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Published March 8th 2022

Organic vs. paid social media marketing: What’s better for your brand?

Find out the advantages and disadvantages of organic vs paid approach for your social media marketing strategy.

Should you be emphasizing an organic approach in your social media marketing or is paid the better option? Truth is, that’s a false dilemma.

Neither organic nor paid social media, on their own, will yield the desired results. Ideally, a combination of both is what you should pursue, with the emphasis tilting one way or the other over time.

To determine how to proceed it’s important that you understand the differences between paid and organic. Then, depending on your marketing goals, you will be able to pick the best approach that uses both organic as well as paid strategies. 

Part of this process entails setting the relevant KPIs that will help you monitor your progress and make the necessary adjustments as you go.

In this article, you’ll find the key differences between an organic and a paid approach as well as the most important KPIs to measure as you launch campaigns. 

What’s the difference between organic and paid social?

Organic social

This involves the use of all a social media network’s tools that are free at your disposal. This approach is used to create and sustain the community that emerges around your brand, and to offer content that increases leads and sales, and retains already existing customers. Organic also provides the content that users who follow an ad to your page can interact with.

Paid social

On the other hand, paid social refers to all kinds of paid advertising on social media. This includes promoted posts, ads, campaigns that seek to increase followers, and more. In a broader sense, influencer campaigns and product tie-ins can also be considered part of paid social.

Typically, social media platforms will use one of the following two measures to price such content:

  • Cost-per-click (CPC)
  • Cost-per-mille (CPM): every thousand impressions of an ad are paid, regardless of whether the ad link is clicked or not.

Organic vs. paid: When to choose which?

Each of these two approaches to your social media marketing achieves a slightly different set of goals and comes with a set of pros and cons. 

Here’s what they can offer you and how they can be combined to make your strategy complete.

The advantages and disadvantages of organic

Organic is the part of your marketing strategy that helps build your brand and bring in stable results over time.

Organic offers you some of the following advantages:

  • Builds and nurtures relationships and helps you support your community.
  • Brings in subscribers, leads, and sales i.e. it engages customers at every stage of the funnel.
  • Offers longer-lasting results due to staying power.
  • Boosts your credibility and visibility.
  • Helps establish your brand voice and personality.
  • Drives traffic to your website.
  • The platforms are free to use

Yet, organic is not without its cons. 

Due to how social media networks operate, there is only so much you can do with such an approach before you have to turn to support from paid.

Here are some of the disadvantages of an organic approach:

  • It is labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  • Achieving results takes time.
  • There is a very reduced reach due to the limits imposed by ranking algorithms.
  • It is displayed mostly to your followers and rarely to people who do not follow you.

Because of the above, having paid in your marketing strategy is vital. Without it, your reach will be limited, and it’s likely that you will not be able to create a community and gain traction on social media.

The advantages and disadvantages of paid

A paid marketing approach compliments your organic efforts by boosting their efficiency and driving faster and tangible results. A paid approach provides you with the following advantages:

  • Increases brand awareness and helps you grow your following.
  • Allows you to target a specific audience and promote products and services to new audiences.
  • Helps you boost organic content that performs well.
  • Provides faster results.
  • Increases clicks, reach, and conversions.
  • Offers you analytics and insights on the results of your campaigns.
  • Drives traffic to your site.

Like organic, paid also has several disadvantages that you need to keep in mind when creating your strategy. Some of the cons of using paid include:

  • Does not guarantee ROI.
  • Requires a budget.
  • There are limits on ad space due to competition which increases costs per click.
  • You must devote a lot of attention to it to analyze and understand the results.

Given the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, you don’t need to think twice. Instead, you should monitor your performance in both areas and decide when and how to create organic content, and when to turn to paid to amplify its effects and achieve greater business results.

To make such a decision, you must measure a number of metrics that will allow you to determine when and how to act.

Top organic and paid KPIs to measure

To establish how your organic and paid efforts are performing and paying off, you need to track several different key performance indicators (KPIs). That way, you will get a clear picture of where you need to place greater emphasis or where you might need to revisit your strategy.

Here are some of the main KPIs to track when measuring the performance of your organic and paid content.


Reach refers to a number of different indicators that tell you what the size of your audience is and what share of people have seen your content. There are different types of Reach KPIs. These include:

  • The total number of your followers.
  • The total number of impressions that your posts receive.
  • The reach of your posts i.e. the number of unique accounts that have seen it.
  • The web referral traffic that your posts generate.
  • The Brandwatch Reach score


Like reach, engagement is a broad category. It includes clicks on your posts, likes, shares, comments, and mentions. By measuring engagement, you will be able to determine how many people are interacting with your content and if it actually works. 

Want to know how to measure engagement? Check out our article on what is a good engagement rate on social media.

Share of voice

SOV tells you what share of the online conversation you hold. By measuring SOV you can determine how you are performing compared to your competitors, where you stand in the market, and whose voice your audience is mostly listening to.

One way to measure SOV is to measure how many times your brand has been mentioned over a certain period of time. Mentions can be direct (using your handle) or indirect (simply using your name without tagging you). Divide this by the total number of mentions of you and your top competitors, and you will have your SOV.

For a more detailed picture, you can also track how your brand is mentioned in combination with certain industry keywords and hashtags. By tracking both types of SOV, you will get a sense of the visibility and relevance of your brand.

TO really get to grips with share of voice across multiple mediums, here’s how to measure SOV for PPC, SEO, and social media.

Click-through rate (CTR)

CTR refers to the number of times someone clicks on your content, and follows a link, in comparison to the total impressions the post has received.

To calculate CTR simply divide the total number of link clicks by the total number of post impressions. Multiply the resulting number by 100 to determine your CTR percentage.

This KPI is a good indicator of how compelling your content and offer are to your audience, whether they’re organic or paid. A high CTR means that it is effective and that you have successfully targeted your audience.

Cost-per-click (CPC)

CPC is the cost that you pay per individual click on your ads. Focusing on CPC, instead of total spend, can shed light on whether your ads are efficient or not.

Monitoring CPC also helps you forecast how your ads will impact your budget. And what’s more, analyzing your cost-per-click will help you determine which ad messaging is winning and provides the greatest value.

Your platform’s ad manager will provide you with the CPC value.

Conversion rate (CR)

This metric can also refer to a number of different actions. Conversions can be any action that you define as the goal of your organic or paid content – whether it’s visits to your site, purchases, subscriptions and sign-ups, contact submissions, and more. Regardless, by monitoring the rate at which followers complete this action, you will have an idea what your CR is. 

Make the best of your organic and paid content with Brandwatch

With the help of Brandwatch, you can stay ahead of both your paid as well as organic posts across all channels and make informed decisions about what actions to take next.

Want to know more about how Brandwatch can help you ace your social media marketing? Get in touch with us to organize a demo.

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