Digital Marketing, Clutch Report

Social Media Marketing Survey 2016: Paid Versus Organic Social Media

September 1, 2016

by Sarah Anyan

Product Manager

How many of the following characteristics apply to your company?

  • You have multiple social media accounts but don’t follow a strategy when posting.
  • You put an intern in-charge of social media.
  • You invest in paid social media but don’t know which metrics to track to demonstrate your success.
  • You combine organic and paid approaches to social media but don’t know if this is a best practice.

Multiple sources unpack how paid social media is effective for businesses, compile data about how marketers are increasing their spending on social media, and outline how businesses can embrace new trends to reach more customers on social networks. But, how does this information help you formulate your social media plan?

If you answered ‘yes,’ to any of the characteristics listed above, then this guide is for you. We combine survey data about organic and paid social media usage with actionable advice about,

  1. What resources to set aside for social media
  2. What effectiveness really means in the context of paid social media
  3. What metrics to track for a paid approach to social media.

Infographic - Clutch's Social Media Marketing Survey 2016


Key Findings

  • It’s rare for social media marketers not to use organic and paid social media together. 86% combine organic and paid approaches.
  • The same holds true for B2B and B2C. In both categories nearly half use organic and paid social media equally.
  • 66% of social media marketers look to Facebook first for paid social media.
  • Paid social media believed to be more effective than organic for nearly 60% of social media marketers
  • Despite paid social media’s effectiveness, 13% of larger companies only do organic social media.
  • Vanity metrics top the list of factors social media marketers measure to track the success of their paid social efforts.


Tips for Social Media Marketers

  • Dedicate enough human and financial resources to your organic and paid social media efforts. Some resources to consider include, a social media marketing agency or consultant, a specialized, in-house team to post and engage with your audience consistently, and social media management software.
  •  Unsure of where to start when it comes to creating a paid social media strategy? We offer five steps you can take to tackle this challenge.
  • Identify metrics to track that demonstrate the value paid social media gives your company. The most important paid social metrics include reach, click through rate to your website, conversion rate, and cost per conversion.



I. Value of Organic and Paid Social Media

II. Top 3 Channels for Paid Social Media

III. Effectiveness of Organic and Paid Social Media

IV. B2B and B2C Paid Social Media Habits

V. Most Frequently Tracked Metrics for Paid Social Media

VI. Businesses that Don't Use Paid Social Media

VII. About the Survey 


The first part of this report explores the role of social media in the broader context of digital marketing. It was published in August 2016 and can be found here.


When it comes to social media marketing, marketers favor combining a paid and organic approach. In fact, a majority, 86%, not only share content on their company’s profile organically but also pay to distribute the content more widely to a carefully curated group of people.

Likelihood of using paid versus organic social - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

Paid and organic social media complement each other. It is rare for social media marketers at larger organizations to do one without the other.

  • 13% of social media marketers only do organic social media, and 1% only do paid.
  • A more popular strategy entails focusing on organic social media with some paid in the mix (39%) or dedicating resources to both organic and paid social media equally (35%).

Full breakdown - organic versus paid social media - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

What is the value of combining organic and paid social media? Organic and paid approaches to social media accomplish different objectives.


Organic and paid social media accomplish different goalsOrganic social media helps a company develop a relatable brand voice. The goal is to build a relationship and establish credibility with existing and potential customers through candid, personal interactions. “Organic social is very effective for nurturing engagement,” says Scott Rogerson, CEO, Community Elf.

A company may answer questions about its products or services, respond to criticism, or share customer feedback. However, the benefits of organic social media play out over the long term. Engaging with your audience and catching and maintaining their attention demands vigilance.

“It’s very difficult to garner the attention of your consumer unless you are a well-known, well-established brand. There’s a lot of competition, especially as more brands use paid forms of media.”
Aalap Shah, Co-founder, SoMe Connect

Paid social media aims to convert potential customers quickly by putting appealing content in front of a specially selected audience and encouraging them to take action.

A company that does not combine organic and paid social media risks losing potential customers. Why?

  • Organic social media establishes a company’s personality and in turn, improves or hinders its reputation.
  • Paid social media brings customers to a social media profile or website, which allows a company to demonstrate its credibility and show off its products and services.

“If a company runs a paid social media campaign, the first thing that may happen is someone will click on the company’s profile. If the company doesn’t have organic content on its Facebook page, then the customer can’t learn anything about the company’s character. They most likely won’t click through to the company’s website or download its content.”
Scott Rogerson, Community Elf

Tips for Social Media Marketers #1 - Clutch's SMM Survey 2016


Facebook has a clear lead as the social media channel of choice for implementing a paid strategy (66%). YouTube (34%) and Twitter (33%) fill out the top three, followed closely by LinkedIn (30%).

Top 3 social media channels for paid social - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

The social media channels that stand out as good options for paid social have robust targeting capabilities and significant user receptiveness to sponsored content.

Audience targeting allows you to identify and reach out to your ideal audience by homing in on people with the characteristics, behaviors, and demographics that would find your company’s products and services extremely appealing.

Receptiveness refers to users’ openness to receiving marketing messages on a particular platform.

