Over the past few years, there has been a significant advancement in social media marketing. Previously, strategies were focused on increasing interaction and establishing a more real and personable online presence.

These days, customer acquisition, retargeting, retention, and support are all being carried out through social media channels across the whole consumer experience. Consequently, the traditional method of utilising social media (organic social media) may not be sufficient. Hence, the popularity of paid social.

To better understand the differences between paid social and organic social media, we’ll look at the differences between the two, as well as why having a hybrid approach is vital.

What is Paid Social?

Paid social advertising has evolved into an integral part of advertising on social media platforms. When money is used to promote a post, it is termed “paid.” This can be accomplished by spending money to promote organic social posts in order to increase their reach, or by building and running customised advertising in order to engage with a targeted demographic and produce leads, visits, or sales. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are the primary social media platforms that support paid posts.

Each social network has a distinct approach for acquiring followers and generating engagement, and paid advertising plays a significant role in those strategies. Similarly, each brand will have a type of audience and message that must be considered when developing a paid social campaign. However, one thing is certain: No marketing strategy is complete without some form of paid social media.

The days of relying solely on organic posts to reach a target market are over, which is why incorporating paid social into your marketing strategy is essential. Paid advertising and boosted posts will extend your visibility beyond the reach of a typical organic article and generate leads from beyond your current client base. When you use the ad capability on the majority of social platforms, you can target precise audiences based on their locations, demographics, interests, and more.

Not only will you be able to interact with a larger number of new customers, but you’ll also learn a great deal about your current customers. Advanced monitoring and A/B testing features ensure that you connect with and grow your network while also learning about their preferences and expectations.

Paid social is not the same as influencer marketing, which is often organised directly with the influencer. Although the two are not mutually exclusive, paid social is distinct from influencer marketing.

What is Organic Social?

Organic social media refers to freely shared material (posts, pictures, videos, memes, and Stories) that all users, including brands and businesses, publish on their social platforms and brand’s social pages.

When you post organically to your account as a brand, you can expect the following to see what you post and share:

  • A proportion of your loyal followers ( referred to as your ‘organic reach’)
  • Followers of your followers (if they choose to share your post) (Can also result in new followers)

It may sound straightforward, but the reason organic social is at the heart of any digital marketing plan today is that it is the most effective approach to cultivating a relationship with your customers at any level.

For instance, brands leverage organic social to:

  • develop their style and tone of voice
  • engage clients at every point of their purchasing process by delivering educational, amusing, and/or inspirational material
  • provide customer service to their clients

Organic social strategy involves showcasing your brand, your personality, your team, and your core values to the world. Organic posts are effective in increasing consumer confidence in your business. When customers feel connected to your brand, 68 percent of them will endorse your brand to a friend, and 76 percent will choose your brand over a competitor when shopping online.

While paid advertising can help you gain more followers quickly, organic marketing can help you gain loyal customers who will work hard on your behalf to bring you more valuable business over time.

Understanding the difference

The first thing to understand is that social media marketing can be split into two categories: organic vs paid social.

With paid social, social ads are displayed on specific social channels that are paid for. In contrast, organic social media is focused on the traditional methods of utilising social media, such as producing quality content and sharing it on the right channels.

The key differences between paid and organic social are that paid ads:

  • Pays for the display of the paid social ads,
  • increases the chances of converting the user into a lead, and
  • increases the chances of the user converting into a customer.

Organic social on the other hand involves

  • Developing high-quality, valuable content while also connecting with corporate partners and community members.
  • Developing relationships with loyal customers and encouraging them to campaign for your brand
  • Creating messages that demonstrate your company’s beliefs
  • Creating a “face” for your company that fosters relationships and inspires confidence.

As you can see, both paid and organic social play vital roles in your digital marketing strategy. This is why incorporating a hybrid system where you integrate both strategies can be the deal maker in your business.

Benefits of Paid Social

There are a variety of compelling reasons to invest in paid social marketing.

According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report conducted in 2019, the number of people who make e-commerce purchases is increasing year after year.

According to Animoto, 24 percent more customers completed a purchase after seeing a paid social ad in 2019 compared to the previous year. A further finding is that 91 percent of marketers are happy with the return on their social video marketing ad spend.

  • Paid social helps you to reach new audiences while simultaneously promoting brand awareness
  • Compared to organic reach, paid reach outperforms the latter, bypassing the natural algorithms of the site.
  • Social media is growing in popularity with digital consumers using it for shopping, finding inspiration, and making their lives simpler. Paid social allows you to find them rather than wait for them to find you.
  • Successful organic postings on some social media networks may be readily turned into paid posts. Across all social networks, you can leverage organic traffic as a free practice run to figure out what kind of content would generate the most engagement and conversions in social media advertising.
  • The fact that many platforms (such as Facebook Ads) provide alternative styles of paid advertising in comparison to organic advertising means that your paid social ads will have greater potential for success.
  • Increasingly sophisticated audience targeting allows you to target individuals from a wide range of audience demographics and interests, allowing you to avoid wasting your advertising budget.

Benefits of Organic Social

  • Organic content on social is completely free.
  • Organic social media can be used to manage your brand’s reputation and customer relationships. Responding immediately to existing customers when they have problems will help to increase their trust in your brand.
  • It helps you pay attention to your organic audience and make use of the chance to address their concerns and adjust accordingly.
  • Create cost-free ads by utilising personalised hashtags.
  • Create a network of like-minded individuals that are committed to the same ideals as your organisation.
  • Make use of social media channels to communicate the narrative of your brand.
  • Assure others of your trustworthiness and transparency.
  • Promote user-generated content (UGC), which saves your marketing staff of content generation responsibilities and provides customers with vital social proof.

