What is the difference between organic and paid social media?

What is the difference between organic and paid social media?

Social media is a fantastic way to reach audiences that care about your subject.

Whilst there are many different strategies with varying complexity that you can deploy, fundamentally the core principles are whether you do this organically or through paid advertising.

So what are the differences between the two and how do you make them work?


You’ve got to play the long game here, expecting overnight success when building an audience organically will simply set you and your stakeholders up for disappointment.

You’ve got to put yourself in the mindset of the end user. What would make you follow and engage with a brand’s social account?

Loosely speaking, there are three pillars:

  1. Good quality content that people find entertaining, educational or engaging 
  2. The right frequency of posts – too little and people will forget, too much and you’ll irritate
  3. A consistent brand identity, this can be as basic as always using the same filter or finding a unique way of representing your brand to stand out from a crowd

Say you have all of these things, the next challenge is getting people to see it. To do this, you need to be active in the audiences you’re trying to reach, you can do this with effective use of hashtags and by being social(!), interact with people, comment, follow, like… you get the gist.


This takes on a mixture of the above and what you may call traditional advertising. Think about being able to take your billboard on the side of the motorway and putting it on another motorway that is full of drivers interested in your product. No brainer, right? 

The key difference between organic social media marketing and paid (other than, you know, paying for it) is you haven’t got to wait for people to find you, you’re paying to find them. Your ad will be presented pretty much like a normal post, so it still needs to be good quality, educate the audience, you need to be careful with things like frequency capping, and it needs to have a clear brand identity.

Paid will, more often than not, drive more results in a shorter time frame, so you can drive thousands of people to your website through social media even with a small organic following.

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