“On some websites, I’m very dismayed if there are ads assaulting me, but on other sites, I absolutely expect that. I think Facebook has done an admirable job of changing users’ perceptions about ads. … Part of it is how well Facebook manages to control what ads look like. For example, discouraging too much text in an ad or having ads appear in the Newsfeed, instead of in the sidebar.”
Steve Pearson, CEO Friendemic

For example, if you’re sharing a business message from a study or eBook, LinkedIn’s sponsored content or display ads may be a better option than Facebook, despite its robust targeting features and large audience.

“People spend time on Facebook looking at pictures of their grandkids and interacting with friends and family. They don’t want to see work brought into this social network, as other networks, such as LinkedIn or Twitter may be perfect for thought leadership around their professional lives.”
Scott Rogerson, Community Elf


Although the majority of social media marketers surveyed use both organic and paid social media, nearly 60% say their paid efforts are more effective.

Effectiveness paid versus organic social media - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

What influences perceptions of paid social media's effectiveness?Perceptions of paid social media’s effectiveness are a result of the measurable benefits a company accrues from their paid efforts in the short term. Conversions, click-through rates to a website, and sales are easier to track and measure than the longer-term relationship-building tactics of organic social media. 

Paid social campaigns also allow users to target specific people based on demographics, online behavior, and interests. For example, Facebook allows users to create a custom audience from an existing customer list. Another option is to use the Lookalike Audience feature, which allows you to target new customers who are similar to your existing customers.


Do B2B or B2C companies use social media differently? Data shows that B2B and B2C preferences for paid versus organic social media do not differ. For both, 43% say they use organic and paid social media equally.

However, how and why they use paid social media varies.

B2C companies are more likely to emphasize brand awareness. They want people to visit their website and become familiar with their products. To accomplish this goal, B2C companies tend to focus on personalization.

“I see paid social media becoming a way for B2C companies to capture the micro-moments of our lives. There will be more contextualized personalization. For example, if you’re heading to the beach and glance at Facebook on your way, you may see an ad for sun protective clothing.”
Aalap Shah, SoMe Connect

B2B companies are more likely to emphasize lead generation – collecting information about potential customers by getting them to download an eBook or report.

The buyer’s journey for B2B companies usually lasts longer than B2C. While B2C may offer discounts, promotions, and sales to encourage people to make a purchase, B2B may create content that presents a solution to a problem and encourages people to share their contact information to access the answer.

“If you give your contact information to a B2B company, they will be able to continue to share relevant and engaging content in a way that establishes trust. By the time the company contacts a potential customer to make a sale, the individual already is familiar with the brand and knows it can provide really good information.”
Scott Rogerson, Community Elf

Tips for social media marketers #2 - Clutch's SMM Survey 2016


When it comes to measuring and reporting the success of their paid social efforts, social media marketers pay the most attention to audience growth (27%), clicks to website (19%), and engagement in the form of likes, shares, and mentions (17%). 

Most important metrics for paid social media - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing

Audience growth and engagement – two of the top three most frequently tracked metrics – focus on post vanity. This means the metrics track the amount of effort a social media marketer puts into the post, not how much the post benefits the company – meets its pre-determined social media goals.

“Audience growth is a poor way to evaluate the effectiveness of your social media strategy, whether paid or organic. … With Facebook’s algorithm change in April 2015, even if 100 people like your profile page and follow you, it does not mean that those 100 people will see everything you post.”
Scott Rogerson, Community Elf

Tips for Social Media Marketers #3 - Clutch's SMM Survey 2016


Despite paid social media’s perceived effectiveness in the enterprise market, 13% of companies surveyed do not do paid social. Notably, a quarter say they plan to dabble in paid social in the future. However, more than a third say they are unlikely to start paying for social media at all.

Future plans to use paid social media - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

The finding is especially concerning in light of popular social media channels’ recent algorithm changes that prioritize paid posts and decrease organic reach.

Leaders in the social media marketing field who talked to Clutch about the survey findings expressed dismay that not all larger businesses are investing at least some resources in paid social media marketing. See what they had to say:


Sean Standberry, CEO, LYFE MarketingSean Standberry, CEO, LYFE Marketing

“Every company is suited for a paid social strategy. If you aren’t using paid social media tactics, then your social media presence will most likely be ineffective. Organic reach is decreasing every day as social media platforms are being monetized.”


Steve Pearson, CEO, FriendemicSteve Pearson, Friendemic

“A better solution for not being able to do paid social media is not to do any social media. Doing organic social with zero paid is a very inefficient use of resources. … You’re paying a lot to produce the content, but very few people are seeing it.”


Aalap Shah, Co-founder, SoMe ConnectAalap Shah, SoMe Connect

“I feel strongly that without paid media, growth will be slow, and at some point, the company will be frustrated with their social media efforts.”



The survey included 304 respondents who are either ‘extremely involved’ or ‘somewhat involved’ in their company’s social media marketing. 80% were manager level or higher.

Respondents worked at companies with more than 100 employees, with 62% representing companies with over 500 employees. 71% worked at B2C companies, while 29% worked at B2B companies. 

The data was collected throughout April 2016.

B2B-B2C Breakdown - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

Company Size - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

Job Title - Clutch's 2016 Social Media Marketing Survey

Published September 1, 2016

Have feedback or questions about this survey? Reach out to Sarah Patrick at [email protected]

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