Optimize or Advertise? Comparing Organic vs. Paid Social Media

Here, we’ll get more perspective on the difference between both kinds of social media and some pros and cons that come with each.

Organic vs. Paid Social Media

You can gauge the main difference between organic and paid social media by their respective names. You post organic social media for free, generally to reach your followers and the people they choose to share it with. Paid social media content is shared with an audience beyond your followers but is promoted at a cost.

Organic and paid social media each have their benefits and pitfalls. Here are some pros and cons of each type of social media marketing.

The Pros of Organic Social Media

It can help you establish a brand identity.

You may show some individuality through your social media platforms. With a good sense of humor, constant great counsel, or any other attributes you’d like prospects and consumers to connect with your business, they may add another dimension to your marketing efforts.

It’s more cost-effective.

Maintaining an organic social media presence can technically be free. It doesn’t cost anything to post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Any costs you incur would come from the work it takes to engage with your community and create content to populate your social media feeds — whether that be through dedicated team members, outsourcing to freelancers or agencies, or having some employees incorporate those tasks into their day-to-day responsibilities.

Organic social media plays, in one form or another, do not need immediate money to execute. If your company is on a small budget and you’re confident in your ability to develop intelligent content, organic social media may be the way to go.

It allows you to directly engage with and assist your customers.

Social media is an excellent forum for ongoing customer service and interaction. A well-maintained, active social media profile gives customers a legitimate, accessible location to post concerns, complaints, and compliments. If you can dedicate the time and resources to consistently respond to most if not all of them, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of your organic social media efforts.

The Cons of Organic Social Media

It offers less flexibility when it comes to immediate reach.

The immediate reach of your organic social media efforts extends as far as your followers take it — meaning you can only expect your organic content to reach your immediate audience and the people they share it with. You can’t zero in on and distribute your content to specific demographics or types of users like you can with paid social media.

It can be time-consuming.

Creating outstanding content regularly and actively engaging with your audience aren’t fast solutions you can expect to spit out over lunch. They’re full-time jobs that demand a lot of time and effort. Maintaining your organic social media efforts may be a huge time suck if you don’t have dedicated team members or outside support.

The Pros of Paid Social Media

You see more immediate results

Organic social media efforts are a long-term play that requires considerable effort and strategy. With them, you have to create content that will abide by social media algorithms, rein in the potential customers that happen upon it, and actively work to retain your followers once you have them hooked. Paid social media foregoes that process by immediately placing your messaging on potential customers’ feeds.

Its payment model works for any budget.

Paid social campaigns are structured to suit virtually any budget. They generally charge on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis, meaning you only have to pay if users interact directly with your paid social media materials via impressions or clicks.

Many platforms allow you to establish a spending cap on your paid social efforts, so your budget is never exceeded. And certain target audiences cost less to reach than others, allowing you to strategically place your advertisements to cater to different, potentially lucrative niches.

The Cons of Paid Social Media

It requires a lot of attention.

Your paid social media efforts are rarely stagnant. They need to be monitored, analyzed, and consistently adjusted if you want to get the most out of them. Many platforms offer you analytics to understand how your ads are performing. That data isn’t trivial and can’t be disregarded — it requires a lot of attention and thought.

It should guide how you organize your paid social messaging as it changes, which will not always be straightforward. Paid social is frequently only as effective as the amount of time and attention you put into it. And this will take up a significant amount of time in many — if not all — situations.

You might not see meaningful returns on your investment.

Paid social media is just that — paid social media. No matter the size of your investment, you’re still spending money that might go to waste if your efforts are ineffective. If you’re constantly experimenting and failing with your paid social media, you’re essentially burning money. And that’s an easy cycle to fall into.

If you’re a small business without the know-how and skillset to effectively manage your sponsored social strategy, you may find yourself wasting money that may be better spent elsewhere.

The Verdict on Organic vs. Paid Social Media

It’s impossible to say whether organic or paid social media is better than the other. They suit different businesses with different priorities in different situations.

If your business doesn’t have the budget to implement a full-fledged paid social media strategy, try focusing on organic social media. Write thoughtful content, flesh out your social profiles, and actively engage with your customers online. But if your business has a sizable marketing budget and is in desperate need to land new customers immediately, prioritize your paid social media efforts.

Ideally, you’ll be able to find a way to incorporate both methods into your overall social media strategy. 

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