In 2007, Facebook launched this fancy new thing called “Pages” and there was finally a place where your brand could live out its days and directly interact with the people who love it.
It was great – you could share simple updates, your followers would see them, like them, comment on them, share them. You were the most popular brand in all the land. You had more followers than anyone else and you were killing the Facebook game. It was the golden era for brands on social media, and other platforms were quick to follow suit and provide special, new spaces for businesses to flourish. It was a beautiful, organic-driven paradise.
Fast-forward to 2012 – something changed. All of a sudden, this beautiful medium with all of its avenues to reach your followers changed the way the News Feed was organized. This meant that the number of likes you have on [insert social media channel here] no longer mattered. How can I possibly say that? You’ve got thousands of followers on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc., and I have the audacity to tell you that they don’t matter? Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that your list of followers keeps growing – there’s some immediate validation there. But the truth is, the work to get your message to that audience doesn’t stop at the “Like” or “Follow” button anymore.
Did you know that only a fraction of your page’s followers are actually organically exposed to your content? A February 2014 study found that general, organic reach for brand pages sat around six percent. For larger pages with more than 500,000 likes, organic reach was as low as two percent. In English, this means that if you’re not putting your money where your content is, you are only reaching between two and six percent of your current followers. That information is Facebook-specific, but we all know Twitter and Instagram have made the move toward more algorithmic-style newsfeeds versus real-time updates. The “organic reach is dying” alarms should be ringing every time you hear the word “algorithm.”
Remember that conversation we had back in July about the new Facebook algorithm? Facebook (and all other platforms) are building arenas in which brands need to pay to play. They favor content shared by a user’s friend over content shared by brands and publishers.
Now, before you abandon social media altogether, think about this: From travel, to investments, to over-the-counter drugs, a recent study found that 40-50 percent of audiences look to social media for recommendations. That means that people are relying on social media to inform purchasing decisions more than ever before. At the same time, it’s never been more difficult to get your brand updates in front of your followers. Research firm Gartner did not mince words in October 2016 with the statement, “Sustained success in social marketing now requires paid advertising.”
So, now that I’ve dropped this steaming pile of bad news on your screen, what are you supposed to do?
Scenario 1: Put your money where your mouth is.
“Your money,” in this analogy, being your literal money, and “your mouth” being whichever channel you want to be relevant on. I’m not going to dive too deep into this, but work with your social media strategist(s) to decide where your advertising dollars make the most sense on social and put some budget behind it. If you don’t have a social media strategist, get one. Need a recommendation? I know a guy – fair warning, it’s PadillaCRT.
Scenario 2: You don’t have any money? Time to find a different mouth.
If you’re not in a place to put some money behind your social strategy, there are two other options. If the premise of successful organic reach is having people sharing your posts, as opposed to just sharing information on your brand page, it’s time to look at two groups of people:
First, employees. Preface: It is not cool to require your people to like/share/push your content on their personal social channels. What is cool is taking a look at your content and getting some input from your employees on why they do or don’t share, or what they would or wouldn’t share. Take the time to educate your teams during staff meetings or through your regular communication channels about why this is an important piece of your brand’s social strategy. Chances are, your employees don’t realize how their social practices could help boost its success.
Second, use your fans. If you’re not already keeping an eye on the conversation surrounding your brand, you need to start. Users are out there creating content with all of the same tools at their disposal that a brand could potentially use, share and create some buzz around. From searching your hashtags, to following and sharing posts from bloggers who are talking about you, to hilarious Twitter users that love your product – tap them, use them, get creative.
You have everything you need to build the social experience you want your users to have, so start building.