July 11, 2022

What’s Better, Organic or Paid Social Media?

Spoiler alert — you’re going to need both. I know, I know. There’s a lot of talk about the value of organic vs paid social media. But one thing’s crystal clear: it’s almost impossible to succeed without leveraging both.

Almost all of the businesses we work with are committed to doing either paid OR organic really well, but many of them struggle to understand how incredibly important it is to be investing in both, and ultimately that means they’re missing out on a huge opportunity. 

The power of using both organic and paid lies in their unique abilities to achieve very different, but equally important objectives that move your customers along their purchase journey.

What Is Organic Social Media?

Organic social is the use of any free services, tools, and functions of a social media platform: posting status updates on Facebook, sharing stories on Instagram, and sharing an article with your connections on LinkedIn.

If done well with a strategic approach, organic social media can do a great job of building and nurturing relationships, boosting your credibility and authenticity, establishing and maintaining your brand, keeping your existing customers engaged and loyal, and creating longer term sustainable results.

It’s not all roses though. With so many companies competing for attention on social,  organic reach is tough. In fact, the average organic reach for a Facebook post is only roughly 5% of your audience (unless you’re boosting your organic content, which you should be). Furthermore, consider that organic is better suited for the long play, not driving sales or immediate results. 

Imagine for a second that your business was a person, and organic social media is sort of like going to a networking event. You’re there to meet new people, build relationships, and share a few laughs, but you’re likely not trying to convert sales… and if you ARE the person at the networking event trying to sell everyone, people are going to be annoyed. Same thing if your organic social media is too salesy; it will be more well-liked if it’s kept engaging and authentic instead.

What Is Paid Social Media?

Unlike organic, paid social media refers to any actions on social media that you put money behind. Social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.) allow you to spend some money to have your content shared with specific people, and paid social media is really popular due to how affordable it is relative to other more traditional forms of advertising. The truth is that if you’re not spending any money on social media it’s nearly impossible to have major success.

When companies invest well in paid social advertising, the results are usually fairly immediate, and potentially dramatic. You’re able to target people who are more likely to be interested in your products or services and become customers, even if they’ve never followed or engaged with you before. This will lead to an increased brand awareness, more clicks and conversions, and also detailed analytics and insights into your consumer base that will ultimately help you market better across all platforms and mediums, digital and traditional alike.

Paid is not without its weaknesses as well. One obvious downside of paid advertising is that once your campaign ends, your results will pretty much stop. Another consideration is that over time, you will tend to see a tapering off of ROI if you’re not consistently adopting your strategies to meet the constant changes that happen to the platforms.

Final Answer.

We hear it all the time, detractors of organic social media often ask “How does this really translate to sales?” because they underestimate its long term value, and opponents of paid social media often pose the question “Social media channels are free, so why would I pay?” Both of these justifications are short-sighted and handcuff your ability to capitalize on the full potential of social media advertising.

Just like those symbiotic relationships you learn about in grade 9 bio class, organic and paid social have a mutually beneficial relationship that propels both further when consistently using both. While organic is less promotional in nature and focuses on building meaningful relationships and a positive brand experience, paid has a more direct goal and gives you the ability to have direct calls-to-action. 

Furthermore, having a great organic approach allows you to better understand your customer, and feeds data about who is most likely to engage with you on the platform. In order to capitalize on all that valuable customer data, we can build paid advertising campaigns targeted at people who closely resemble your current customers, or even directly re-target specific people who’ve expressed interest in the past. This makes your advertising budget go further, and makes you way more efficient at understanding who to target with your ad dollars. In short, without a strong organic presence we’re missing out on a tonne of data that will directly improve our paid campaigns.

All in all, paid and organic campaigns complement each other to drive results, so if your business doesn’t combine these strategies, you’re risking missing out on new customers, lead generation and conversions. 


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