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Organic vs Paid Social Media Marketing: Pros & Cons Compared

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When you run a business, a social media presence is no longer something that is just nice to have. It’s a must.

Whether you’re posting innovative thought leader posts on LinkedIn or doing goofy dances on TikTok, a well-curated social media presence can get people talking about your brand.

In 2018, 60% of businesses in the UK were using social media, and four years later, many more companies will have signed up to at least one network.

When your business is on social media, you’ll have a decision to make. 

Will you stick with posting free content on your social media profiles, or will you take advantage of paid social media marketing?

Paid social media is a way that businesses can amplify their social media presence and introduce their brands to new audiences and customers. 

However… Is it the right choice for every organisation?

So in a fight between organic and paid social media, which comes out on top? 

Put on your boxing gloves and ding the bell; it’s time to duke it out.

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What’s the difference between paid search and paid social?

Paid social media is when you pay to display advertisements to users of social media. Think of it like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising but instead of serving ads on Google and Bing, you’re serving ads on Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks.

Social media ads have been around for longer than you might think. LinkedIn was the first social media platform to introduce them back in 2005. Facebook launched ads in 2007, while Twitter followed three years later. Even TikTok, the newest platform on the block, opened up to ads in 2019.

Organic social media is when you use social media without paying to do so. All the social media networks let you create and post for free, and with organic social media, you can grow your community for no cost. 

Paid social vs organic social – the advantages and disadvantages

Organic vs paid social media… Which is better? 

It’s a tricky question to answer as there are pros and cons for both. 

As a company that specialises in paid social media advertising, you might think we’d be 100% in favour of social media ads. Still, we understand they’re not for every business.

Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of paid social and organic social.

The advantages of paid social media marketing

You can introduce your business to new customers

With paid social, you can promote your business to brand new customers that may not have heard of you before.

All the social marketing platforms let you target prospective customers with laser precision, meaning you can ensure your money is spent wisely.

For example, let’s say you rent wedding marquees and want to advertise your services on Facebook. You can target people who have recently changed their relationship status to ‘engaged’ as well as people who are friends with people who have recently got engaged. 

Desktop computer with a guy with binoculars in shape of Facebook logo as the background

Advertising your payroll software on LinkedIn? 

You can focus your ads on the key decision-makers who work at specific organisations you want to target. Not only can you show an ad in their newsfeed, but you can send them a sponsored direct message known as an InMail.

The systems that the social media platforms have in place are that sophisticated.

You can entice customers back to your website

Retargeting, where you show social media adverts to people who have already visited your website, can be a powerful tool when it comes to conversion. 

Seven out of ten website visitors who see a retargeting ad are 70% more likely to convert as a result.

It’s also a great strategy if you run an eCommerce website. You can remind customers of the products they looked at or added to their online cart, or show them items they might like. 

However, are retargeting ads under threat? 

Read on to find out if this is the case…

The disadvantages of paid social media marketing

You need to spend money

Paid social media advertising requires a budget. The amount of money you have to invest will depend on the social media platform you use, the target audience you’re aiming at, and the number of users you want to focus on.

Brandwatch did a study to look at what the average cost per click (CPC) was on various social networks. While a click costs $0.38 on Twitter, a LinkedIn click can cost nearly 14 times as much.

Does this mean that Twitter is better for paid social than LinkedIn? 

Not necessarily. If you’re selling a high-quality product or service to a B2B audience, you might get a better return on investment on LinkedIn. However, you can burn through your marketing budget reasonably quickly if you don’t have a strategy in place.

(And of course, remember that using a paid social media agency like Bubblegum Search means your paid social budget will be spent a lot more efficiently.)

Savings in a jar

You’re losing reach

In 2021, Apple introduced its iOS 14 update. This update was meant to be launched in 2020, but several companies, including Meta, had pushed back on it.

Why was Meta (the company that owns Facebook and Instagram) so worried about Apple’s latest update? iOS 14 introduced a new privacy feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which meant users had to give permission for apps and websites to track them. It’s estimated that over 96% of Apple users have now blocked Facebook from tracking their activity.

This means that while iOS users will still be shown ads on social media, these ads will be less targeted to their needs as there is no tracking data available. As a result of this, businesses that use paid social media marketing may find their ads are shown to customers who aren’t interested in their products or services.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Web browsers like Safari and Firefox have already phased-out third-party cookies, which are used to track website visitors and power retargeting ads.

