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Organic vs. Paid Social Media: Which Is Best?

Distinguishing between organic and paid social media isn’t too difficult – the names of each are pretty self-explanatory.

Organic social media involves using the free services and tools provided by each social media platform to build a social community and regularly interact with it by publishing content, sharing others’ posts, responding to customer comments, and engaging with the online community at large.

Paid social media is marketing and advertising — such as text, images, videos, carousels, etc. – that you pay for to place on popular social media platforms. With this type of promotion, you can define and target a specific audience (based on demographics, location, behavior, interests, etc.) in order to reach a larger number of people — specifically those who may already have an interest in your products or services. The cost incurred depends on the type of ad you’re running, typically on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis. Examples include: display ads, boosted posts, branded or influencer-generated content, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, or sponsored marketing messages.

Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each is likely a more worthwhile endeavor. In this article, we’ll attempt to explore some of the most common pros and cons that come with both organic and paid social media advertising.


Pros of Organic Social Media


Direct Engagement with Consumers

Social media has become a fantastic marketing channel for businesses to implement and capitalize on. A well-ordered, vibrant social media profile provides customers with a logical, convenient environment to express concerns, complaints, and compliments. If you can devote the time and resources to routinely respond to most – if not all – of them, you’ll be able to maximize your organic social media endeavors.

By marketing your business on social media platforms, you are able to communicate with current and prospective customers virtually on a one-on-one basis. Engaging with and responding to clients and prospects helps build trust, which increases the chances that they will do business with you in the future.


Gather Helpful Insight & Feedback

Although it can take quite a bit of time and effort, listening in on and actively participating in your intended audience’s online conversations can help you attain valuable knowledge about their pain points, as well as their likes and dislikes. You can collect useful feedback on how to improve your products or services simply by asking questions and sharing polls to collect additional data.


Brand Identity

Your social media account provides an opportunity to inject a bit of personality into your brand. This presents another layer to your marketing efforts by allowing you to establish the right tone and proactively choose how you want your customers to regard you.

Addressing customers’ comments directly demonstrates that you’re genuinely concerned about their opinions. Exhibiting a sense of humor in your content and regularly offering sound advice can really humanize your brand for customers.


More Cost-Effective

Sustaining a consistent organic social media presence doesn’t actually cost a thing. You don’t have to pay to create or publish content on your social media pages on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, making them attractive options for organizations with a limited marketing budget.

If you don’t have the time and resources to handle everything yourself, you’ll need to hire a social media marketing agency or dedicated team members to craft and curate the right content and connect with your target audience.


Cons of Organic Social Media



Social media platforms can be particularly fun and exciting for personal use. But when it comes to utilizing them for business purposes, there’s quite a bit more to it than just posting hilarious memes. Your goal should be to engage with your customers and collect responses – and these results won’t happen overnight.

Posting to your social media pages consistently is a crucial step toward cultivating your brand relationship and customer base. Routinely coming up with fresh and compelling content that’s relevant and useful to your audience expends a considerable amount of energy and effort. If you don’t have a team – whether in-house or outsourced – assigned to maintaining your social media efforts, it can also become a major time drain for business owners.

Social media advertising campaigns also demand near-constant observation. It’s critical to monitor your content to keep an eye out for any negative responses, as these must always be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.


Less Flexibility Regarding Immediate Reach

The initial reach of your organic social media efforts spans as far as your followers take it – meaning you can only anticipate your organic content to reach your immediate audience and anyone they choose to share it with. You can’t target and circulate your content to specific demographics or user types like you can with paid social media.


Algorithms Can Be Volatile & Hard to Comprehend

The content your audience sees on social media is determined by complicated algorithms designed to sort posts by relevance and potential enrichment, rather than when it was published. The effectiveness of your organic social media strategies hinges on your ability to get your content before current and prospective customers. Therefore, understanding the algorithms that support these platforms is critical. But this is much easier said than done.

Social media algorithms aren’t easy to decipher or master – and even if you do make sense of them, there’s a good chance they’ll just change again. It can take a great deal of effort to understand and stay on top of these algorithms to keep your organic social media endeavors going strong.


Only Targets Your Current Followers

Organic social media will only directly reach your current followers, aside from anyone with whom they may potentially share your content. If you’re looking to target specific demographics, this can only be achieved with paid advertising.


