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October 20th, 2023

The Difference Between Organic and Paid Social Media

Rob Seas Content Strategist/Copywriter

Kinetic recently held an informative lunch and learn session on social media presented by our resident experts, Mikaela Wahl, Social Media Manager, and Maggie Woodroof, Digital Marketing Strategist. Since our clients often have questions about organic versus paid social media, they wanted to help our team understand the nuances, and the presentation they put together was simply too good not to share. First, let’s start with some basic definitions.


Organic social media serves as a top-of-the-funnel awareness strategy aimed at consistently engaging with a target audience without having to pay money to get these posts seen.

The primary goal of organic social is to build brand awareness, foster customer loyalty and create meaningful connections.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include:

  • Engagement rate
  • Impressions
  • Likes/shares/comments
  • Follows

organic social meaning


Paid social involves the placement of sponsored advertising content on various social media platforms for a fee. These advertisements resemble organic posts, similar to those shared by users, but they are strategically paid for to target specific audience segments.

The primary goal of paid social is to drive specific actions such as clicks, conversions, sales and brand visibility.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include:

  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Return on ad spend

what is paid social


The choice depends on how you want to balance two factors, reach versus visibility and cost versus budgeting. Often, the answer is both, which we’ll explain further in the next section of this article.

But first, here are the advantages of each option and the sweet spots that they hit.

Reach Versus Visibility

Organic Social

  • Quality content builds recognition
  • Potential for virality
  • Algorithms can be a limitation

Paid Social

  • Immediate
  • Targeted
  • Reach non-followers
  • Favored by algorithms

Cost Versus Budgeting

Organic Social

  • Organic social media does not mean “free.” It requires resources for content creation and community management
  • Compared to paid social, the timeline for organic campaigns can take much longer to see success

Paid Social

  • Budget needed for paid campaigns
  • There’s a potential for immediate results (but also typically a learning period)
  • There’s flexibility to adjust budgets based on campaign performance


Organic and paid strategies work well in tandem, often enhancing and complementing your social media marketing efforts. Blending these strategies is effective but it’s important to make sure your brand voice is consistent across both approaches.

Paid social does require an ad budget, which needs to be spent with care. The best way to maximize the value of that spend is by applying the insights gleaned from your organic content. Advantages of implementing the two strategies together include:

Extending the reach of organic

Broaden the reach of your organic content by putting a budget behind it, effectively widening the scope of your inbound marketing strategy.

Optimizing posts with A/B testing

A/B testing allows you to use your organic content as a proving ground. You can optimize your posts and promote those that perform best without a budget.

Gaining a deeper understanding of audience metrics

You can gain a deeper understanding of your audience by analyzing who engages with your organic posts and why. This knowledge can then be used to fine-tune your paid advertising strategies.

Retarget your audience

Retargeting your organic content’s audience with paid promotions helps capitalize on their positive interactions with your brand, encouraging them to convert.


organic social media case study

The best way to illustrate when and where to apply the two strategies is to look at real world examples of successful Kinetic client campaigns.

Billings Public Schools — Organic Campaign

Billings Public Schools is the largest school district in Montana and a great example of how organic campaigns can pay off over time. The district primarily uses its Facebook page to communicate with an interested public on topics ranging from new and existing programs and initiatives to milestones and goals to general information about closures, holidays, etc.

This year, our primary social media focus has been the district’s innovative Future Ready career counseling and placement program, which aims to inspire and educate future generations of students.

Year-to-Date Stats for Billings Public Schools

  • 326 posts
  • 842K impressions
  • 776K organic reach
  • 3.8K 30-second video views
  • 12K engagements
  • 4.7K link clicks
  • Overall sentiments of 39% positive and 44% neutral

Recreational Adventures Co. (RAC) — Paid Campaign

As KOA’s largest franchisee, RAC operates 12 independent campgrounds from the mountains of West Virginia to the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Washington coast. While still operating under the larger KOA umbrella in terms of some branding and activities that they offer, the RAC campgrounds all have their own look and feel, and therefore sometimes require robust creative solutions.

RACs paid social campaign was carefully tracked to document success and fine tune the messaging for maximum impact.

  • Main goal: tracking revenue
  • 14 properties
  • 3,318 bookings from the campaign
  • Purchase value: $890,602
  • Retargeted carousels

Big Sky Dog Wash — Organic and Paid Campaign

Big Sky Dog Wash, an innovative, ambitious company that goes far beyond dog wash design and manufacturing, is foundationally-driven to offer aspiring and established entrepreneurs a lucrative opportunity to own their own business. Working with Kinetic’s strategic, creative and digital teams, they decided to capitalize on the rise of TikTok’s popularity.

The Kinetic team devised a strategic plan focused on creating engaging, entertaining content that highlighted the company’s services in order to creatively communicate the unique business opportunity of becoming a dog wash owner. The campaign centered around two videos. The first, organic social portion of the campaign offered a heartwarming video of adorable dogs enjoying a spa day at Big Sky Dog Wash. The second, paid social portion featured a video titled “5 Reasons to Own a Dog Wash” with catchy captions and upbeat music to spark curiosity and encourage users to visit the company’s website.

The Results

Our first video garnered an astonishing 565,121 views, 11,318 profile views, 21,808 likes, 589 comments and an impressive 10,330 shares. The heartwarming message resonated with TikTok users, significantly expanding the brand’s organic reach.

The “5 Reasons to Own a Dog Wash” video literally became an overnight sensation. This video raked in an astounding 336,539 views, 7,296 profile views, 14,405 likes, 313 comments and a whopping 6,879 post shares. The video’s engaging format and enticing call-to-action drove traffic to the company’s website.

The integrated campaign successfully yielded an impressive 1,372 leads in less than a month.


Paid and organic social media are important tools and both can help to grow your business, especially when used in harmony with each other.

Need help honing strategies to get the most out of your particular blend of paid and organic social media? The digital landscape is broader and more complex than ever, making it nearly impossible for businesses to go it alone. The good news is, you don’t have to. Our digital team knows the ins and outs of paid and organic social media marketing so you can spend more time running your business.

Rob Seas

Content Strategist/Copywriter

It all began with a father-son fly-fishing trip at 16 years old, and Rob was hooked on Montana. Growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, it took a little while for him to make his way here for good. But in the meantime, he graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Magazine Journalism, held a variety of editorial positions across the country and worked as a freelance web developer for companies large and small, ranging from startups to international corporations like Visa, The Nature Conservancy, and Levi Strauss & Co.

He still loves to fish – and hunt, work magic in the kitchen… and he’s an artist. All of this experience, worldliness and creativity means that Rob is an incredible Kinetic talent and invaluable asset to the team and our clients.

Read more about Rob