Chrome has pledged to do the same by the end of 2023. Considering that over half of people use Chrome, this will have a significant impact on how companies advertise on social media.

Will you still be able to use paid social media with these changes? 

Yes. First-party data, which is data that the social media platforms collect about how users interact on their sites, will still be acceptable. 

After all, it’s in Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter’s best interests to ensure that businesses continue to spend money on paid social ads.

The advantages of organic social media marketing

You can use it free of charge

The main advantage of organic social media marketing is that it’s free to use. 

This means if you’re a small business with an even smaller marketing budget, organic social media marketing can be a great way to promote your business to interested customers.

Small coffee business serving customers

You can use it to encourage engagement

Social media works best when it’s used as a two-way street for engagement.

With paid social, you’re typically using it to broadcast to prospective customers rather than asking them for their opinion.

28% of people have used social media as a channel to communicate with a company, whether that’s to ask about opening times or complain that a product hasn’t arrived.

What does this mean for your business? 

It means that focusing on organic engagement and keeping your customers happy might be a better and more efficient strategy.

The disadvantages of organic social media marketing

You’re not getting optimal reach

One of the concerns about the state of organic social media marketing is that reach has drastically reduced over the past few years.

Facebook is one of social media’s main offenders when it comes to slashing organic reach. In 2012, organic reach on the popular platform was 16%. Two years later, it was 2%. While Facebook claimed it wanted to prioritise posts from family and friends, many businesses believed the company was trying to force them to ‘pay to play’.

It’s not impossible to get good reach with an organic social media post – a photo of an egg got over 56 million likes on Instagram after all. However, it takes a lot of planning and promotion to see results. With the time spent doing this, paid social media marketing may be more cost-effective in the long run.

You have to put the effort in

Persistence is essential when using organic social media and you have to spend time building your online presence. It’s no longer enough to post once a day, and hope someone will see it.

As an example, digital marketing entrepreneur Jeff Bullas earned 27 million impressions and 64,000 retweets over the space of three months. However, to achieve this he had to tweet 96 times a day – that’s once every 15 minutes. 

The best social media is reactive – in 2013, Oreo received over 13,000 retweets when it responded to a power cut during the Superbowl. While this sounds impressive, this strategy typically requires a dedicated social media team who live, sleep and breathe social.

Social media team in the office

Using paid social media can help take the pressure off and ensure customers see your brand regardless of how much time you spend creating content.

Organic vs paid social media – which is the right choice for my business?

It’s hard to say whether organic or paid social is the right choice for your business needs. It ultimately depends on:

  • Your marketing budget
  • How you currently use social media
  • Who your target audience is and where they spend their time
  • What you want to achieve

It may be that spending money on ads is a good idea, but social media isn’t the right place to do it. In this case, Google PPC advertising may be a worthwhile alternative.

How organic social media complements paid social media

Here’s a wild and crazy thought – instead of thinking ‘organic vs paid social media,’ what about using organic and paid social media together to boost your business? 

If you’re using paid social media, it’s highly likely that you’re using organic posts too.

One of the simplest, cost-effective, and most low-risk ways to use paid and organic social marketing together is to see which of your organic posts have the best reach. This will give you a good indication of what is resonating with your customers. You can then ‘boost’ this content to get it in front of more people.

In summary: paid social and organic social can both help your business

We hope this look into organic vs paid social media has given you valuable insight into which option is right for your business.

It’s estimated that worldwide ad spending on social media is expected to reach $230 billion in 2022. This means that if you don’t take advantage of paid social, one of your competitors might.

Whether you choose to opt for a paid social strategy or not, it’s important to create a solid social media strategy. Produce content that resonates with your target audience, listen to what people say about your brand and focus on growing engagement; you can’t go wrong.

Want a paid social media strategy that will get customers talking? Bubblegum Search can help

Our specialists have years of experience creating and managing paid social campaigns for small and medium sized businesses. 

We’ll work with you to understand the goals of your business, ensuring highly targeted paid social campaigns that will get you the return on investment you deserve. 

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Whether you want to get started on paid social or give your existing campaigns a tune-up, we’ll ensure your budget is well spent.

Get your free marketing plan today and see how you can boost your ad campaigns when you come on board with us.

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