Boosted vs. Paid Social Ads: Exposing Their Differences and Strategic Applications

In social media marketing, "boosted posts" and "paid social ads" are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion. Understanding their differences and knowing when to use each can significantly impact your marketing strategy. This post will explore what paid social ads and boosted posts are, their respective advantages and disadvantages, and best practices for integrating them effectively.

What Are Paid Social Ads and Boosted Posts?

Paid Social Ads: These are advertisements created within a social platform’s ad management tool. They offer extensive control over your audience with detailed customization, comprehensive analytics, and various campaign objectives. Paid social ads can take many forms, such as document ads, instant forms, videos, and images, making them ideal for businesses looking to dive deeper into specific marketing strategies like retargeting, budget optimizations, and manual bidding.

Boosted Posts: Boosted posts are existing organic posts that you pay to promote to a larger audience. They still technically fall under the umbrella of paid ads. While simpler to set up than paid social ads, boosted posts offer limited control over audience targeting and ad placements. Typically, you can select a basic objective, set a budget, and choose the duration of the boost. Boosting is accessible to users with less detailed knowledge or experience in digital marketing.

Platforms Offering Paid Social Ads and Boosted Posts

Facebook and Instagram: Both platforms allow for boosting posts directly and creating detailed ad campaigns through Ads Manager.

LinkedIn: Offers the ability to boost posts and run comprehensive ad campaigns targeting specific professional demographics.

Twitter: Allows for promoted tweets (similar to boosting) and more targeted ad campaigns.

Pros and Cons of Boosting Posts


  • Ease of Use: Boosting a post is straightforward and can be done directly from the social platform's interface. You might have noticed platforms prompting you to boost a post with an estimated number of people who will see it.
  • Increased Reach: Boosting is ideal for extending the reach of high-performing organic posts.
  • Cost-Effective for Small Budgets: With flexible budget options, it’s accessible for smaller businesses or those testing new content.


  • Limited Targeting: Boosted posts generally offer fewer targeting options compared to paid ads. While you can choose basic audience parameters like demographics and interests, you can't use more advanced targeting features such as custom audiences or detailed behavior tracking.
  • Lower Conversion Rates: Boosted posts are less effective for driving sales or lead generation compared to more targeted paid ad campaigns. In fact, they don't offer advanced ad types like form fills, which are crucial for collecting leads directly within the platform. As mentioned above, with less control over targeting, the audience for boosted posts is broader and more random, leading to a higher likelihood of reaching users who may not be interested in your product or service​. 

[TIP] Test how boosting posts affects your organic content! Some marketers believe that frequent boosting may reduce organic engagement over time. When you boost a post, you're essentially signaling to the platform that you're willing to pay for engagement and increased visibility. As a result, the platform may reduce the organic reach of your future posts, pushing you to spend more on boosting to achieve similar engagement levels. This can create a cycle where organic engagement diminishes unless supported by paid boosts, leading to higher long-term costs for maintaining visibility and engagement.

Best Practices and When to Use Each 

Boosting Posts

Use Cases

Boosted posts are ideal for enhancing brand awareness and increasing engagement on already successful organic posts. They are also suitable for promoting time-sensitive content, as there tends to be a learning period when running paid social ads. For instance, on Meta, this learning period can take up to 14 days. Additionally, if you plan to utilize a matched audience list, this process can also take some time before you can run the ad, such as up to 48 hours on LinkedIn. Boosting is also effective for driving traffic to your profile and potentially gaining more followers. So if your goal isn’t to sell more, and growing your community as an extra layer to organic social media, go for boosting!

Best Practices

  • Boost High-Performing Posts: Avoid the trap of indiscriminately boosting posts that don’t perform well organically. Only leverage posts that are already doing well organically and uplift your brand. Check out this blog post written by our very own CEO, Wil Reynolds, where he mentions standing out in the sea of sameness in content marketing and SEO.
  • Set Clear Objectives: Define what you want to achieve—more page likes, increased website traffic, etc.
  • Monitor Performance: Keep an eye on the insights to gauge effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary.

[TIP] Seize the opportunity provided by platforms like LinkedIn, where companies can allocate advertising budget to organic posts that resonate with their objectives, regardless of whether they're authored by the company, employees of the company, or other contributors. For instance, if an employee with a strong LinkedIn presence is hosting a webinar and shares it on LinkedIn, you can boost that post with their approval using your company's advertising funds. This collaborative approach represents an effective strategy for extending reach to a broader audience, leveraging both individual and company resources in a unified marketing effort.

Are you a local business looking to leverage boosted posts on Instagram the right way? Learn more about best practices for businesses like yours in this blog post.

Paid Social Ads

Use Cases

Paid social ads are most effective for targeted campaigns with specific objectives such as conversions, lead generation, or sales. Rather than indiscriminately allocating a budget with boosted posts, leverage the success of high-performing organic posts by drawing inspiration from them. Crafting ads that resonate with your audience is key to maximizing their impact. Invest time in developing ads with all necessary creative sizes to ensure maximum visibility across various placements and platforms. Platforms like Meta streamline this process, automatically distributing budgets and optimizing ad placements across multiple platforms without manual intervention. Additionally, you can test different ad copy on top of placements, further enhancing your campaign's effectiveness.

Paid social ads are also well-suited for "evergreen" efforts. They excel in scenarios where continuous ad use is essential, providing consistent visibility and engagement over time. 

Best Practices

  • Campaign Objectives: Take advantage of the diverse range of campaign objectives available to you. Whether it's driving website traffic, app installs, video views, or engagement, selecting the right objective aligns your campaign with your specific goals and targets.
  • Ad Types: Explore the various ad formats and types available beyond boosted posts. From document ads to lead generation ads and message ads, each type offers unique capabilities that cater to different campaign objectives and audience preferences. Experimenting with these diverse ad types can unlock new opportunities for engagement and conversion that aren't achievable through boosting alone.
  • A/B Testing: Embrace experimentation by testing different ad creatives and copy variations. This allows you to identify what resonates best with your audience and refine your approach accordingly.
  • Optimize Continuously: Leverage analytics tools to track campaign performance closely. Use the data collected to refine your strategy in real-time, optimizing ad performance and maximizing ROI.

[TIP] Take advantage of AI-powered features within ad manager platforms to streamline testing and optimization processes. With dynamic ads in Meta, for example, you can utilize AI to test different variations and automatically optimize ad performance for better results with just a few clicks.

So, which is better?

Success in social media marketing hinges on strategic spending. While both boosted posts and paid social ads play vital roles, understanding where to allocate your resources is paramount for maximizing return on investment.

Boosted posts have the potential to extend the reach of high-performing content and drive engagement. However, they should not be viewed as a substitute for a comprehensive ad strategy. Investing in all-encompassing paid social ads, with their diverse range of features and capabilities, will yield the best results when leveraged effectively across platforms.

We’re here to help!

Navigating the complexities of boosted posts versus paid social ads can be challenging, but understanding their unique advantages and best use cases is crucial. Our skilled marketing team is here to help you optimize your strategy by balancing these elements effectively.

If you have any questions about Boosting or Paid Social Ads, ask the Seer team now!




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Amanda Miller
Amanda Miller
Associate, Paid Media