paying for advertising. It works by relying on engagement and the natural growth of your business's social media presence. It involves creating high-quality content that resonates with your target audience and encourages them to engage with your brand. This can include posting regular updates, responding to comments and messages and participating in relevant online conversations.
One of the key benefits of organic social media is its ability to build authentic relationships with your audience. By focusing on providing value to your followers and building trust through regular interactions, you can create a loyal fanbase that is more likely to engage with your brand content and promote your brand to other potential customers.
However, organic social media can be challenging to navigate, as it relies on the algorithm of the social media platform and the quality of the content being shared. To be a successful brand with organic social media, you must stay up-to-date with the latest platform updates and trends, understand your audience's preferences and consistently produce high-quality content that resonates with your brand’s followers. Although organic social media can be a valuable tool for your business, it requires a significant investment of time and resources to be successful, and you must be willing to adapt your strategy to keep up with the constantly evolving social media landscape.
You can use organic social media to connect with your target audience, promote your brand and drive sales. Here are some key advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Advantages of organic social media
One of the biggest advantages of organic social media is that it doesn't require any considerable financial investment. You can post your content for free and still reach a significant audience.
You can build strong relationships with your audience by engaging with your followers and responding to their comments and messages. This can help foster loyalty and build a community around your brand.
Build a loyal following of customers who are genuinely interested in your brand and what you have to offer. These followers can become your brand advocates, promoting your products or services to their own networks.
It is an excellent way to showcase your brand's personality and authenticity. By posting behind-the-scenes content, sharing user-generated content and showcasing your company culture, you can humanize your brand and connect with your audience on a deeper level.
Disadvantages of organic social media
One of the biggest disadvantages of organic social media is that it takes time to grow your following. You need to consistently post high-quality content and engage with your audience to build a loyal following. This can be a slow and time-consuming process.
It has limited reach, as your content is only seen by your followers. This means that it can be difficult to reach new audiences and expand your reach without investing in paid advertising or other marketing strategies.
Social media algorithms change frequently, and this can make it difficult to maintain your reach and engagement. For example, a change in Instagram's algorithm can cause your engagement rates to drop, even if your content is high-quality and engaging.
When you rely solely on organic social media, you have little control over the platform and how your content is distributed. Investing in other marketing channels, such as email marketing or paid search advertising, can help you diversify your marketing efforts and reduce your reliance on social media.
Read More: How Ubisoft leveraged unified marketing platform to increase ROI on organic social content
What is paid social media?
Paid social media refers to the use of paid advertising on social media platforms to reach a targeted audience. It involves creating ads that appear in users' social media feeds, typically in the form of sponsored posts or display ads. These ads can be highly targeted to specific demographics, interests and behaviors, allowing businesses to reach their ideal customer profiles with precision.
By using the advertising capabilities of social media platforms, such as Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads, businesses can create ads designed to promote a product, service or event and target them to specific audience groups based on factors such as age, location, interests and behavior. The cost of the ads is determined by a bidding system, where advertisers bid on the placement of their ads based on the target audience and the ad's performance. This way, you can reach a larger audience quickly and effectively, with more control over who sees your ads. By targeting specific demographics and interests, you can ensure your ads are seen by people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services, increasing the likelihood of conversions and sales.
Another key benefit of paid social media is the ability to measure the results of advertising campaigns accurately. Social media platforms provide you with detailed analytics on your ads' performance, including metrics such as impressions, clicks and conversions. This allows you to optimize your campaigns based on what is working and adjust your strategy to maximize your return on investment (ROI).
However, paid social media can be expensive, and businesses must have a budget to invest in advertising. It also requires a significant investment of time and resources to create effective ads that resonate with the target audience and drive conversions.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of paid social media to consider.
Advantages of paid social media
With paid social media, you can promote your content to people who are not currently following your brand. This can help you attract new followers and increase your brand visibility in a shorter amount of time.
It allows you to target specific demographics, interests and behaviors. This targeting can help you ensure that your content is seen by the right people, leading to higher engagement rates and better social media ROI.
Improve your reach and engagement quickly. Promoting your content to a larger audience can increase the number of likes, shares and comments your content receives, which can help improve your social media metrics.
