Organic vs Paid Social Media. 12 myths vs realities 1

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Rob Petersen

organic vs paid social media

Organic vs paid social media.

Organic social media is the use of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat along with the use of free publishing tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to build a social community and interact with it – publishing posts, sharing others’ posts and engaging in conversations and comments.

Paid social social is paying any of these social networks to boost the reach of posts, display ads and videos or sponsor messaging. Paid social media is charged on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis. Measurements showing the path to conversions, transactions and sales are also used.

The social media landscape is constantly evolving. Which one to use? Why? What is right balance?

To understand organic vs paid social media, here are 12 myths vs realities.


  1. SOCIAL MEDIA IS ABOUT CONVERSATIONS AND CONTENT: Myth. Yes, it is but it’s also about commerce. Research from Crowdtap revealed 64% of 3,000 people surveyed use social to find inspiration for shopping (up 51% vs. prior year). Nearly half (46%) of social media users are already using social platforms while thinking about making a purchase. 40% of users are actively deciding what to buy based on what they have seen on social media platforms, including reviews and recommendations. This is set to grow.
  2. AS MY SOCIAL FOOTPRINT GROWS, SO DOES ORGANIC SOCIAL MEDIA REACH. Myth. Organic Facebook Reach has been on a steady decline. EdgeRank chronicled the decline.  From 2012 to 2014, it went from 16.00% to 6.51%, a 60% decline. The studies showed brands that struggled to engage their audience, when measured against brands with “Social DNA” were hit the hardest.
  3. LARGE BRANDS WITH LOTS OF LIKES HAVE GREATER ORGANIC SOCIAL MEDIA REACH: Myth. According to a Social@Ogilvy analysis of more than 100 brand pages, Ogilvy also concluded Facebook organic reach hovered at 6%. For large brand pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach hit 2%. Facebook sources were unofficially advising community managers to expect it to approach zero in the future.
  4. ORGANIC IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN PAID BECAUSE IT’S MORE AUTHENTIC: Myth. Paid social media is believed to be more effective than organic for nearly 60% of social media marketers in helping their business achieve its goals, according to recent research from Clutch. Some 59% of respondents say they agree with the following statement: “Paid social is more effective than organic social.” Some 33% of respondents are neutral about that statement, and 8% disagree with it. Plus, 45% of marketers planning to increase spending on paid social this year according to a study from SocialCode and the CMO Club.
  5. MOST COMPANIES USE EITHER ORGANIC OR PAID ONLY SOCIAL MEDIA: Myth. The great majority of companies us both. According to the Clutch study, 86% of B2B and B2C marketers use both paid and organic social media.
  6. THERE ARE FEW LARGE COMPANIES THAT USE ONLY ORGANIC SOCIAL MEDIA. Myth. 13% of larger companies only do organic social media according to Clutch.


  1. SOCIAL MEDIA LISTENING REQUIRES ONLY ORGANIC SOCIAL MEDIA: Reality. Organic is ideal for community management. You don’t need paid campaigns to listen to what people are saying about you. It’s always a good idea to listen and monitor mentions and conversations about your brand to guide any social media activity or plan.
  2. ORGANIC SOCIAL MEDIA IS EARNED MEDIA: Reality. Just like organic search, the benefits gained from organic social media such as Likes, Followers and Advocates are earned and not likely to go away in the near term.  With paid social media just like paid search, the benefits are likely to be there as long as you keep paying for them.
  3. SOCIAL MARKETERS HAVE TO ENGAGE GROUPS OF PEOPLE BASED ON SHARED INTERESTS AND PASSIONS: Reality. Regardless whether you’re thinking organic vs paid social media, targeting to people with shared interest and values is a requirement of both. And is the way build an audience, relationships and conversion activities. Hashtags, for example, are equally appropriate for organic and paid social media messaging.
  4. COMBINED ORGANIC VS PAID SOCIAL MEDIA DELIVERS BETTER RESULTS: Reality. In a case study for Castrol Motorcycle Oil, the first phase involved an organic social media marketing campaign for six months. It delivered 5,000 Fans, a good level of organic growth and 26,000 social interactions showing great engagement potential. But Castrol was focusing on North America and only 20% of the audience came from the U.S.  When paid social media was added, this hiked up the number to 36,000 Fans and 140,000 social interaction and 50% came from the U.S.
  5. SOCIAL MEDIA REQUIRES A STRATEGY AND MEASUREMENT PLAN: Reality. As the Castrol case study showed, organic social media helped develop a strategy for a combined effort and measurements guided success. There is no generic formula to determine the right balance of organic vs paid social media. But a strategy and measurement plan leads you to one.
  6. TESTING HELPS ACHIEVE THE BEST ORGANIC VS PAID SOCIAL MEDIA BALANCE:  Reality. Response on social media in general is almost instantaneous. In as little as a couple of days, paid social media can be tested. Variations to ads and messaging can also be tested. A small investment in time or money generates a large amount of learning very quickly in social media.

