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Organic social is dying, so now what?

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Organic social is dying, so now what?


Is it no longer possible to ‘game the system’ when it comes to social media? We Are Social’s Suzie Shaw looks at the organic social game, and how to win.

In the early days of social media, many brands and businesses were built off the back of organic social reach. Sadly, those heady days of ‘free advertising’ are behind us.

In the last 18 months alone, research done by We Are Social showed average organic reach and engagement on Facebook and Instagram declined by 40 percent. This decline highlights the imperative of paid social media to reach a brand’s intended audience.

Additionally, the cost of paid social media has been steadily climbing over the same period. It’s worth noting that, pound for pound, paid social media is still the most efficient mainstream advertising channel. It beats all other sizable paid media channels in terms of CPMs.

With organic social dying, what are other strategies? 

But beyond investing in paid media, are there any other strategies for maximising the impact of social media in this evolving landscape?

There’s no silver bullet. However, there’s a few tactics that can be employed to outwit the black box that is the social media algorithm.

If a brand hasn’t already it should consider establishing a presence on TikTok. While Facebook remains the largest social platform in Australia, TikTok is experiencing the most rapid growth. Globally, it commands almost as much attention as Facebook and Instagram combined. The average user spends over 25 hours per month on the app. In Australia, TikTok is reported to have 7.4M users over 18 years old. In other words, 37 percent of the adult population uses TikTok monthly. It’s the most-used social media platform for more than 32 percent of 16 – 64-year-olds. Originally attracting a younger audience for its dance and lip sync content, it rapidly evolved into a hugely diverse platform. The content caters to many interests and niches.

TikTok still delivers strong organic reach, but if you’ve got a budget it’s also proving to be one of the most efficient channels in terms of paid spend. One sizable caveat is that TikTok is unlike any other social channel, and brands need content strategies designed specifically for the platform for success. Ensure you understand the audience and the landscape before diving in. If you don’t, your content may be met with a chorus of crickets.

Partnering with influencers

Brands can still really benefit from partnering with influencers. In the last ten years, tens of thousands of influencers have popped up and amassed large followings. This shift has seriously challenged mainstream publishers for attention and engagement. Influencers are more diverse and innovative than legacy publishers. Influencers are commanding the attention of a new generation of media consumers. As a result, they tend to outperform brand channels in terms of reach and engagement. With like-for-like content, influencers tend to achieve lower CPMs for content distribution and an average of 5X engagement. Obviously influencers come at a cost. These partnerships need to be curated carefully to ensure strong brand alignment. However, a well-executed influencer partnership is hugely effective.

Optimise social formats

Next up: optimising the use of social formats. Social media platforms are continually tweaking the algorithm in order to optimise the rates of daily active usage and time spent on platform. These platforms have one of the richest sources of data on the internet and are continually mining it for insight. 

Right now, video and albums, or carousels, are outperforming single static images as these mediums encourage users to watch or scroll through a post. This will continue to evolve. Marketers need to keep an eye on analytics to track performance by post format.

Knowing when to post

Possibly the paramount and perennially successful approach is being mindful not to spam your audience with advertising. Unless you’re a fashion brand whose audience is happy to scroll through the equivalent of a fashion magazine on Instagram, brands are advised to think about how to add value to the audience’s feeds. If you want organic reach and engagement, you need to work for it. Give the audience something they are willing to pay for with their attention. It can be done through utility, entertainment or education, or a combination thereof. Adding value through editorial content targeted to audience interest can achieve stronger reach and engagement. But it needs to be approached as if you are a publisher. Generate new stories, and make sure they’re well told. 

Community engagement

Finally, it’s still worth leaning into community engagement. This is about going beyond ‘customer service’, and looking for ways to truly engage with those that do follow and speak to brands on social. Too often, brands relegate this to the most junior of team members and fail to see the opportunity in having a meaningful conversation, one which can also be overheard by other users. US fast-food giant, Wendy’s, aren’t legends on Twitter due to the quality of a burger – it’s because the replies are always entertaining and genuinely shareable. Brands would be wise to see these interactions as ‘brand experience’ moments and aim to always exceed expectations. This is what will earn brand love, and on occasion, reach and engagement too.

When it comes to making progress against the constantly shifting sands of brand social media, the motorboat of paid media will generally provide the best results. However, with a bit of effort and attention to the strategies listed above, you’ll find you can still make headway with little outlay.


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