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Organic vs. Paid Social Media: Forge an Engaging Hybrid Strategy

August 17, 2020
Jeff Lesko
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Let’s be blunt: Social-media marketing success involves a mix of organic social and paid social strategies.

Learn how to attract thousands of followers and launch successful social-media campaigns. We’ll cover:

  • What Is Organic vs. Paid Social?
  • Why Use Organic Social?
  • How to Utilize Organic Social-Media Content?
  • Why Use Paid Social?
  • How to Utilize Paid Social?
  • Combining Paid vs Organic Social Strategies

What Is Organic vs. Paid Social?

Let’s begin by differentiating organic vs. paid social content: Organic social is posted for free. Paid social requires ad spend for the post to reach a broader audience.

Organic social content is usually shown on the feeds of your friends, subscribers and followers. Naturally, these posts require a high level of engagement and shares to go viral and get shown on the feeds of more people. 

Here’s an example of an organic post from @japandailies that appears for followers.

Here’s an organic post from @japandailies.

In contrast, paid social-media marketing consists of ads or sponsored posts that pop up on the feeds of targeted audiences. You can target social-media users based on their age, location, gender, consumer behavior, interests, and many other options.

Here’s an example of sponsored content from the Love, Bonito fashion brand:

Here’s an example of sponsored content from the Love, Bonito fashion brand.

Paid social and organic social posts work the best hand in hand to maximize engagement for your social-media campaigns. You can bolster viral posts so they get more publicity and deliver better results.

Understanding Organic vs. Paid Social Content

Now let’s enumerate the benefits of organic vs. paid social media. This will help you decide the best way to utilize these posts for your business. 

Why Use Organic Social-Media Content?

Organic social content is free of charge. It’s the primary means of reaching your existing followers and customers. 

Although organic social is what brands strive for, it is usually less powerful than paid social content. According to SocialPilot, a provider of social-media marketing software, branded Facebook pages reach about 2% of fans with organic posts. Organic Facebook posts also have an average engagement rate of 3.91%.

While organic growth is more difficult to achieve, audiences that discover your brand through these means already are interested in what you have to offer. 

Organic social-media ads also are effective for the following reasons:

  • Organic social content enables you to build a long-term connection with your audience. While thousands may discover your brand through sponsored content, they’ll subscribe based on the quality of your organic social posts.
  • Posting organic social content is free, which makes it an affordable marketing strategy.
  • Because audiences will only interact with content that they like, organic social lets you understand your followers’ preferences and interests.
  • 52% of online brand discovery happens through public social-media feeds, according to Hootsuite, a provider of social media-management software. This means organic posts help audiences evaluate your brand.
  • 80% of purchases involve word-of-mouth referrals, according to ReferralCandy, a company that runs referral marketing campaigns. In addition, 70% of social-media users also hear their friends’ and colleagues’ experiences on the platform.

Launching organic social-media campaigns will help you build a positive brand image and attract more consumers in the long run.  

How to Utilize Organic Social-Media Content

Let’s take a look at several ways you can integrate organic content into your social-media marketing campaigns.

1. Bolster Brand Awareness

Regularly posting new content lets your brand stay on the back of your customers’ minds. 

Organic content can be used to share product updates, relevant content, and behind-the-scenes videos. Ultimately, this means you attract new followers and stay relevant to current customers. 

Old Navy’s Instagram campaign features their latest fashionable apparel. The high-quality images let users visualize their appearance upon wearing their outfits. 

Old Navy’s Instagram campaign features their latest fashionable apparel.

They even take it to the next level by collaborating with influencers to generate more engagement. 

Old Navy’s Instagram campaign features social-media influencers.

2. Address Customer Issues

When it comes to customer service, 84% of consumers state that customer service is a key factor in deciding their purchase decision, according to Zendesk, a customer-service software company. A bad experience can easily lead customers to never do business with you ever again. 

To keep customers happy, use your social-media account as a channel for responding to complaints.

For example, Airbnb Help (@AirbnbHelp) features the latest company updates so customers can stay safe amid COVID-19. They also respond to user complaints and issues to keep customers satisfied. 

Airbnb Help (@AirbnbHelp) features the latest company updates so customers can stay safe amid COVID-19.

3. Understand Consumers

Social media can be used as a platform for learning more about consumers through questions and answers. The responses you receive may inspire future blog posts, products, and campaigns.

Why Use Paid Social?

So, what is paid social? Paid social is a form of advertising used to surpass the algorithm and reach social-media users that have never seen your content.

Hootsuite reports that 27% of internet users said that they found new brands and products through paid social ads. That’s exactly why social ad spending is estimated to increase by 20% to $43 billion in 2020, according to market research company eMarketer.

Paid social ads are effective for the following reasons:

  • Paid social bolsters brand awareness and lets you reach social-media users that have not discovered your content.
  • Paid social is a cost-effective form of advertising your brand. Most platforms charge based on cost per click so you only pay for consumers that perform the desired action.
  • Social-media platforms have targeting parameters so you can reach audiences that will likely be interested in your brand. Users can be targeted based on their demographics, location, interests and behavior.
  • Consider that there are more than 5 billion mobile users across the world. In addition, 50.1% of the time spent on a mobile device is done on social-media apps. As a result, paid social ads will help you reach millions of potential customers and increase your revenue.
  • Most social-media platforms include a suite of tools that provide an overview of ad campaign results. You can aggregate insights on clicks, shares, and engagement which can serve as a guide for future campaigns.
  • Because you can bolster your organic content, you can maximize the results of your organic marketing and drive more traffic to your website.

