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    Understanding Organic & Paid Social: A Guide for Small Businesses

    May 05 2021

    If coming up with a content strategy wasn’t complicated enough, figuring out which posts to boost is another challenge in and of itself. However, with social media advertising on the rise, it’s clear that social media advertising and Megan Thee Stallion TikTok dance challenges are here to stay. 

    In this post, we break down the benefits of paid social media advertisements and organic social media along with setting benchmarks to measure your success and where adjusting your social media advertising efforts can do you some good. Start feeling empowered by your social media marketing efforts one paid post at a time!

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    What is Organic vs. Paid Social Media? 

    Social media advertising is projected to reach 47.9 billion dollars of total ad dollars spent. But before that starts to stress you out, let’s focus on these two basic approaches: paid social media and organic social media.

    Paid social media is pay-per-click advertising where you pay social media networks to push content with new or specific target audiences. Organic social media refers to any regular, unpaid ("free") content posted by the account. This includes posts, Stories, memes, videos, etc. Essentially any content you post without spending dollars. 

    Deciding which approach to take on social media isn’t always a simple one, especially when money is involved. Let's walk through the pros and cons of each and why taking a combined approach might be beneficial in the long run. 

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    Pros and Cons of Paid Social Media and Organic Social Media 

    There are negatives and positives to both approaches, but remember to keep in mind both serve different purposes. Paid social media has an objective in mind. Paid follows the principles of traditional advertising by creating a point of contact and leading the consumer to a final action, i.e. purchase, follow, comment, etc.

    Now, we know what you might be thinking – Can "sponsored" or "promoted" ads on social media be a turn-off to potential consumers? Studies actually show the integration of e-commerce into the social media space works. More people are likely to check out an ad on social media due to the convenience of Instagram Shops and swipe-ups to store checkouts.

    The major difference with organic social media is the greater focus on developing authentic brand interest, affinity, and trust within your target audience than direct sales. The goal, of course, is to turn referrals and engagement into purchases down the road, but don't let that stop you from getting creative on social media. Both are successful marketing tools and we believe can be used in tandem in your overall social media strategy. 

    The Benefits of Taking a Combined Approach 

    In one of our previous posts, True North Social, a social media agency, shared how to build a social media strategy from start to finish, focusing on creating a social media budget that allocates funds to content, influencers, and Instagram ads. We're going to focus on content and social media advertisements. 

    Now, don’t get us wrong. One approach isn’t better than the other. In fact, they complement each other well. There are two different kinds of consumers. Some are lazy or easily tempted by sponsored ads and some rely on a brand's content to get them to buy what a brand's selling. This is why you can't just use one or the other, it has to be a combined approach to fully work.

    Beefing up your social media content is a great place to start. Followers and potential customers who are served a sponsored post will visit your profile to check out your brand, and see if they relate to you and your content. If your content is lacking, there's a chance they won't think you're a credible brand. So, start by setting weekly and monthly goals for the organic content you create, and then boost some of that organic content to more specific target audiences to grow brand awareness and drive more traffic to your site. 

    Is This Thing On? Setting Benchmarks for Success

    Once you've budgeted for paid and organic social media, you'll dive into your audience demographics to find out the best platform to reach them. Start by sorting through your social media analytics on any of the platforms you use, and see where most of them live. If your demographic is older then consider allocating more money to Facebook vs. TikTok and vice versa.  Note: If you're a PLANOLY user, check out PLANOLY's Analyze dashboard for high-level social media including audience demographics. 

    Using Social Media Agency vs. Doing it on Your Own 

    For small business owners who aren't looking to become social media experts anytime soon, there's power in outsourcing a social media agency to help manage your paid strategy. Since it's an evolving industry, trends and studies are always changing, it helps to have an expert ensure your strategy, tactics, and content is always current. 

    How to Adjust Promotional Social Media Efforts 

    Picking a type of media mix isn’t the easiest. So figuring out how to measure your success is what we're here to help you do. We put together a downloadable for calculating engagement rates, what you should pay attention to for each post, and how you can approach adjusting your paid and organic social media posts to continue growing your audience and engagement. 

    To download our free guide to measure your Instagram's success, click the link below!

    Free Downloadable Guide


    Learn more about Carrie Boswell, on PLANOLY

    Carrie Boswell

    Carrie Boswell is the Digital Marketing Content Specialist at PLANOLY. She is always finding ways to include pop culture and the Gen Z perspective into the content we create for marketers and small business owners.

    More by Carrie Boswell

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