Video Marketing

Paid vs. Organic Social: A Complete Guide

Megan O'Neill

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When it comes to using social media for your business, it can be easy to think about it in the same way you think about your personal accounts. You upload a video or post a piece of content organically and wait to see how your audience engages with it. But there’s also a world of opportunity when it comes to paid social.

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How do you know when to post organically and when to pay to get your content in front of a wider audience? What type of content should you post organically and what type should you run as an ad? The purpose of this guide is to answer those questions and ease some of the confusion around paid vs. organic social content.

Click on the links in the Table of Contents below to jump to a specific section of the guide. If you prefer watching to reading, check out the video below!

Table of Contents

Defining paid vs. organic social media

We’ll start by defining paid social and organic social. The difference is simple: Organic social content is posted for free. Paid social content is shared with spend behind it to help you reach a larger audience.

Organic social posts will show up in the feeds of people that follow you. Your posts will be shown to more people as your audience shares and engages with them.

Paid social posts will show up in the feeds of whichever audience you decide to target. You can target audiences based on demographics, location, interests, and more.

The worlds of paid and organic can cross paths as well. For instance, you can pay to "boost" an organic post to get it in front of more people. This is often an effective strategy for organic posts that are performing particularly well. We’ll share more about that in our section on using Facebook Ads Manager vs. boosting.

Understanding organic social

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what organic and paid social media are, let’s take a closer look at organic social. In this section, we’ll dive into why you’d want to post organically and what type of content you should post. Plus, we’ll share some tips and best practices for posting organic social content.

Why post organic social content?

When you’re getting ready to post a new video or other piece of content on social, the first thing to ask yourself is, "Do I want to reach existing customers or new customers?" If you want to reach existing customers, and those customers are following you on social, then organic should do the trick.

It’s also important to remember that your organic pages are like a social website. They validate your brand for potential customers who are looking for you on social along the way to deciding to do business with you. And more and more people are looking to social to learn about brands.

According to our latest survey, 58% of consumers visit a brand’s social pages before visiting their website. And that’s an 81% increase from last year. When these consumers visit your social pages, it’s the organic content you’ve shared that they’ll see.

Consumers visiting social media before website

Best practices for posting organically

Ready to post organically? Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Minimize your promotions. Save the sales talk for your ads. Instead of focusing on getting people to buy, focus on sharing content that your followers and prospects will find valuable. Tell stories, educate, and inspire with your organic content. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a special promo for your loyal followers every once in awhile. But these promos should be mixed in with valuable content that’ll help viewers get to know you, trust you, and feel connected to you.
  • Maximize your personality. While you’re minimizing sales talk and promotions, take the opportunity to showcase who you are. Show off the people behind your business, your values, and what you’re passionate about. Need inspiration? Check out our tips for humanizing your brand and building trust.
  • Reinforce your brand. Speaking of brand, your organic content is a great opportunity to reinforce your brand. What do you want people to know? Take a look at your social pages and see if those things come across in your existing content. If not, create content that showcases what you do and what you stand for. Feature it or pin it to the top of your social profiles.

Here are a couple examples of videos that work well for reinforcing your brand and helping viewers connect with and trust you. They also both happen to be templates that you can customize to make your own.

The first is a personal story shared by a fitness professional. This type of story can really help your customers feel like you "get" them.

This video template is designed for introducing yourself to your audience on YouTube. It does a great job of showcasing what the brand stands for and showcasing the person behind the brand.

With organic social, you post and wait for things to happen. But paid social guarantees that you'll get seen. In this section, we'll take a look at the benefits of running paid campaigns on social. Plus, we'll share some tips and best practices for paid social ads.

If you're just getting started, paid social might feel daunting, but it can be a fantastic way to generate sales, drive traffic to your website, and more. It does take a little more know-how than the organic side of things, but it’s a skill worth adding to your toolbelt.

Boosting, which we'll talk about in the next section, is an easy way to test the waters. But for more control over your ads—and better results—we recommend you give Facebook Ads Manager a try. You can learn more in our guide on how to use Facebook Ads Manager.

Why invest in paid social?

The number of consumers that are making purchases after seeing ads on social is growing. In fact, 24% more consumers made a purchase after seeing a paid social ad in the past year than they did in the previous year.

And businesses are finding success with social ads. 96% of marketers have placed ad spend on a video and 91% are satisfied with the return of their social video marketing, according to our recent survey.

Best practices for paid social ads

Check out the following tips to get the most out of your social ad campaigns:

  • Target the right audience. What makes social ads so effective? The targeting! The right messaging, paired with the right audience, can drive incredible results. To figure out the best audience for your business, check out our 8 questions to help you target the right audience.
  • Share a clear call to action. Be direct with what you want viewers to do next by including a strong and clear call to action (CTA). If you're trying to drive sales, encourage them to "buy now." You could even include a limited-time special offer to add urgency. For more on CTAs, check out our article on writing calls to action that get clicks.
  • Keep it short. Your social ads will be displayed in the news feed for people that may not know who you are and aren't actively looking to engage with content from your brand. That's why it's important to keep your video or messaging short and to the point. Share a message that will resonate with the audience you're targeting and get it across quickly. We recommend keeping video ads to 15 to 30 seconds at most.
  • Always be testing. If at first you don't succeed, try again. Test different messaging, different imagery, and different calls to action to improve upon your results. Check out our guide to A/B testing to learn more.

Need a little help getting started? You're in luck! We've got a whole collection of video templates designed for paid promotions, including product promo templates and service promo templates. This Bite-sized Product Intro template is one of our most popular.

Facebook Ads Manager vs. Boosting

If you’re just getting started with paid social, you may wonder the difference between using Facebook Ads Manager and simply boosting your organic posts.

Boosting offers an easy way to get started with advertising on Facebook. On any post that you shared organically, you can click on the Boost Post button. This will give you access to a basic version of Facebook Ads Manager, where you can set an objective, include an optional CTA button, and select an audience.

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While boosting is an easy way to get started, Ads Manager allows you to get much more granular with your targeting and settings. That’s why we recommend using Ads Manager for setting up your paid campaigns.

When do we recommend boosting? When you have an organic post that’s performing particularly well. Boosting for a small amount of money—even just a few dollars—can help performant posts get even more reach and engagement. To learn more, check out Andrea Vahl’s tips for boosting posts.

Deciding where to post

Not sure which platform to use for your organic social or paid social posts? The first thing to ask yourself is, where is your audience?

If you already have a large audience on a particular social platform, that’s the place you should be posting organically. If you don’t, but you’re looking to grow your audience, choose the platforms where your audience is hanging out. You may know this from your own customer research. If not, check out this Business Insider article on generational social media usage.

When it comes to paid social, do a test! Try posting the same paid social ad to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or whatever makes the most sense for your business. Spend the same amount of money, target the same audience, and see which drives the best results!

We should also mention that YouTube is rearing its head as one of the most effective places to post video ads—and it’s underutilized! There’s lots of potential to stand out with YouTube ads and you can learn more in our guide to YouTube for Action.

Resources

We shared a lot of links throughout this guide. In this section, we've compiled them all. Plus, we've included a few more useful guides to help you get the most out of your social efforts—whether you're posting organically or paying to run ads.