These advantages make paid social a must-have in your arsenal of marketing strategies. 

How to Utilize Paid Social-Media Content

When launching paid social-media marketing strategy, you have a few options to consider:

1. Reach New Audiences

Facebook and Instagram targeting capabilities provide brands the option to customize their target audience. Marketers can get their ads shown to users based on their gender, location, behavior, and interests. 

Shaw Academy’s ad targets users that may have searched for blogging and content marketing information on Facebook. They also could target people that have visited the blog or website. 

Shaw Academy’s ad targets users that may have searched for blogging and content marketing information on Facebook.

2. Promote Popular Content

Paid social ads require payment based on the number of clicks and impressions. To maximize potential followers and conversions, promote content that’s already proven to be popular amongst your audience. 

This sponsored post from Interaction Design Foundation features a high-quality video of its user-experience (UX) design course. The in-depth introduction to their services has garnered more than 1.3 million views. 

Interaction Design Foundation features a high-quality video of its UX design course.

3. Sales and Promotions

Everyone loves sales and promotions that give them an opportunity to get more for less. Paid social is an effective means of promoting your latest deals and getting customers to spread the word to their friends and family.  

Nivea’s social-media ad features their 1-for-1 deals, which will surely attract the attention of skin-care fans.

Nivea’s social-media ad features their 1-for-1 deals.

Combining Organic vs. Paid Social Content 

When it comes to forging a successful social-media strategy, it isn’t about pitting one type of media against another. Instead, utilizing the advantages of both organic marketing and paid social marketing will help you strategically build your audience and generate conversions for your business.

Here are some ways you can use these tactics side by side to improve your results. 

Identifying Audience Demographics and Behavior

Most social-media platforms are equipped with analytical capabilities that provide you with aggregated information about your audience’s profile.

For example, Facebook Audience Insights can provide a demographic overview of followers based on the results of your paid social and organic social campaigns. This includes the education level, job title, location, hobbies and relationship status of your followers. 

The results enable brands to create organic content and launch a paid media strategy that will likely resonate with their audience.

Determining Ideal Posting Time 

The social-media algorithm favors organic content with high levels of engagement, shortly after its publication. Organic posts that get instant likes and shares are more likely to get shown in more news feeds. After all, this is a sign that the content is relevant for users.

How to generate more engagement? Social-media analytics tools enable marketers to determine the peak times and time zones of their audience. This allows you to post organic content and schedule paid ads at strategic times.

Identifying Popular Content 

Instead of launching paid ads at random, experiment with organic content first. Examine the results of your organic social content to identify posts that will get the most clicks and conversions. Use popular posts as paid ads and promotions to get the most bang for your buck. 

Keeping Followers Engaged 

Paid social content is ideal for snatching new followers that are unlikely to discover your business otherwise. While you want to maximize every post, you don’t want to overdo your paid media strategy and get labeled as spammy. 

Once you’ve attracted thousands of followers, the next step is to build a community through engaging organic social content. Create content that will make your brand seem trustworthy and relatable. For instance, this meme-able post from Denny’s might put a smile on your face, whether it's an organic or a paid ad. 

This post from Denny’s might put a smile on your face, whether it's an organic or a paid ad.

Leveraging New Shopping Features

Facebook and Instagram let users create shoppable posts that let users purchase within the app. These checkout features make it easy for customers to browse and buy from your social-media accounts.

There are 130 million Instagram users who tap on shopping posts per month. Plus, 63% of surveyed consumers use Facebook for shopping.

To increase sales, you can even consider creating shoppable posts as paid ads so viewers can shop when they spot your post on their feed. 

Combining Organic and Paid Social Strategies

According to an Adobe digital advertising survey, 50% of Generation Z and 42% of millennials say social media is the most relevant ad channel. Sprout Social also reports 53% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands that are transparent (that is, honest and upfront) on social media. With numbers like those, it’s easy to see why combining organic and paid social strategies is crucial to your success. 

Experimentation may be necessary before you find out what works and what doesn’t for your brand. But the results will definitely be worth it in the long-run. 

The most important thing for implementing a hybrid social strategy is to:

  1. Understand the unique advantages of organic vs. paid social and how to utilize them for your brand.
  2. Experiment on mixing paid social and ad social content. Consider launching diverse types of social-media content such as Q&A sections, brand awareness posts, product updates, and responses to customer-service issues.
  3. Determine the most popular content and boost them as paid ads to maximize results.
  4. Use social-media analytics tools to determine audience demographics and psychographics based on the results of your social campaigns.
  5. Set an ideal posting time based on peak times and time zones of your audience.
  6. Launch shoppable posts as paid social ads.
  7. Keep followers engaged through relevant and entertaining organic content.

As more consumers use social media to find brands that they can trust, sharing organic and paid social content will help you maintain relevance in the eyes of consumers.  

If your social-media posts manage to attract thousands of likes and shares, you can attract more followers that may turn into long-time customers.

Need some help with improving your social-media strategy? Get in touch with Kantaloupe for expert advice that will help you get your desired results.


Jeff Lesko

Ask Jeff what he loves most about his work, and he'll tell you his clients. He's a natural relationship builder, working closely with his accounts to solve problems and uncover needs. For fun, he plays hockey, football and video games. But what he loves most is spending time with his wife, daughter and pets.

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