Does this help you understand the use of organic vs paid social media? Does your company need guidance to help identify the right combination for your business?


Organic or paid social media? 7 studies to help decide 1

Posted on March 14, 2016 by Rob Petersen


organic or paid social media

Build it or buy it?

Social media started as an organic marketing tool. One where people and companies who put in the effort to build an audience through engaging content that was liked, shared and commented benefited.

But it was soon apparent the business of social networks was to generate revenue, primarily through advertising. Now, paid social media is a staple for businesses to generate awareness – through ads, promoted posts, sponsored content, influencer marketing and testing.

What works better and why? Where are trends going?

Here are 7 defining studies on organic and paid social media to help decide the balance and benefits that work best for your business.

  • COMBINED ORGANIC AND PAID SOCIAL MEDIA DELIVERS BETTER RESULTS: This was proven true in a case study for Castrol Moto, the motorcycle division of Castrol. The first phase involved an organic social media marketing campaign for six months. It delivered 5,000 fans, a good level of organic growth and 26,000 social interactions showing great engagement potential. But Castrol was focusing on North America. Facebook is a global network and organic reach can’t be controlled by region. When Paid Social Media was added, this hiked up the number of new fans. Plus, it could be controlled with a significantly high number coming  from the region the company is really going after – the United States. The study showed that combining paid with organic social media marketing not only increased social media reach, but the quality of your audience and engagement.

Organic and Paid Social Media


  • PAID SOCIAL MEDIA IMPRESSIONS ARE INCREASING WHILE ORGANIC ARE DECREASING: According to Adobe’s Digital Index report for the third quarter of 2014, there was a 50% decline in organic impressions on Facebook from September 2013 to September 2014. At the same time, there was a 5% increase in paid impressions.

Organic vs Paid Social Media

  • PAID SOCIAL MEDIA HAS HIGHER CONVERSION RATES: Marketers that include paid social media ads in the overall spend of their advertising campaigns can expect a 25% lift in conversions compare to organic social media according to a study from Convertro and AOL Platforms. The study claims that YouTube generated a 14% conversion rate and is the most effective social platform for introducing new products and services. YouTube outperformed Facebook, which only scored a 10% conversion rate. Email marketing also earned high conversion rate at 6.08%. AOL Platforms also reports that Promoted Tweets lead to a 3x higher conversion rate than non-paid organic Tweets.

Organic vs Paid Social Medi

  • INFLUENCE ONCE HAD TO BE EARNED. NOW MOST MARKETERS PAY FOR IT. Paid endorsements by online influencers are now used by 52% of online marketers, according to an IZEA survey. The biggest benefit: an influential person generating positive word-of-mouth about the brand carries more credibility. The survey also found that 72% of paid influencers share additional posts about their sponsors for free, outside of their contractual agreement.

Organic vs Paid Social Media

  • A LITTLE BIT OF PAID SOCIAL MEDIA GOES A LONG WAY: With a minimum additional media investment, Ogilvy managed to get one of their brand’s social content, that was producing organic social content, in front of a more relevant audience. One that was 7x larger and 50% more engaged.
  • DON’T JUST FOCUS ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND LINKEDIN. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter deserve your attention if you’re getting started with paid social. But they’re not the only players on the field. Instagram is the fastest growing social network in the world with a 23% increase in active users over the last six months according to the Sprinklr white paper. Instagram delivers 58 times more brand engagement than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter.
  • FOLLOW THE MONEY: Facebook generated revenue of 10.9 billion dollars from advertisements in 2014. It is predicted that this revenue will increase to 17.2 billion dollars in 2016. That is more than 150% of earnings in 2014. It will also come handy to know that 92% of marketers advertise on Facebook according to TruConversion. YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, doesn’t disclose revenue although it has been estimate at over $5.6 billion a year. Although Twitter ad revenue is declining, it was over $500 million in the second quarter of 2016. With revenues among the largest of any advertisers, these studies show the trend is social networks will continue to find ways to encourage paid social media.

organic vs paid social media

Organic and Paid Social Media is not an either-or proposition; rather, it’s about establishing the right balance. As the studies show, Organic shows the true potential of a brand to find its most relevant social voice and create genuine engagement. Paid social media help generate awareness, amplify content and direct it to the right audience is a way that can be controlled.

Do these studies help you understand the differences between organic and paid social media? Does your business need help finding the right balance?

  • About

    BarnRaisers builds brands with proven relationship principles and ROI. We are a full service digital marketing agency. Our expertise is strategy, search and data-driven results.

↑ Top