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  • Writer's pictureSam Gilbert

Paid vs. Organic Social Media Marketing

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Building your brand and attracting new customers through social media can feel like a daunting task, but the good news is that there’s a surprisingly simple formula for success.

Chances are you’ve come across a well-discussed dilemma: whether to use paid or organic social media marketing. The truth is, it isn’t much of a dilemma at all. That’s because it’s best to use both. Paid and organic social media marketing are stronger together, and they lose some of their magic when you only use one.

Before we look at the data, here are a few quick things you should know about paid and organic social media.

Organic Social Media

Organic social media marketing is essentially the use of social media tools that are free and readily at your disposal. Think content that feels less like a formal ad and more like a casual conversation (aka, content that users will share with friends and followers).

Organic is a great way to retain existing customers, establish brand voice and to show potential customers what your company — or community — is all about.

Here’s an example of what organic content might look like for a Facebook post:

The content comes across as personal, relaxed and natural, and establishes the brand voice as honest and genuine. This can help current customers feel more connected and loyal to your brand, but can also convince curious or potential customers of your business’ credibility and authenticity.

While organic may take more time than paid marketing, it’s not without worthwhile benefits:

  • Establishes brand personality and voice

  • Builds and nurtures relationships and helps gain trust with your community

  • Engages customers at every stage of funnel, from leads to sales

  • Yields longer lasting results

However, organic social media can have a reduced reach due to the algorithms of each platform, and the content is usually displayed only to your followers which limits your ability to attract new customers. This is where paid social media comes in to play, helping you reach a wider audience.

Paid Social Media

Simply put, paid social media is advertising. Think promoted posts, ads, sponsorships or influencer campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any social platform that targets your audience.

Considering how users are spending more and more time on social media and becoming more accustomed to shopping online, paid ads can be quite effective, especially when done well.

Generally, paid social media marketing is most effective in targeting new customers and attracting new eyes to your pages.

Here are just a few of the advantages of paid social media:

  • Reaches a wider audience

  • Increases brand awareness

  • Promotes the latest news, deals and developments

  • Generates leads, conversions and drives traffic to your site

  • Helps boost organic social media that has performed well

One example of paid social media that you’re likely most familiar with is a sponsored post on Facebook, like this one:

Paid social media can have a wider reach than organic, since people who don’t follow your page are more likely to be exposed to your ads.

But paid isn’t as effective as organic at getting your brand voice across and gaining credibility, since it may not feel as personal and has less room for creativity due to ad size and competition.

Knowing the benefits and limitations of each option provides important context for why the most effective strategy uses both paid and organic, giving you the best of both worlds.

So, how can you put this dual strategy into action? These five tips should help you get started and know what to look out for:

  1. Use Paid to Elevate Organic

When you post organic content that stirs some buzz, don’t stop there. You already know the content attracts attention, so give it a boost by using your ads budget to get it delivered to new eyes.

2. Use Your Organic Posts to Know Who to Target with Paid

Once you’ve established a solid organic audience, you’ll have enough data to reframe and refine your paid ads approach. This will streamline your strategy and save you time and resources sampling the market.

For instance, if you’re getting the most engagement on your organic posts from a specific demographic — say, Gen Z — you’ll know to place paid ads on platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok, as well as stylizing the ad to appeal to the audience.

3. Know When to Promote a Post

While paying to promote an organic post is an effective and useful tool, keep in mind that context matters when deciding which post to promote.

For instance, if there’s a big event coming up at your community, it might be a great time to promote one of your well-performing organic posts talking about the event, rather than to create a new ad or pay for a generic one.

On the other hand, if you have a limited time special or event and you know the ad will be running past the end of the special or the event date, it might not be worth your ads dollars. Instead, you may be better off promoting with organic content, like an Instagram post.

In short, your paid ads should be strategic. You should take into account your community’s events and specials, and even external factors like the time of year and the state of global and local current events.

4. A/B Testing

If done well, another helpful tool at your disposal is A/B testing.

It may sound technical, but it’s actually quite straightforward:

A/B testing is comparing two social media posts to see which one performs better. Simple as it may be, you want to make sure the testing is done correctly for accurate results.

The key is to make sure the two posts are as similar as possible, with one key difference you are testing for. In other words, you want to limit the variables so that if one post performs better, you know why.

Rinse and repeat this technique for different aspects of your posts, until you have the most effective content possible.

5. Always keep your KPIs in mind

In order to know which organic posts you should promote and to make sure your dollars are being well spent, you’ll want to keep track of your KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators.

Cost-Per-Click (CPC), Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and Cost-Per-Lead (CPL) are three important KPIs to measure.

CPCs are exactly what they sound like: how much you pay per individual click on a link embedded in a post. Analyzing your CPCs and comparing them to your industry’s average is a great way to find out which ads are working and which aren’t, and can help you allocate your budget accordingly.

CTR is a great way to gauge how compelling and engaging your content is. CTR tracks the amount of times someone clicks on your content and follows a link, compared to how many times the post has been seen. This will help you gauge how well you’ve been engaging your audience.

CPL is how much you pay in total marketing divided by the number of new leads you receive. For accurate results, make sure you have the same timeframe for your marketing budget and your new leads.

Let’s take a look at some of Social Kapture’s KPIs in action to see why paid and organic social media make a tangible difference.

Case Studies

  • Dominion Post Oak chose an organic and paid social media package with Social Kapture. Over the course of nine months, they reached a CTR of 2.34% — over two times the industry average.

  • A brand-new 55+ community, Calirosa Kissimmee, wanted to raise brand awareness and generate new leads. By honing in on Facebook ads and organic social (the most active platform for adults over 50), we generated 369 leads for them and lowered their CPC to 50% below the industry average.

  • The Kenzie at the Domain utilized organic social media and a unified ads campaign for Facebook. Their ads reached a whopping total of 220,000 impressions, with a CPC 300% below the industry average.

KPIs can shed a lot of light on how effective your social media marketing strategies have been, so you can rest easy knowing your budget and efforts are being put to good use.

To get started on your social media strategy or to enhance your current approach, contact Social Kapture today.


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