Organic and Paid Social Media: Understanding Your Strategic Tools and Their Impact on Success

Social media continues to play a greater role in the daily lives of consumers around the world. It is also more and more essential for brands to establish a strong (and positive!) presence on key networks where their audience spends the most time. However, using social media effectively can be challenging for organisations. New networks complicate matters, as well, while the addition of paid social media ads has muddied waters once specifically geared toward generating engagement and conversation.

What Is Social Media About?

It took businesses some time to come to grips with social media and how it was best used when Facebook and all the rest first debuted. Eventually, they came to the realisation that social media was designed for fostering engagement and conversation. However, things have changed today. As more and more social platforms find ways to monetise and roll out ads, the focus of social is shifting from engagement to acquisition and even conversion. What was once a no-sell zone is becoming more and more aligned with direct selling. How do these two aspects fit into your overall strategy?

Paid Social Media vs. Organic Social Media

Determining how each aspect of social ties into your overall marketing strategy will require that you have a better understanding of what each is and how it works.


Organic social media is exactly what you think it is. It’s sharing links to blogs and articles. It’s making informative, useful posts. It’s engaging with your audience through comments and shares. Organic social is all about building a community and connecting with your audience without directly selling to them. It focuses on being part of the conversation.

There are also tools that allow you to do this better, more efficiently, and more effectively. For instance, Hootsuite is a great example of this, because while you might pay for a commercial license, you’re not actually giving any money to Facebook or Twitter for your content to be published.

That’s another defining aspect of organic social – you don’t pay for the ability to post content. Your updates come at no cost. You can share pictures and videos without incurring yet another ding to your marketing budget.


Paid social is different. You incur a fee for reaching your audience through these tools, which means that they’re not about conversation generating, but about acquisition and conversion from fan to customer. There are tons of examples of paid social tools, too.

Facebook’s ad program is probably one of the best examples, but Twitter’s ad platform is also worth noting. Basically, paid social media provides you with an additional means of reaching your audience, but in a different way from organic social tools. Paid social should honestly be supplemental to organic, because the point of social is still primarily engagement, with acquisition and conversion being secondary to that consideration.

The defining characteristic of these tools is that they come with a cost to publish on the network in question. You might not pay for a license, but you’ll pay for reach and visibility. It’s more akin to a PPC platform than it is scheduling posts through Hootsuite or another similar tool.

The Role of Each

Organic social tools are excellent for goals like managing your community, driving conversation in a particular direction, and a lot more. They’re also good for helping to automate the social media posting process, saving your team time and your company money.

Paid social platforms play a very different role. Again, they’re very similar to PPC ads, and should really be relegated to a similar role in your overall digital marketing strategy. They’re about inciting curiosity based on concise, compelling ad copy and imagery, and driving traffic where you want it (off of social networks).

Organic tools are well suited to content marketing in that they allow you to share blog posts and articles easily, without paying a fee to the social network in the process. This helps to build your brand’s story and enhance engagement. Paid social tools, on the other hand, allow you to take advantage of micro-targeted campaigns, retargeting/remarketing, lookalike audiences, and more.

In Conclusion

Social media is ever-changing, and what was once unacceptable (direct-selling) is now commonplace. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that paid ads are now the best option for you. Both organic and paid social have a role to play in your marketing efforts and help you achieve different goals.

Perhaps the best advice is this – know which organic social tools help you automate and save the most time and hassle while building your audience. Use those tools. Also, know how to use paid tools to leverage their inherent advantages, such as Facebook’s custom audiences feature.

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Richard Coen

With over 21 years of experience in Digital Marketing, 31 years in sales and 25 years in business development, Richard assists companies to develop key growth strategies on a local or international basis. He can assist marketers to achieve balance in their approach to key areas affected by the growth in digital marketing.