Organic Social v Paid Boosts: How to Maximise Your Social Media Marketing in 2024

by | 10 Jan 2024 | Insights

In a world where social media platforms are dominated by advertisements, is there still room for businesses to grow organically?

Social media is undisputedly the most popular destination on the web: the average user now spends HALF their daily internet time (2.5 hours) scrolling their socials, while in 2023 almost 80% of Irish people participated in social network activities, far ahead of reading news online.

Over the years, social platforms have grown into a highly robust communication tool for both individuals and businesses. Anyone who has been browsing social media has likely seen a steady increase in advertising over the years: as an example, Facebook’s ad revenue tripled between 2017 and 2021, while its user base has only grown by half.

Paid socials are a much maligned, often misunderstood, but necessary part of keeping those platforms running for our continuous viewing of cat videos. In a world where social media is run by ads, is there still a place for organic business growth?

Benefits of organic only social media strategies

Early digital marketers still recall the days in the 2000s and 2010s when simply putting up a post on Facebook with relevant hashtags would be enough to get the message out there to the target audience. Over a decade and countless algorithm changes to the newsfeed later, this is no longer the case.

This doesn’t mean there is no validity in an organic-only growth approach in social media. After all, some brands like ZARA, GoPro and Rolls-Royce thrived for years without an ad budget. Here are some of the reasons why this approach would be preferable for your brand:

  • Cost-effective: ‘Organic’ means spending no money. If you are operating on a shoestring budget, the only cost you’ll need to pay is the cost to create those posts.
  • Authentic: From a user perspective, no spend means more genuine content. Boosted posts will have a ‘promoted’ tag next to the message, which reduces the legitimacy. Organic strategies, meanwhile, are more trustworthy as they rely on genuine interactions, customer reviews and user-generated content.
  • Long-term growth: Having a healthy social media plan and a calendar will promote customer engagement and a loyal audience that is genuinely interested in your content.
  • Audience insights: If you don’t pay for your posts, you will start seeing where posts have performed better and which content generates higher engagement – valuable insights that can be used to refine your overall marketing strategy.
  • SEO benefits: Social media presence directly contributes to your online visibility while active engagement and sharing of content can indirectly impact search engine rankings, enhancing your overall online presence.

What types of content perform best for organic posts?

Cramming hashtags into your post doesn’t work like it once used to. Without paid boost, we have to be creative to get our content performing well. Social networks tend to organically promote posts that have higher engagement – longer views, higher likes-to-view ratio, more comments because of elements including eye-catching images, snappy graphics, engaging videos, educational value.

If you have good content with engaging visuals or a strong educational element, you can encourage your audience to like, comment, share, or tag friends in your posts. Including calls-to-action can also boost engagement and increase reach. You can also engage your audience by asking questions or creating polls (which also provides insights into your audience’s preferences).

Organising contests or giveaways can generate excitement and increase organic reach. Participants often share these opportunities with their networks, expanding your audience reach. Make sure to encourage your audience to like, comment and share posts for higher effectiveness and they will become your brand evangelists.

Advantages of paid boosts on social media

As organic reach of social media continues to plummet, brands are increasingly reliant on paid promotions. Globally, businesses spent $207 billion on social media ads in 2023. Unlike organic strategies that may take time to build momentum, paid boosts deliver quicker results. Some other benefits of paid boosts include:

  • Increased Visibility: Paid boosts can significantly increase the reach of your content. By promoting your posts, you extend their reach beyond your current followers to a broader audience, while social media platforms also offer sophisticated targeting options for paid promotions.
  • Lead Generation: Paid promotions can be effective for driving lead generation. You can use lead generation forms, direct users to your website or encourage them to sign up for newsletters or promotions.
  • Customisation and Testing: Paid promotions allow you to experiment with different ad formats, visuals, and ad copies. Through A/B testing, you can refine your approach based on what resonates best with your audience, which in turn can feed your organic strategies.
  • Post boost vs Dark post: A typical post boost involves promoting an existing post from your page to a wider audience. It appears on your page’s feed and timeline and is visible to your followers as well as the targeted audience. A dark post, on the other hand, is not published on your page’s timeline but is targeted to appear in the feeds of the selected audience without being visible on your profile. Both strategies can work well, depending on your marketing objectives, and you have the flexibility to choose one or another.
Social media paid advertising spending growth
Social media advertising spending worldwide from 2018 to 2028. Source: Statista

Combining organic & paid strategies

Organic-only posts will work but only with a lot of work and a stellar posting calendar. On the other hand, neglecting organic posts to aim for paid boosts alone will reach bigger audience, but alienate loyal fans who want to seek out your regular content. Only by combining the two can we unlock the full potential of the social media content delivery.

Craft a great social media calendar every month, using the organic strategies we mentioned above. Add legs to your best performing posts by boosting them to a targeted audience, bringing your best content to even more people, who in turn will become your followers of organic content.

When you’re putting spend behind your posts, make sure you have an end-goal. If you want awareness, direct your audience to follow the page. For increased leads and sales, choose posts that have a promotion or call-to-action to drive your marketing objectives.

Cullen Communications - Insights - PESO model

Beyond the ‘paid vs organic’ debate

While people tend to think about whether they should add marketing budget to social media ads, there are other ways to bring your content to outside audiences.

We have written extensively about influencer marketing, which largely leverages on organic social media. Mentions from online content creators are highly valued as they have the audience trust, so associating with well-known, respected individuals can enhance your social proof and increase your credibility.

On platforms such as Instagram, the collaboration feature allows brands to co-publish content that will go out to both organic audiences without the need for additional budget. This works great for cross-promotion, tapping into each brand’s audiences.

It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. A B2B social strategy is vastly different from one that is B2C. Each social media platforms have their own quirks and specialisation, so your LinkedIn strategy will not work as well for TikTok.

Building a great social media strategy takes time and expertise. If you need support or strategy to improve your social performance, we are always happy to help. Get in touch and we’d love to discuss how we can elevate your social media strategy.

Cullen Communications - Zung Tran

About the author

Zung Tran is a Digital Marketing Manager with Cullen Communications. With over a decade of experience with Google advertising platforms, Zung specialises in performance online advertising, web strategy, and digital innovation


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