Why organic social content isn’t dead



Has Facebook killed organic marketing? The social network’s algorithm updates over the last couple of years have made it harder for branded content to be seen in people’s feeds, causing consternation among many marketers.

Some are frustrated at the idea of Facebook becoming just another ad network, where they need to pay to play. And, as Contently’s Shane Snow pointed out recently, paid messaging is becoming more cost effective than organic, making some marketers question whether they should invest time and effort into organic content at all.

But here’s the thing: Facebook and other social media sites are still valuable channels for creating communities, publishing content and driving advocacy. Facebook and its competitors may be pushing paid, but this doesn’t mean organic brand content should be cast aside. Instead, brands should change the way they approach social content. What it comes down to is designing the right strategy – where paid and organic activity work in harmony.

We feel too many people view organic and paid content on social as things that can’t work together. There’s a misconception that it’s one or the other.

Reach vs quality

Cynics will say that Facebook has made the changes in order to force brands to pay for something they once got for free. And there’s probably a sliver of truth hiding in there somewhere. Facebook, after all, is a business. And someone’s got to pay for the constant replenishment of Mark Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirts.

A year ago, the average organic post for a page with 500,000 likes was seen by 2% of the brand’s audience. And, according to a report by Adobe Systems, paid impressions have grown by 8% since the first quarter of 2015, while organic impressions are down by 35%.

So, in some ways, it’s understandable why so many marketers are up in arms. But they seem more concerned about the size of the audience they can reach, than the quality and purpose of their content.

Putting ad spend behind social content is a great way of building brand awareness, but not every message needs to do this. And constantly driving awareness makes it seem like there’s no existing relationship with an audience. If you only want to use a social channel to drive awareness about your brand, then both your strategy and your messaging will be one dimensional. It’s like having a range of tools at your disposal, but reaching for the hammer every time you need to do a job.

The changes Facebook and other social media sites are making won’t sound the death knell for organic social. Instead, we’ll see content landfills reducing as brands and marketers are forced to rethink the content they’re producing, who it’s for and what they want it to do.

Audience first

Here, at Brilliant Noise, we use our own version of McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey model to map out customer-first strategies. When working with a brand, this allows us to understand which message needs to be used for any given audience, no matter where they are in the journey. Everything stems from a clear understanding of who the audience is, what their relationship with the brand is, and which channels we can use to reach them.

Having this knowledge of the audience taps into one of the main benefits of using paid on social media – audience targeting. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer various degrees of granularity when it comes to targeting audiences with paid messages. But brands need to know more about their audiences across all channels, not just social.

For example, we worked closely with Porsche to create detailed data-driven personas. These personas allowed us to understand how, when and why different audience segments consumed content – be it through the brand’s owned channels or through third-party publishers and influencers. Taking this approach means organic and paid content can form part of a customer-first strategy, with each having their own specific purpose to help reach the right person, at the right time, in the right context.

The end of content landfill

Facebook’s changes, by its own admission, are to give people the right mix of content in their feeds. Some marketers might not want to hear this, but Facebook and its audience don’t want feeds swamped with brand messages. The changes it has made will predominantly target overly promotional organic posts, posts that reuse the exact same content from ads, and posts that push people towards contextless promotions and sweepstakes. If this makes marketers change their ways, then good. They’re making bad content. They’re treating social content like one-way communication. They’re reaching into the toolbox and grabbing the hammer.

In reality, paid and organic need to be part of the same strategy – paid shouldn’t be a bolt on and should be part of the planning process. And to drive advocacy, it’s not a case of doing one or the other – it’s about having a strategy that puts the customer first and understands what kind of messaging they need, when they need it, where they need it, and why they need it.

Read more about this in our research on an always-on approach to social.

To find out more about how we design customer-first strategies that earn advocacy, email us at hello@brilliantnoise.com.