The number of users viewing organic social media content – the posts that are shared for free to a feed – has dramatically plummeted in recent years. This has led to organic content for business marketing purposes being proclaimed ‘dead’, forcing marketers to abandon organic strategies in favour of paid social media advertising.
However, according to Ben Luff, Social Media Manager at integrated marketing agency PMW, organic social media marketing should still play an important role in any business’s social strategy. Ben explains how and why organic social media has changed in recent years.
“First thing’s first, it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is organic content isn’t dead – it’s just changed a lot,” said Ben. “It used to be about optimising organic content: researching hashtags and finding the best time in the day to post, based on when audiences were most active. Brands and social media marketers had no problems reaching a high proportion of their followers and getting plenty of engagement on free posts.”
In the past, everyone who followed a brand would receive that company’s posts on their feed. When these users interacted with a post (with likes, comments, and shares) the post would also be seen by their followers, allowing for a ripple effect of new people discovering a brand. These days, according to research carried out by social media management platform Hootsuite, a Facebook post will only reach 5.5% of a company’s followers – even less for brands that have a large number of followers.1 A dramatic decline from the early days of social media marketing.
What’s behind this change?
“Around 2015, the major social media platforms began using enhanced relevancy algorithms, which prioritise content from a user’s friends and family. This pushed brand content down, meaning companies saw their engagement statistics tank. If you’re not seeing results from your organic content, you can’t just keep posting the same things and hoping it will get better. You need to change your tactics.”
What can brands do to increase their social media reach?
“Two things,” says Ben. “Prioritise authenticity in organic content, and invest in paid advertising – don’t worry, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Although organic content often doesn’t get the reach it used to, it’s still important for businesses to keep their social media feeds up to date.
“An active social media page shows those who have just discovered a brand that the company is in business and cares about connecting with its customers. For small to medium businesses, posting two to three times a week is enough.”
What’s type of content businesses should post?
“Consumers value authenticity, so leave the sales pitch at the door. Showcase your brand’s personality, get your staff involved and provide value to your customers through informational videos, competitions, and entertaining challenges. When you share a post, platforms like Instagram will show it to a small test audience. The more engagement a post gets from the test audience, the more the algorithm will promote it, both to your brand’s followers, and to new audiences.
“Following the huge popularity of TikTok, the algorithms for other social media platforms have begun to follow suit and prioritise video content. A recent study by social media software company Emplifi found that businesses increased their organic reach on Facebook by an average of 135% just by posting a video instead of a photo.2 Make sure you take advantage of this.”
And, Ben says, businesses shouldn’t be reluctant to build their social media presence and gain momentum using paid social media advertising.
“Most social media marketers now include paid posts in every campaign they run. These ads can be highly targeted to any demographic, and are extremely effective. Advertised posts get pushed out to a wider audience than organic posts, and are great for reaching potential new customers, so they are an excellent tool for quickly building awareness of a brand among its target audience, as well as driving click-throughs to a brand’s website.
“It’s not necessary to spend a fortune. A little can go a long way, and because you can target any audience with laser accuracy, it can yield a very high return on your investment. In the current social media landscape, making this investment really does make sense.
“Ultimately, a great social media marketing strategy is authentic, uses video content to its advantage, and isn’t afraid to enlist the help of paid social media advertising to reach new audiences.”
1 Hootsuite Digital in 2020 study – https://www.hootsuite.com/resources/digital-2020?path=pages%2Fdigital-in-2019#accordion-148291
2 Emplifi study Native Facebook Videos Get More Reach Than Any Other Type of Post (emplifi.io)