Paid vs organic social media - Which is better?
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Paid Vs organic social media – Which is right for my business?

It is often easy to assume that paid social media ads are the best option for boosting your business. However, organic social media could be more appropriate depending on what you are aiming to achieve.

As with anything, each have their pros and cons. Whichever one is best for your business depends on a multitude of factors. In this post, we explore the various benefits of both paid and organic social media to help you figure out which one is best suited to your business’ needs and goals.

What is organic social media?

Organic social media is great for getting people’s attention without having to pay for the space. This is mainly through various forms of content marketing such as writing blogs, scheduling social posts and sharing other people’s posts.

Organic social is all about gradually building your community and engaging with them. It’s about making people come to you rather than directly targeting them (much like inbound marketing).

What is paid social media?

Paid social media is when you pay to have content boosted so that there is a higher chance of people seeing it.

This can be through having an advert displayed on a social platform in a variety of formats including video, text, image or carousel. You could also pay for sponsored messages that are targeted based on a person’s demographic/profile.

The cost of paid social ads depends on the type of advert you choose.

Which one is right for my business?

In order to work out whether paid or organic is the best option for you, you first need to evaluate what you want to achieve through social media. You can do this by setting SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, realistic and timely.

You also need to think about whether you are willing to invest either time or money. Paid social media can get you instant results but for a cost, whereas organic social media can get you results over time without having to spend anything, the cost is your time rather than your money.

Paid and organic each have a separate role to play in helping you achieve your business goals; they are not interchangeable. When it comes to building long lasting customer relationships, organic social media is best. However, if you want to make quick sales, it is often necessary to use paid social media

Think about what you want social media to help your business with. Do you want to generate sales and leads? Do you want to build brand awareness? Do you want to drive traffic to your website? This is one of the most crucial areas to explore before you dive into deciding on a marketing plan.  

What goals are suited to organic or paid social media?

  • You need to reach a big audience quickly = Paid
  • You want to engage with your audience for a sustained time = Organic
  • You want to build relationships by providing your audience with valuable content = Organic
  • You want to reach an entirely new targeted demographic = Paid
  • You want to provide customer support = Organic
  • You want to use really specific targeting = Paid
  • You want to leverage your best content = Paid

What are the demographics and benefits of each social platform?

Each social platform appeals to different demographics. Some will be more suited to promoting your business depending on who you want to target and what your specific business goals are.

Here is a quick breakdown of the main social platforms:


Demographic: 1.3+ billion users ages 25 – 54, 60% female

Purpose: Building relationships

Best for: Building brand loyalty

Con: Limited reach


Demographic: 326 million users, mostly aged 18 – 29

Purpose: Conversation and sharing content

Best for: Public relations and engagement

Con: Limited character count (280 or less)


Demographic: 1 billion users, 68% female

Purpose: Building relationships

Best for: Lead generation, entertainment

Con: Primarily visual content only


Demographic: 590 million users, 56% male

Purpose: Business development

Best for: Building relationships and generating leads

Con: Limited with what type of content you post due to the professional tone

What are the different kinds of paid ads available?


  • Domain ads /page post link ads (clicks to website) – A single image ad with an optional text description and a link to your website. These are either desktop or right column ads.
  • Offer ads – Links people to an online discount code or a barcode that they can use in store. These ads are useful for targeting people who are already familiar with your brand.
  • Video ads – Videos are useful for growing your brand awareness. For more information on how to get the most out of video ads on social media, check out our free downloadable ebook.
  • Multi product ads (carousel ads) – Displays multiple products or services that your audience can select. Facebook allows you to display your most clicked-on image first.
  • Lead ads – Allows you to generate leads by automatically filling in people’s information on a lead generation form such as name, email address and phone number.
  • Canvas ads – An interactive ad that allows the viewer to scroll through various snippets of text, images and videos. This is a great example of a canvas ad.
  • Sponsored mentions (branded content) – When an ad has applied a ‘with’ tag, often tagging a company or influencer that they have partnered with in order to increase reach.
  • Dynamic ads – A way to show personalised standard or dynamic ads to your audience based on their interests.


  • Sponsored content – Promotes pre-existing posts in order to increase reach, ensuring they end up on people’s feeds.
  • Sponsored InMail – Sends personalised messages to user’s inboxes. Useful for generating leads and clicks as people are more likely to click on a link in their inbox than scrolling down their feed until they come across your content.
  • Self service ads – Uses LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager to promote ads.
  • Display ads – Uses LinkedIn’s advertising solution to promote content.
  • Dynamic ads – Personalised ads that are tailored to your audience based on their activity.
  • Video ads – Using video to promote your products or services.
  • LinkedIn text ads – Headlines that show up on the right of the newsfeed in desktop view.
  • Marketing partner ads – When you collaborate with a LinkedIn Partner to run campaigns.


  • Image ad – A sponsored post showing an image that promotes your product or services with a call to action (CTA) such as ‘learn more’, ‘shop now’, or ‘sign up’.
  • Multi-image ads (carousel ads) – Displays multiple photos that the user can scroll through.
  • Instagram Stories ads – Uses Instagram Stories to display an image or video ad.
  • Video ads – Advertises something using a video snippet.
  • Slideshow ads – Similar to a video ad, but includes a series of still images and text.


  • Promoted tweets – Promotes a standard tweet so that it reaches more users and improves engagement.
  • Promoted trends – Increases user engagement through promoting hashtag trends.
  • Promoted accounts – Allows you to include a description of why people should follow you and a follow button within a tweet.

What are the pros and cons of organic and paid social media?

After you’ve got a clear understanding of what organic and paid social media are and you’ve narrowed down your business goals, it’s time to assess the pros of each:

Pros of organic social media

The main benefits of organic social media are:

  • Building a community and brand-loyalty
  • Establishing your social proof
  • Building your brand long-term
  • Gaining valuable insights and feedback from your audience
  • Maintaining your online presence

Pros of paid social media

The main benefits of paid social media are:

  • Expanding your audience
  • Reaching your audience
  • Optimising your content for specific business goals e.g. conversions
  • Getting results quickly

Both have some appealing benefits and can help with a variety of business goals. If you’re still stuck on which one is the better fit for you, perhaps reading through the cons may help:

Cons of organic social media

The cons of organic social media are:

  • It can take a long time to become effective
  • It can only directly target your current followers in certain situations
  • Some algorithms may prevent it from being effective

Cons of paid social media

The cons of paid social media are:

  • Potential high cost
  • Risk of investment
  • It is only temporarily effective
  • It needs to be monitored consistently

Wanna read more content marketing tips?

We hope you now have a better understanding of the differences between paid and organic social media and can decide on which one is the best for you.

If you’ve decided to go the organic route, why not read our guest post from Tony McDonough on how to go about building an audience for your online content. Or, if you are interested in content marketing in general, check out our post exploring 15 different types of content types to try for your small business.

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