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The world of marketing is an ever-changing landscape, and one area that’s changed more than most in the last decade is social media marketing.

Coming into its own in the 2010s, it took a few years for many businesses to see the value of social media. With so many existing platforms out there, it can get confusing for smaller businesses knowing where to dedicate their resources. 

Integral to the acquisition and retention of customers, you now have the conundrum of paid and organic social media to contend with too.

Social media for business

While the first half of the last decade saw engagement as the first frontier of social media for business, the latter half, and moving forward, is all about acquisition and conversion.

 eMarketer found in June 2020 that almost 30% of US respondents had used social commerce to complete a purchase.

However, the first frontier is still important to draw customers into the sales funnel. 58% of customers according to an Animoto survey said they visit a brand’s social media pages before visiting the website. 

So, where does paid and organic social media fall into this? Let’s take a look.

Organic v paid

Both provide a variety of advantages and disadvantages. Many businesses, especially small businesses, who need to keep an eye on budgets and often have workers straddling several roles will want to weigh the options even further.

Helping to bring in customers, establish your brand and create sales, below, we’ve outlined what organic and paid social media is, how it can be used,  and the pros and cons of both.

What is organic social media? 

Simply put, organic social media content is free content, such as photos, videos, memes, GIFS, stories etc that can be shared by anyone to their feeds. 

Organic social is often used by brands to share blogs, campaign imagery, contact information and details of services they provide or the products they sell. Overall, organic social media marketing is used to:

  Establish a personality

  Share informative, entertaining, or inspiring content to build a relationship between the brand and customer

  Engage customers at every step of their buying journey, and when they’re not thinking of buying

  Highlight any offers or new products available

  To provide customer service support

While the content is free to share, you may be wondering who will see what you’re sharing. This will include:

  A percentage of your followers

  Your followers’ followers or friends if the content is shared by them

  Those following hashtags you use

However, there can be a downside to organic social media content, which becomes present with the ranking algorithms.

All platforms use these, which means only a small percentage of your followers may see your organic posts.

In late 2019, organic reach on Facebook for example was down by 2.2%. Therefore, as a smaller brand, the value of ploughing lots of money into organic content may feel like throwing money down the drain at times.

However, this organic content must be available to those who may come across your brand, due to the number of people using social profiles to make buying decisions.

For a better reach, however, you can always turn to paid social.

What is paid social media?

Don’t be put off by the thought of paid social media marketing. In its most basic form, it’s another word for advertising.

This is where a company pays money to ensure their content reaches a specific audience to build their brand, build awareness of a product, or sell those products.

All social media platforms offer paid advertising in one way or another, and it’s a great way for businesses to target new audiences and drive sales. Mostly, brands use paid social to:

  Raise their company profile

  Attract new followers/customers

  Promote new products, deals, or content etc.

  Create new leads

  Obtain information

  Drive conversions

According to eMarketer, there’s been an increase in spending in the world of paid social media advertising recently. They found that 96% of US-based retailers are now buying ads on Facebook, with 76% buying on LinkedIn, 75% on Twitter, and 59% on Instagram.

On top of this, customers are 24% more likely to purchase after seeing a product on a social media advert.

With this in mind, which is best to add to your marketing strategy – paid or organic?

Why you need paid and organic social media marketing

Deciding which to use isn’t that simple. Both are very different beasts as you can see, which are used to achieve certain objectives.

Therefore, it can’t be said whether one is better than the other as they suit businesses differently based on their priorities.

With that in mind, there are many pros and cons for both paid and organic. 

Organic pros:


  Allows you to engage directly with customers

  Helps you to establish an identity 

Organic cons:

  It can be time-consuming

  It can be difficult to understand algorithms and stand out

  Reach isn’t always guaranteed 

Paid pros:

  You can target specific users to expand your reach

  Payment models are designed to work within your budgets

  You’ll see more immediate results

Paid cons:

  You may not see meaningful returns on investment

  The landscape is becoming extremely competitive

  It can require a lot of attention to ensure you’re getting the most out of your money

Therefore, it appears that in a world being dominated by eCommerce and social media, you can’t have one without the other. Opting for a more holistic approach that incorporates elements of both organic and paid social media could be best for your businesses. 

If the world of organic and paid social media, or social media, in general, is giving you a headache and you want to know what’ll work best for your business, get in touch with Relative today to find out how we can help. 

Robert Barlow profile picture

About the author

Robert started off in admin, working for a marketing agency based in Manchester, before deciding he wanted to go to university and gain his HND followed by a BA Hons Degree in Business Finance with Marketing. Since then Rob has worked his way up through the ranks and now holds the position of The Oracle at the office! But unfortunately, unlike the character out of The Matrix, he doesn’t have all the answers for the team (but that doesn’t stop the questions)! Rob never says no to a hot drink (tea or coffee) to help keep his mind stimulated. He spends his time working on the business development of the company, liaising with clients and managing the work flow. And most importantly spends a lot of time working on the personal development of the team… answering questions!

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