It’s not us, organic social media, it’s you.
We’ve offered organic social media support since the early days of our agency. It has been a foundational digital marketing tactic for ages, so much so that what we’re about to suggest might seem blasphemous.
It’s time to break up with organic social.
Here’s why we won’t be investing as much time and energy into organic social media. (Though we do plan to stay friends.)
MORE CONTENT, LESS REACH
Social media (or at least a form of it that’s recognizable to us today) first came about in the early 2000s. By 2011, approximately 83% of Fortune 500 companies were using some form of social media for marketing. It’s estimated that over 90% of all U.S. businesses leverage social media marketing today.
Adoption of social media as a marketing tactic has been fast and relatively complete. It’s a no-brainer. It’s not only an easy way to reach a lot of people (worldwide social media usership is projected to increase to almost 3.1 billion in 2021), but it’s also a relatively affordable way to do so.
However, recent shifts in the way social networks handle business content have fundamentally changed things for social media marketing.
As worldwide use of social media has increased among both consumers and businesses, a big problem has arisen: How do social networks serve all of the content that’s being shared? At first, timelines were chronological. You saw posts from friends and businesses you followed in order of when they were posted. Now, social network algorithms have to sort through the glut of content, choosing to show you what they’ve been programmed to believe is most relevant (based on certain ranking signals).
Long story short, social networks have been working to improve user experience and increase privacy, which has meant that algorithms now serve us less public content by businesses, brands, and media. The reach of organic marketing messages has been throttled (to different extents depending on the platform) to make way for more content from friends and family. On Facebook, brands can reasonably expect their posts to be seen by as little as five percent of their audience—or even less for bigger brands.
That’s why our social media marketing strategy, and that of many other businesses, has been shifting away from organic posting.
PAY TO PLAY
We don’t want to suggest that good organic reach is no longer possible. But content has to be out-of-this-world relevant and engaging to go the distance on its own. If you can’t count on that happening often enough to provide ROI, you’ve got to increase reach in another way: Pay for it.
Businesses can break through the algorithmic strangulation by paying for social ads. Thankfully, social advertising can be quite affordable, as low as a few cents or a fraction of a cent per click or impression.
This is why we’re done managing organic campaigns for our clients. The ROI simply isn’t there for us to outline, write, design graphics for, and then schedule or send organic posts for clients—especially when compared to the ROI of social ads. We want to help our clients get the most bang for their buck, and paying us to manage organic social just isn’t the way to make that happen. By pivoting their spend with us to social advertising, search engine marketing (SEM), and other tactics, we can help them achieve so much more.
We still believe it’s worthwhile for most businesses to keep posting organically, and we’re happy to continuing advising our clients on strategy for organic posting. But we’ll make sure any organic is intentional—and coupled with a paid strategy.
NO, ORGANIC SOCIAL ISN’T “DEAD”
People have been saying that organic social is “dead,” or at least that it’s in its death throes, for years now. We don’t think that’s true. Sure, direct ROI might not be there, but there are still indirect benefits of social media. It’s a great avenue for customer service, it can positively impact search engine rankings, it shows those who visit your profiles that your business is active, and it’s a great way to showcase your organization’s personality. Plus, other “unpaid” social tactics, like Facebook Groups, are growing as social marketing techniques. (Check out this article from Hootsuite for ideas on how to improve organic and overall social performance.)
All of this is to say that we’ll still be shooting out organic posts from time to time. We’re just not banking on organic to move the conversions needle.
One of the fun—or maddening—aspects of digital marketing is how often things change. While watching reach, engagement, and other organic social metrics plummet over the years has been frustrating, we actually see this change as positive. Social networks are doing better by people, learning what we want and acting upon it (although they’ve certainly got a long way to go). We appreciate that the focus is returning to connection over content. But that means businesses and marketing pros have to do better. We need to stay sharp on the ever-changing social media landscape, measure more than ever to ensure ROI, and not be afraid to ditch the tactics that aren’t working.
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