A Hybrid Approach

While it is possible to use paid campaigns and organic social separately, when they are integrated, they are significantly more powerful and successful.

While organic interactions will reflect your business’s personality and values, paid social advertisements will reach out to potential customers while bypassing your present followers and raising brand awareness. In this way, you’ll be fostering brand awareness rather than overexposure to the brand.

Organic posts can be used to gauge the impact of your content before implementing a paid social campaign. This will assist you in determining the sorts of material that your audience responds to the most favourably, allowing you to prioritise particular types of postings before adding financial support.

Irrespective of how you construct your social media marketing plan, it’s critical to employ a balanced mix of paid campaigns and organic social media.

Of course, social ads with a higher financial investment work better and reach a greater number of prospective customers, but it is social engagement that helps to build solid customer connections, with existing followers and new customers.

Why Integrate Paid and Organic Social?

Only focusing on organic social advertising or directing all of your efforts only towards paid social media will not be enough in today’s competitive environment. Those businesses that integrate their organic and paid media strategies reap the greatest benefit from their efforts.

Below are three compelling arguments for why you should be actively coordinating your organic and paid social media campaigns.

Improve your understanding of your target audience.

When you integrate organic and paid social media methods, you will gain a more accurate view of your audience’s structure and composition.

You will identify the demographics that interact the most with your organic posts and then target these individuals with your advertising, confident in the knowledge that these groups are likely to be attracted to the paid ads you are promoting.

An organic post, on the other hand, can provide you with information on how well your content is received by the public.

Increase the visibility of your website on the internet.

When you combine your paid social media and organic social media efforts, you can enhance your entire online brand’s reach. While paid media is meant to boost the exposure of your brand, organic social media is extremely effective at increasing customer loyalty. In the end, the two are inextricably linked.

Paid efforts support organic efforts and organic efforts support paid efforts

Organic posts and paid social media are just two sides of the same coin when it comes to marketing. Simply put, one may not function well without the other.

You may think of organic content as anything you post on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as everything you pin on Pinterest. It serves as the cornerstone for your social media marketing activities. It serves as the fuel for community involvement. When you remove that technique from your social media plan, you eliminate a significant portion of your social media engagement, and your advertising suffers as a result.

You’re undoubtedly asking how that is possible, particularly if you’re using audience targeting and ad placement bidding. Aren’t people expected to notice your advertisement, click, and return? While individuals may notice your advertisement and click, if they learn that you have a limited organic social presence, they will just go.

Paid social media is a great way to promote your content and get more people to see it. But, it is only when brands integrate their organic social posts and paid media campaigns smoothly into an entire social media plan that they achieve success.

When you coordinate your social media marketing methods so that they all function together, you can enhance the overall success of your campaign. If there is one thing to take away from this, it is that organic and paid social media function better when they are used together.

How To Make Paid & Organic Social Media Strategies Work Together

Now that we have a better understanding of how paid and organic social media function on their own, we now consider how they might be used together.

The following are five important approaches to integrate your paid and organic marketing activities.

1.     Determine your most popular content:

If you have a piece of content that performs well or has the potential to become viral, it may be the perfect candidate for an advertisement. If you want to quickly transform your content into an advertisement, you can do it by boosting it on Social Medial in a couple of clicks.

2.     Improve your demographic targeting:

The more time you invest in building your organic presence before launching an advertisement, the better.

For example, Sprout can assist you in gaining insight into the demographics of your own audience in order to better understand your followers. Prior to launching a paid social media campaign, using Facebook or Instagram Insights in conjunction with a third-party platform such as Sprout can provide you with the most comprehensive picture of your target demographic.

3.     Only pay for ads that can help:

Yes, first and foremost, only pay for ads that can actually help you accomplish your objectives and achieve your organisational goals. Remember that ads aren’t always the best solution on social media, and even if they were, don’t underestimate the importance of a well-crafted organic post that people will enjoy.

Create a captivating post, pin it to your profile, or include it in the highlights of your storey if the topic is interesting enough. However, if your organic social media strategy isn’t achieving the reach or impressions that you’d hoped for, it may be time to consider investing in a paid social media strategy.

4.     Create organic content:

The best and most entry-level technique is to create organic social content because it is low-risk and does not need an advertising campaign. When a winner is spotted, though, most social media professionals will tell you that it’s time to examine whether or not it’s worth investing in boosting it further it with money.

5.     A/B testing should be performed:

Before you spend your social media money on an advertisement, test it out on a smaller audience to see whether it’s any good before spending your entire budget.

Test your call-to-action, your content, your images, as well as the ad’s location, format, and even the audience you’re trying to reach. Manual split testing and results tracking can be done for organic posts.

Final Thoughts on Paid Social

Back when social media was just getting started, merely having a presence on a platform was sufficient. Businesses that were active on Facebook were equally as likely as their rivals to be discovered and interacted with by a wide range of people. However, as a result of algorithmic changes and advancements, everything has become very competitive.

This implies that the content that users have interacted with in the past has a significant impact on the content that they will be exposed to moving forward. It is as a result of this that organic online presence alone is just not sufficient any longer.

Don’t consider this as an indication that you should fully discontinue your organic posting just yet. In today’s world, social media is still the most effective method for people to learn about your organisation, ask questions, and stay abreast with what is happening in your business. The interactions are completely natural and have the ability to direct people towards your website, other social media feeds, or even to pick up the phone and call you. Furthermore, they will not feel as though they are being marketed to.

That said, organic and paid social media are mutually beneficial to one another. The success of one would be impossible without the success of the other, and they should both be essential elements of your social media strategy.

Social Media Training

About Chris Norton

Founder of Prohibition, listed in the world's top 30 marketing bloggers and an award winning online PR and crisis management specialist. Co-author of Share This Too.