Understanding Organic Vs. Paid Social: A Guide for Small Businesses & Influencers [+Free Download]

If coming up with a content strategy wasn’t complicated enough, figuring out which posts to boost is another challenge in and of itself. However, with social media advertising on the rise, it’s clear that social media advertising and Megan Thee Stallion TikTok dance challenges are here to stay. 

In this post, I break down the benefits of paid social media advertisements and organic social media along with setting benchmarks to measure your success and where adjusting your social media advertising efforts can do you some good.

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What is Organic vs. Paid Social Media? 

Social media advertising is projected to reach 47.9 billion dollars of total ad dollars spent. But before that starts to stress you out, let’s focus on these two basic approaches: paid social media and organic social media.

Paid social media is pay-per-click advertising where you pay social media networks to push content with new or specific target audiences. Organic social media refers to any regular, unpaid (“free”) content posted by the account. This includes posts, Stories, memes, videos, etc. Essentially any content you post without spending dollars. Naturally.

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Deciding which approach to take on social media isn’t always a simple one, especially when money is involved. Let’s walk through the pros and cons of each and why taking a combined approach might be beneficial in the long run. 

Pros and Cons of Paid Social Media and Organic Social Media 

There are negatives and positives to both approaches, but remember to keep in mind both serve different purposes. Paid social media has an objective in mind. Paid follows the principles of traditional advertising by creating a point of contact and leading the consumer to a final action, i.e. purchase, follow, comment, etc.

In marketing, we call it “making conversions”. Basically leading someone through a sequence to get a to a sale, or whatever action you want the customer to take.

Now, we know what you might be thinking – Can “sponsored” or “promoted” ads on social media be a turn-off to potential consumers? Studies actually show the integration of e-commerce into the social media space works. More people are likely to check out an ad on social media due to the convenience of Instagram Shops and swipe-ups to store checkouts.

The major difference with organic social media is the greater focus on developing authentic brand interest, affinity, and trust within your target audience than direct sales. The goal, of course, is to turn referrals and engagement into purchases down the road, but don’t let that stop you from getting creative on social media. Both are successful marketing tools and we believe can be used in tandem in your overall social media strategy. 

The Benefits of Taking a Combined Approach 

In one of our previous posts, True North Social, a social media agency, shared how to build a social media strategy from start to finish, focusing on creating a social media budget that allocates funds to content, influencers, and Instagram ads. I’m going to focus on content and social media advertisements. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. One approach isn’t better than the other. In fact, they complement each other well. There are two different kinds of consumers. Some are lazy or easily tempted by sponsored ads and some rely on a brand’s content to get them to buy what a brand’s selling. This is why you can’t just use one or the other, it has to be a combined approach to fully work.

Beefing up your social media content is a great place to start. Followers and potential customers who are served a sponsored post will visit your profile to check out your brand, and see if they relate to you and your content. If your content is lacking, there’s a chance they won’t think you’re a credible brand. So, start by setting weekly and monthly goals for the organic content you create, and then boost some of that organic content to more specific target audiences to grow brand awareness and drive more traffic to your site. 

Is This Thing On? Setting Benchmarks for Success

Once you’ve budgeted for paid and organic social media, you’ll dive into your audience demographics to find out the best platform to reach them. Start by sorting through your social media analytics on any of the platforms you use, and see where most of them live. If your demographic is older then consider allocating more money to Facebook vs. TikTok and vice versa. 

Note: If you’re a PLANOLY user, check out PLANOLY’s Analyze dashboard for high-level social media including audience demographics. 

Using Social Media Agency vs. Doing it on Your Own 

For small business owners who aren’t looking to become social media experts anytime soon, there’s power in outsourcing a social media agency to help manage your paid strategy. Since it’s an evolving industry, trends and studies are always changing, it helps to have an expert ensure your strategy, tactics, and content is always current. 

TIP: If you’re doing things on your own, be sure to check your social media platform’s latest platform news and guidelines at least once a month to stay updated on the latest changes. This will help immensely to be prevent any possible blowing up in one’s face.

How to Adjust Promotional Social Media Efforts 

Picking a type of media mix isn’t the easiest. So figuring out how to measure your success is what we’re here to help you do. We put together a downloadable for calculating engagement rates, what you should pay attention to for each post, and how you can approach adjusting your paid and organic social media posts to continue growing your audience and engagement. 

To download our free guide to measure your Instagram’s success, click the link below!

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My Current Personal Strategy

I’m going to share with you something that is just common sense that people might not have thought of, known, or even done enough research on. There are so many theories as to how often to post and what to post to go viral.

However, I don’t believe in going viral. What seems to work is consistency in offering valuable content that speaks to your target audience.

Never fall for trends, unless they’re certified Google Trends that are on the upswing. But be sure to only utilize what truly speaks to your audience and your ideal customers only.

You will get loads of people telling you to use certain fad tricks they learned that works, but it’s most likely it worked for those who already seen results and worked for a select person / few. Try and make sure what works for you by checking your analytics.

TIP: I stick to things for a month posting every day, collect the data of times + content people appreciated my digital presence the most, and simply ask my audience what types of content they’d like to see. Cut to the chase!

Another tip is to check the social platforms guidelines AND post more than once a week. The algorithm will not pay much attention to you if you only post once a week. That goes for YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. If you post too often and there isn’t enough engagement on those posts, the algorithm won’t propel your content to users, because nobody seems interested in how much you’re posting.

It’s a very delicate balance!

Automated Posting + Tools I Use

For those of you who are struggling to post on the regular with thinking of things to say, and not sure which images to use Planoly is the solution for you.

I take a couple hours in one day to post at least 3 months worth of content in one sitting. On certain weeks, considering all the holidays, predicting future actions of my audience, and what kind of content might be relevant, I make sure to check the post right before it’s about to post. Or simply once at the beginning of the week.

Making sure the content is relevant is just as important as understanding your analytics.

I simply edit all my photos on Lightroom to get the coloring and size right, sometimes on Adobe Premiere Pro if I’m editing video content, then load a bulk of at least 10 images at a time onto the Planoly platform with my desktop.

Then, I schedule each post for the ideal times (Planoly collects the data from my Instagram profile to project best times to post), and I select those periods of maximized attention automatically.

After, I add in all my saved hashtags — currently have 13 sets as I alternate 12-13 posts each month — and captions that will convey what I want to communicate to my favorite people and ideal audience.

Finally, it’s all saved and I don’t have to worry again, just collecting images and footage from my next photoshoots for work to mix things up and have more fun online all over again!

I love using Planoly, because it’s so organized, easy to use, makes my life easier, and takes out so much of the work for me with automated posting. All the data is saved, and I have an annual plan! I recently shared it with some of my clients and they’re in love too.

Moreover, I’ve used other platforms for automated posting plans and they get COMPLICATED. I feel like I’m basically learning a new language with other social media marketing hosts, where Planoly is very simple, to the point, and super easy to use on both desktop and mobile phone.

To get Planoly and automate your monetization from digital content sign up now! Here are some of the different plans. If you’re an enterprise powerhouse, you can add as many accounts as you need to tailor your custom plan!

What are some things you’re doing to level up your social media? I always love hearing from you and would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!

Follow me now on Instagram and connect with me personally @giagdixon. Click any image below to view more.

Gia G. Dixon
Gia G. Dixon

I’m Gia G. Dixon, an etiquette consultant certified under Royal Charter of King Charles III. Here is my guide to elegant style, high quality living, and little things that make your daily life glamorous.

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