Pros of Paid Social Media


Target Specific Users to Expand Your Reach

Paid advertising on social media allows you to extend your reach beyond your existing followers, pinpointing and connecting with the precise people who will be the most receptive to whatever product or service you’re providing. You can sort users categorically, using criteria such as location, age, gender, income, or interests, and place targeted advertisements on their social media feeds.


More Immediate & Trackable Results

Organic social media initiatives require more effort and strategy, and results aren’t always assured. You’re obligated to create content that abides by the social media platform’s algorithms, rein in any potential customers that stumble across it, and strive to maintain your followers once you’ve got them hooked. Paid social media works in conjunction with the algorithms, sorting by the most relevant, and immediately placing your content front and center on prospective customers’ feeds.


Compatible with Practically Any Budget

Paid social campaigns are crafted to adapt to virtually any budget, making them suitable for both small and big businesses alike. Charges are generally incurred on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis, meaning you only have to pay if users interact directly with your paid social media content via impressions or clicks.

Many platforms permit you to set a spending cap on your paid social endeavors, ensuring that you never exceed your budget. What’s more, certain target audiences cost less to reach than others, enabling you to strategically position your advertisements to accommodate a variety of potentially profitable niches.


Boost Conversions

Paid social media advertising increases your brand’s visibility, which translates into more engagement, more leads, and the possibility of more sales and profits. Since you’re able to reach a wider, more targeted audience with paid advertisements, you can improve your chances of achieving a higher conversion rate. Paid social media also helps increase coveted metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-lead (CPL), and return on ad spend (ROAS).


Cons of Paid Social Media


Social Media Marketing Is a Competitive Environment

Marketing on social media isn’t exactly unheard of these days. In fact, according to a recent study by Statista, an estimated 91% of all U.S. companies used social media marketing to some degree in 2019.

Finding a seat at that crowded table might mean contending with particularly high PPC rates in order to reach your target demographic and requiring top-notch, engaging content to maximize your paid social budget.


Requires Time & Attention

Your paid social media efforts are rarely static. They need to be tracked, evaluated, and consistently modified if you want to secure the best return on investment. Several platforms offer analytics that can help clarify how your content or ads are performing. This data isn’t insignificant and shouldn’t be ignored – it requires lots of attention and consideration and should shed light on how you structure your messaging as it progresses. Paid social media is often only as effective as the effort you put into it – in most cases, your biggest investment will be time.


You May Not See Meaningful Returns on Your Investment

Regardless of the size of your expenditure, you’re still dropping cash that could go to waste if your efforts are unsuccessful. If you’re continually experimenting and falling flat with your paid social media, you’re essentially squandering money — and that’s an easy cycle to fall into.

If you’re a small business, lacking the expertise to capably manage your paid social strategy, you could find yourself draining resources that would be better designated for other marketing channels.


It’s Only Temporary

Continuous exposure, traffic, and growth will only endure as long as you keep investing in your ads. If you want to keep up the momentum, it may be advantageous to consider a strategy that also integrates organic social media marketing.

Final Thoughts

Neither organic nor paid social media is inherently superior to the other. Different strategies complement different businesses with different priorities in different situations. One approach might better serve your budget, while another might prove to be far more effective. Assess all your options and explore all avenues before diving headfirst into either strategy.

If your organization doesn’t have the budget for a full-blown paid social media strategy, dedicate yourself to organic social media endeavors. Create thoughtful content, refine your social profiles, and actively engage with your customers online. Alternately, if your business has a substantial marketing budget and desperately needs to capture new customers immediately, prioritize your paid social media efforts.

The ideal approach would be to find ways to incorporate both organic and paid techniques into your overall social media strategy. Paid social media can help generate more immediate results, such as increasing brand awareness and gaining followers on your social pages. Once your audience has been established, use your organic content and active social presence to captivate their interest, convert them into customers, and retain them once they’re on board.

Strive to identify which social tactics are best suited to you and your business. Where should you be investing your resources? What are your goals for using social media? Are you willing to devote your time to playing the “long game” and creating a loyal community? Would you rather shell out some cash now to see instantaneous results, or are you engaged in it for the foreseeable future?

Remember to regularly try new approaches. Your company, your consumers, and the world itself are changing all the time. Your marketing strategies need to change with them.

If you’re struggling to develop a successful social media marketing strategy on your own, then struggle no more! The friendly folks at HighClick Media will be more than happy to work with you to customize a plan that’s suited to your specific business needs. Call 252.814.2150 today or drop us a line here!

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