Is Organic or Paid Social Media Better for the Customer Journey?

Social media unites friends, both in real life and onlineThe rise of social media has opened up a powerful channel for companies to engage with customers. The data that customers provide and generate on social media is plentiful and rich but it can be difficult to know which strategies to use in the social media space. In general, there are two categories of social media advertisements: paid and organic. Paid social is when a company pays a social media platform to present advertisements or sponsored messages to its users. Organic social is free; a company instead uses social media to build a following, as well as rely on the social network’s algorithm to reach new users. For a journey practitioner, both means of reaching consumers are valuable in their own ways.

The Benefits of Paid Social Media

By paying social networks to advertise your brand to users, you can easily target specific demographics. Social media networks gather information from their users, such as age, gender, location, and interests. Brands can use this information to target specific users, allowing them to reach audiences that would be most receptive to their ads. For example, a company with a mostly young female customer base may want to target women between the ages of 18 and 24, and a brand based in California would want to market towards people in that state. Additionally, paid advertisements can appear on any user’s feed; a person does not need to be following a brand to receive an ad from them. So, through paid advertisements, a brand can reach beyond their followers to new customers.  This reach is critical for acquisition journeys and awareness.

Paid campaigns also tend to bring more immediate results. Unlike organic social media, which requires additional effort and long-term planning, paid social media immediately places your ad on users’ feeds, allowing you to see the success of your campaign in real-time. This gives you flexibility; you can make quick decisions based on the results of your campaign. For example, if your advertisement is not getting many clicks, you can try to target a different audience or design a new ad. If your campaign is successful, you can extend the time frame or spending on it. Receiving immediate results on ads will allow you to tailor your marketing strategy to what works, making advertising on social media less of a guessing game.

Paid Doesn’t Mean “Easy”

Social media marketing has become widely popular in the past years, making it an extremely competitive landscape. As of 2019, about 91% of all US companies use social media marketing. All of those companies are vying for the attention of social media users, so standing out among the many brands that may already be marketing to your target audience can be difficult. In a crowded landscape, you’ll need high-quality and attention-grabbing ads to be successful, which will require more effort and possibly more money. While you can use customer journey orchestration technology to ensure only key targets are being shown ads, many consumers scroll past ads regardless.

Paid campaigns also require effort and attention. It is not as simple as paying for an ad and letting the social media platform do the work of displaying your message to potential customers. Social media campaigns have to be constantly monitored, analyzed, and adjusted if you want your efforts to be successful. Luckily, many social platforms provide you with analytics that shows how your advertisements are performing, which can help you make informed decisions about the future of your campaign. Analyzing data and figuring the best way for your marketing strategy to evolve is not easy and will occupy much of your time.

Organic Social Media Drives Authentic Engagement

Organic social media is more cost-effective than paid. It costs nothing or little extra to post on social media other than time and some small content and design skill. This can be helpful to any business that has a small budget and cannot afford to run a massive paid social media campaign. This low barrier to entry also means that brands can keep experimenting and adjusting their campaign strategy until they find success. For a journey strategy, this is crucial because the ability to iterate allows you to identify which posts engage which individual customers. You can even use interaction data to get a sense of what specific consumers are interested in.

Organic social media allows brands to engage directly with their customers. A well-maintained social media page can be a brand’s key to its customer’s minds. Organic social media marketing has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than paid social media marketing because brands can learn about their customers on a more personal level through organic engagement. When a user follows a brand on social media, they often show their opinion of the brand and its products through likes and comments, including reviews. These reviews are powerful beyond just being Voice of Customer data. They have a powerful influence on future consumer decisions 88% of people trust online reviews written by other customers and 81% of people are influenced by what their friends post on social media. Having a strong community of followers who will not only engage with each other on your brand’s page but possibly spread the word of your brand to their friends, will be valuable to you in the long run.

Organic Has Limited Reach

Despite the advantages, organic social media requires a great deal of effort. Being active on social media and sharing meaningful content is time-consuming. Posting multiple times a week, if not every day, is an expectation that most customers have for companies they follow. They also expect quality posts, and anything less may lead users to unfollow a brand’s page. While this can be worthwhile if you have built out a social media strategy that creates positive customer experiences, this can take more work than simply using social media as an ad platform.


Because organic social media is only shown to your immediate audience, it lacks the reach of paid social media. Unlike paid social media, which can be seen by practically anyone on a platform, organic social media only goes as far as your followers take it. Some brands have taken to using sponsors for social amplification. This is when you sponsor an “influencer” to share your products with their followers. This behavior uses their organic reach but acts as paid content from the businesses’ perspective. In short, the challenge for organic social media is that you only have access to your followers; the rest is out of your hands.

Tik Tok. Your Social Media Strategy Can Not Wait.

Use Cases

Both paid and organic social media may have a place in your customer journey. Paid social media allows you to reach anyone on a platform and garner immediate results, which leads to fast reactions. Organic social media is less costly than paid social media and creates a great space for interacting with customers. They are stronger together. Use paid social media to draw attention to your brand and bring in new customers, while your organic social media page keeps customers satisfied through strong posts and meaningful connections with customers.

Together these two approaches form two channels on the overall customer journey. Interested in learning more about the use cases for customer journey management? To explore the use cases behind customer journeys, check out our use case pages and guides. They’re a great place to get started with customer journey management.