It provides accurate measurement tools that allow you to track the success of your campaigns. This can help you optimize your campaigns for better performance and maximize your ROI.
Disadvantages of paid social media
Paid social media can get expensive, depending on your budget and goals. If you have a limited budget, you may not be able to sustain a paid social media campaign for an extended period of time.
It only provides short-term benefits, and you need to keep investing in campaigns to see results. This can be challenging for businesses with limited resources, as it can be difficult to maintain a consistent paid social media presence.
It is not as authentic as organic social media, as you are paying for exposure. This can make it harder to build a genuine connection with your audience and can lead to lower engagement rates in the long term.
Organic vs. paid social media: Comparison table
Here's a detailed comparison table between organic and paid social media.
Organic Social Media
Paid Social Media
Unpaid content shared on social media platforms
Paid advertising on social media platforms
Paid advertising costs
Limited to your existing followers
Can reach a broader audience
Limited to your followers
Can target specific demographics, interests and behaviors
Limited, as metrics may not be accurate or easily accessible
Accurate and easily accessible metrics
Emphasizes authenticity and personal connections with followers
May lack authenticity, as it involves paid exposure
Can provide long-term benefits, as it focuses on building relationships and trust with your audience
Provides short-term benefits and requires continuous investment to maintain results
Speed of Results
Slow, as it relies on organic growth and engagement
Fast, as it allows for quick and targeted reach to a larger audience
Control over Content
Complete control over the content and messaging
Limited control over the content and messaging, as it must adhere to platform guidelines and regulations
Relies on high-quality content and engagement to increase reach
Relies on paid promotion to increase engagement and reach
Offers more flexibility in terms of content and messaging
Limited flexibility in terms of content and messaging, as it must adhere to platform guidelines and regulations
Ideal for businesses with limited budgets
Ideal for businesses with larger advertising budgets
The choice between organic vs paid social media - depends on your business goals, audience analysis, budget and the resources you have available. Organic social media is best used for building long-term relationships and trust with your audience, while paid social media is ideal for reaching a broader audience quickly and targeting specific demographics, interests and behaviors. A combination of both organic and paid social media may be the most effective way to achieve your marketing goals.
When to opt for organic social media, paid social media or both?
Knowing when to use organic social media, paid social media, or both can depend on a variety of factors, including your business goals, target audience, budget and the resources available. Here are some general guidelines to consider.
Use organic social media when:
Building brand awareness: Organic social media is an effective tool for building brand awareness and establishing a presence on social media platforms. By consistently sharing high-quality content that resonates with your target audience, you can create a loyal following that can help increase your brand's visibility and reach.
Engaging with your audience: It provides you with an opportunity to engage with your audience on a personal level. You can build authentic relationships with your followers by responding to comments and messages, participating in online conversations related to your industry, and sharing user-generated content.
Having a limited budget: It can be a cost-effective way to promote your brand and reach a wider audience without a significant budget.
Use paid social media when:
Promoting products or services: Paid social media is a powerful tool for promoting products or services directly to your target audience. By creating highly targeted ads, you can reach people who are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer, increasing the chances of conversions and sales.
Scaling quickly: It allows you to reach a larger audience profile quickly and effectively, making it an ideal tool, especially if you want to scale your marketing efforts rapidly.
Maximizing ROI: It provides detailed analytics on your ads' performance, allowing you to optimize your campaigns and maximize your ROI.
Use both organic and paid social media when:
Maximizing reach: By using both organic and paid social media, you can reach a wider audience than you would with either strategy alone. Organic social media can help build a loyal following, while paid social media can help you reach new audiences and increase conversions.
Creating a comprehensive strategy: By combining both organic and paid social media, you can create a comprehensive strategy that addresses all aspects of your marketing goals, from brand awareness to lead generation and sales.
The key to success with social media is understanding the advantages and disadvantages of organic and paid social media approaches and how they fit into your business's overall strategy. Doing so can create a social media strategy that maximizes your resources and helps you achieve your desired outcomes. To make the most of social media marketing for your business, consider your goals, target audience and budget to determine whether to use organic social media, paid social media or a combination of both. With the right approach, social media can be a valuable tool to build your brand, engage with your audience and achieve your business goals.