Organic vs. Paid Social Media: How to Integrate Both into Your Strategy

Organic vs. Paid Social Media_ How to Integrate Both into Your Strategy

October 10, 2020

Organic vs. Paid Social Media: How to Integrate Both into Your Strategy

Social media marketing has evolved quite a bit over the past few years. Strategies used to be about engagement and creating a more genuine and personal presence online. Now, social media is used for the full consumer journey, including customer acquisition, remarketing, retention, and service. Let’s explore paid social vs. organic social media and why it’s important to have a hybrid strategy in place.

Organic and paid social media are two sides of the same coin. But are they completely different, or can you make them work together? Our guide will show you.

As businesses continue to use social media marketing, the challenge to get noticed becomes harder. But is paid social media the best alternative to organic social media or can the two channels work together?

Here’s how to leverage the power of both for your marketing efforts.

If you’re new to paid social, 2020 is an interesting time to get started. Confinement during the pandemic has people using social media more all over the world. But at the same time, ad spend isn’t keeping up. The major social networks are reporting some ups and downs in their revenues as many brands pause their advertising, either to save money during an economic downturn or to take a moral stance against hate speech.

It’s a complicated time, but the silver lining is that there’s evidence ad prices are trending lower. For instance, Facebook’s CPC went down from 11 cents to 9 between January and March alone. Just a year before that, Hootsuite’s own numbers had CPC averaging around 40 cents.

So where does that leave your brand’s social media marketing strategy? Well, it depends on your overarching goals. Read on to learn more.

Paid Social vs. Organic Social

social media marketing strategy

This comparison is much like organic search vs. paid search. Organic social is any social media activity without a paid promotion. It uses free social media tools to build and engage with an online following. Paid social refers to anything on social media that’s influenced by advertising dollars. In other words, advertisements or sponsored posts that brands pay a social network to display to audiences beyond their followers. Cost-per-click (CPC) is one of the most common methods of charging for this type of promotion. Paid and organic social strategies work best in tandem to simultaneously engage with and nurture your followers while extending the reach of your brand to a broader audience.

What is Organic Social Media?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what organic and paid social media are, let’s take a closer look at organic social. In this section, we’ll dive into why you’d want to post organically and what type of content you should post. Plus, we’ll share some tips and best practices for posting organic social content. We can also share memes, some stories and share with each other on their feeds.

As a brand, when you post organically to your account, you can expect that the people who will see it are:

A percentage of your followers (a.k.a. your ‘organic reach’)

Your followers’ followers (if people choose to share your post)

People following any hashtags you use

It sounds pretty simple, but the reason that organic social media is the foundation of every digital marketing strategy today is that it’s the best way to nurture a connection with your customers at scale.

For example, brands use organic social to:

  • Establish their personality and voice
  • Build relationships by sharing informative, entertaining, and/or inspiring content
  • Engage customers at every stage of their buying journey
  • Support their customers with customer service


When you’re getting ready to post a new video or other pieces of content on social, the first thing to ask yourself is, “Do I want to reach existing customers or new customers?” If you want to reach existing customers, and those customers are following you on social, then organic should do the trick.

It’s also important to remember that your organic pages are like a social website. They validate your brand for potential customers who are looking for you on social media along the way to deciding to do business with you. And more and more people are looking to social to learn about brands.

According to our latest survey, 58% of consumers visit a brand’s social pages before visiting their website. And that’s an 81% increase from last year. When these consumers visit your social pages, it’s the organic content you’ve shared that they’ll see.

What is Paid Social Media?

running paid campaigns on social media

With organic social, you post and wait for things to happen. But paid social guarantees that you’ll get seen. In this section, we’ll take a look at the benefits of running paid campaigns on social media. Plus, we’ll share some tips and best practices for paid social ads.

If you’re just getting started, paid social might feel daunting, but it can be a fantastic way to generate sales, drive traffic to your website, and more. It does take a little more know-how than the organic side of things, but it’s a skill worth adding to your toolbelt.

Boosting, which we’ll talk about in the next section, is an easy way to test the waters. But for more control over your ads—and better results—we recommend you give Facebook Ads Manager a try. You can learn more in our guide on how to use Facebook Ads Manager.


The number of consumers that are making purchases after seeing ads on social is growing. In fact, 24% more consumers made a purchase after seeing a paid social ad in the past year than they did in the previous year.

And businesses are finding success with social ads. 96% of marketers have placed ad spend on a video and 91% are satisfied with the return of their social video marketing, according to our recent survey.

Making them work together

We have spoken about organic and paid social media as separate channels but what if they could work as one strategy?

Organic and paid have the power to complement each other in multiple ways, In fact, one channel won’t work nearly as well without the other. A good example of a company making organic and paid efforts work well together is Headspace.

Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation service, which it promotes through its app and online content.

On social media, Headspace shares tips and advice for its audience in an effective way that doesn’t fall foul of Facebook’s harsh algorithms. But it’s paid social content matches up with its organic strategy with clear and unobtrusive CTAs. It’s strong enough that you’ll click it but not so strong that you feel forced to do so. Much like the art of meditation.

Organic social isn’t enough on its own and paid promotion can help extend your reach and get more active users to your site. But without its audience and community aspect, paid social can’t fully thrive. Users will only pay for something if they think it’s worth it and organic offers better social engagement than an ad with a call to buy or download.

It’s about adding value to the user, not hounding them with sales pitches.

Social platforms to consider

Social platforms to consider

Facebook is the most popular social network but it’s not the only one out there and not necessarily the best for what your business offers. Consider the following platforms (with approximate monthly average user figures):


  • Monthly average users: 330 million, as of 2019
  • Good for: Easy setup for content promotion, paid or organic, less restrictive reach, hashtags can help push content to the right audiences
  • Does it offer paid promotion?: Yes, Twitter Ads.


  • Monthly average users: 335 million, as of Q4 2019 [PDF]
  • Good for: Visual content; perfect platform for demographics interested in art and crafts, design, interior design, gardening, and fashion
  • Does it offer paid promotion?: Yes, Pinterest Ads.


  • Monthly average users: 430 million, as of 2019
  • Good for: Great for crowdsourcing opinions and building a community through subreddits
  • Does it offer paid promotion?: Yes, Reddit Advertising.


  • Monthly average users: 46 million, as of 2019
  • Good for: Similar to Instagram so great for video content and the latest trends, good for targeting younger demographics
  • Does it offer paid promotion?: Yes, Snapchat Ads.


  • Monthly average users: Over 260 million
  • Good for: Professionals and businesses
  • Does it offer paid promotion?: Yes, LinkedIn Ads.


Before you jump into creating a hybrid social media strategy and maxing out your budget, consider the following questions:

  • What do I want to achieve on social media?
  • What am I offering?
  • What is my budget?
  • What is my target audience?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you shape your strategy and find the right balance between paid and organic. If you plan to experiment, try it with organic social and low-cost methods first, find what works and what doesn’t and then move onto paid promotion. 

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