For Brands, Organic Social is Dead

Overly dramatic header image — check!

Someone reading this right now is just about into the second shake of their head at my audacious title. Reader, I salute you. Everyone else, bear with me. And if you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, jump to the end for the tl;dr.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on organic social metrics as long as I have, you’ll have noticed a definite downward trend across the major social networks. Yes, there was a time where you could post to your Facebook Page and get solid engagement with minimal effort. Alas, those days are long over. But! Organic social still has its uses, as I will explain.

Where we started

I want to say the decline picked up speed circa 2012 and has since settled to a place where, frankly, posting organically is not worth the effort unless you have millions of genuine followers. And, even then, most of your posts are going to have virtually no impact on whatever your KPIs are.

Today, if you want to see solid impressions, engagements, or drive meaningful amounts of traffic, you need to use paid social. This is not an accident. Social networks need to earn profits so they can research self-driving cars and monetize Mars, so they started de-emphasizing the visibility of your brand posts follower’s feeds and started encouraging them to pay.

And, dear reader, it is difficult to argue with the results. With the right content and the right targeting, the price of a Pumpkin Spice Latte will get your ad in front of tens of thousands of people on Twitter. Facebook will help you reach thousands. And LinkedIn maybe three, but boy will those people be happy to see you. My point is, you will not see those kinds of results on your organic posts. You won’t. The only way it’s possible is if your post goes viral.

How many of your posts have gone viral? (I examine what it takes to get this level of effectiveness in this post, BTW.)

Where we are

So, back to the title. Organic posts are ineffective for driving meaningful metrics. But they do still serve a purpose. Here’s a few ways how:

  • Meaningful conversation. Social networks are about socializing. If you aren’t talking with your followers or engaging in their conversations, what are you even doing? Conversation can uncover opportunities and even expose your brand to entirely new followers. And, don’t tell anyone, but they’re often fun.
  • Influencer engagement. Did you know that social media has a secret power PR people crave? Yep! See, PR people work hard to cultivate meaningful relationships with influencers. And it takes time, effort, and patience to pull off. But on social media? Just jump into an influencer’s posts and hit reply. You’ll be surprised how often they’ll start chatting. Often the novelty of just talking with a brand is enough to get a good back and forth going. Also, see point #1 — it’s often fun. Just, you know, be careful what you say.

Outside of conversations, your organic posts should be sparkling whenever possible

  • They are golden during events. During a trade show (virtual or otherwise, but preferably otherwise), sporting event, or other significant time where a lot of people in your audience are focused on one thing, organic social posts still drive the kind of numbers they used to a decade ago. You can’t just post any old thing, but you’ll find that you can spend less, or not much at all, and still come away with good results.
  • Customer support. If you are customer facing you are hopefully responding to customers who need help and proactively looking for the ones who haven’t thought to tag you. But there’s value, too, in posting educational information organically for people to stumble across if they are researching their problem. You can also link a customer to an older educational post if it’s relevant, hopefully solving their issue on the spot.

tl;dr: The most important use for organic posts

A beloved manager once told me, “If your posts aren’t worthy of going viral, they never will.” You should live by this maxim, dear reader. Outside of conversations, your posts should be sparkling whenever possible to both maximize their effectiveness when they’re used as ads but also to create the possibility that a post will go viral, mildly or overwhelmingly.

Remember, you’re promoting a brand. People pour their blood, sweat, and tears into this (and lots of sweet investor dollars). So if you’re going to create a social media post, put your best effort into it. Just don’t expect it will get the job done without a little extra help from uncle dollar.

A digital marketer