Is organic social media dead? (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tiktok)
The importance of social media to businesses in the modern world is paramount. If companies and brands want to stay competitive plus be able to much more easily reach new audiences and gain new customers, then social media is the way to go.
The power of social media cannot be understated. All the different platforms that exist today have helped companies engage with their customers on a more direct and personal level. And the proof is in the pudding, with nearly 80% of social media marketers reporting sales increases after using social media platforms to help with sales.
There has been a lot of discussion about the best way for companies to engage and reach their respective audiences. Unfortunately, the exact formula for the secret sauce of “killing it” on social media has yet to be found. However, social media marketers understand that there are a few metrics that are crucial to a good social media strategy. Let’s discuss one such metric – organic reach.
“Reach” is a common marketing term that refers to the total number of people who have come across a company’s content. It’s a powerful data point that is used across television, print, digital and social media marketing.
There are two types of “reach” when it comes to social media marketing – paid and unpaid. While paid reach typically relates to advertising on social media, “unpaid” reach refers to the number of unique people that see a piece of content without the need to fork out money. This is what marketers call “organic reach”.
Unlike paid content, organic posts can’t be targeted to specific audiences. The success of those posts is completely left to the respective algorithms of the social media platforms, which decide who sees them and when.
You may have heard the phrase “Organic social media is dead” said a lot in recent years, and it is correct – to an extent. Different social media run their own respective algorithms, with some a lot more complex than others. So, the state of organic reach is rather distinct across the different social media platforms.
Let’s take you through the top social media platforms and discuss the state of organic reach on each of them:
In a nutshell, everything that gets posted to Facebook is at the mercy of its algorithm, whether from a user or a brand’s Page. The algorithm scores every post automatically and then arranges the posts in descending order according to the perceived preferences of each user.
The most recent Facebook algorithm update touted “More meaningful social interactions with family and friends”. After facing scandal after scandal with regard to the Facebook Algorithm, it’s no surprise that the social platform is trying its best to steer itself away from any further embarrassment. But that comes at a cost to companies who want to connect with users on Facebook.
According to Hootsuite, the average organic post made by a Facebook Page only sees 0.07% engagement. That means that the power of organic reach on Facebook is, unfortunately for marketers, rather weak. The only way to bypass the power of the algorithm is to create paid advertisements, but even then, the success of those campaigns isn’t guaranteed.
After Instagram changed its feed from chronological to algorithmic, many users noticed a significant decline in their organic reach. Engagement rates for even the largest profiles had dropped, and no one had any idea why. Anything explanation that came from Instagram was vague, at best.
Unfortunately, that still seems to be the case today when it comes to organic reach on Instagram. Despite Instagram bringing back the highly-requested chronological feed earlier in 2022, the state of organic reach hasn’t gone back to what it used to be. Marketers looking to tackle organic reach on Instagram will need to go through a few rounds of trial and error before being able to bring a consistent, healthy organic reach to their posts.
Twitter allows its users a choice of how they want their timeline to look like – through “Top Tweets”, allowing Twitter’s algorithm to dictate which posts should be seen, or “Latest Tweets”, which lets users see Tweets in real-time. Unlike Instagram, Twitter never took away the option for their users to view the Tweets of those they follow in chronological order.
With that said, organic reach is definitely much easier to achieve on Twitter. But, at the same time, high numbers aren’t guaranteed. This is because, rather than being at the mercy of an algorithm, the content of all Twitter users is subject to both the platform’s algorithm and the wants, needs, likes and dislikes of its users.
This latest social media platform is famed for its “scarily accurate” algorithm. The algorithm is so precise that it’s able to feed its users the exact type of content that they enjoy, even from pages that they don’t follow. Organic reach on TikTok comes at a close second to that of Twitter.
TikTok’s average organic reach is reported to be a whopping 118%, which is leagues above Facebook’s. What has helped companies and content creators on the platform is TikTok’s focus on content creation rather than the social aspects of its platform.
The business-focused platform has changed its focus after noticing a great decline in monthly active users. Turns out that LinkedIn users were only using the platform as their online CV hub and would only become active when they were seeking new job opportunities. To combat this, LinkedIn started to put a deeper focus on user-generated content (UGC) to help keep people engaged on their platform for longer periods of time.
Organic reach is highly volatile on LinkedIn. It heavily depends on the number of connections one has and, if they have a “creator profile”, the number of followers. This, on top of the need to be precise with the times that content is posted alongside a dash of luck, too.
Virality is something that isn’t rewarded on the platform, unlike other social media. Once a person or company’s content hits a certain view count, the value of which is undisclosed, it will stop being shown on the timeline. At this point, the post needs to be manually reviewed by an editor on LinkedIn, and the post will only go back into circulation once it has been determined that the content is aligned with LinkedIn’s content guidelines.
Why organic reach is harder than ever
The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Social media platforms would tell us that their respective algorithms help separate the wheat from the chaff. According to them, organic reach is only possible for posts of quality, although the definition of “quality content” isn’t clear.
Social media users and marketers, on the other hand, would tell us that platforms now place a higher value on paid content above those that are organic. While it makes sense from a business perspective as to why that may be the case, we can never be too certain as to why organic reach has become harder than ever.
The best ways companies can combat it
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom for social media marketers and managers. There are a few solid, actionable ways that companies can take to achieve great organic reach numbers.
Here are seven ways companies can combat the rising difficulties of achieving organic reach:
1. Learn the best practices for each platform
The worst thing a company can do is take a “one size fits all” approach to its social media strategy. Each platform is unique, and it should be treated as such – especially when organic reach is the goal of a brand’s strategy.
With that said, every platform has its own best practices when it comes to creating organic content. For example, writing posts for Twitter is vastly different to writing captions on an Instagram post.
The best way to learn the best practices is to become familiar with the demographics of each platform. From there, decide which platforms make the most sense for your brand and then take the time to master them.
A rather modern discovery on social media is that it runs much like search engines. And, as such, your brand’s social media profile, as well as its content, needs to be optimised. Each and every aspect of a social media profile can be adjusted and optimised to gain maximum organic reach and visibility.
Here are some tactics used in search engine optimisation (SEO) that can be carried over to social media optimisation (SMO):
- Have an easy-to-remember username
- Use a recognisable photo or logo
- Write keyword-rich descriptions and captions in a natural way
- Add a trackable link to your company’s website to the profile page
3. Focus your efforts
After learning the best practices, a focus needs to be had on the right channels for your brand. The assumption may be that a company needs to be on every social media platform known to us today, but this is actually far from reality. Ask yourself this: Why dedicate time and resources to platforms that your audience isn’t even on?
Putting your energy into a select few social media platforms, optimising your profiles for them and creating content using each platform’s best practices is perhaps the best combination to obtaining the best organic reach on social media.
4. Post evergreen content
While it is important to post timely, relatable content, it is just as important to publish content that is evergreen. “Evergreen posts” are those without an expiration date; those that will always remain relevant and, therefore, shareable for months and years to follow.
In order for content to be considered evergreen, it needs to be highly engaging, and, regardless of your industry, these posts need to stand out. The best type of content for evergreen posts is those that are educational or funny. Evergreen posts are also best when they carry a positive message or tone.
5. Utilise targeting tools
“Targeting” and “organic reach” are two phrases that aren’t usually paired with each other. However, there are methods to target specific audiences without the need to spend a penny.
Organic targeting tactics differ from platform to platform, but one way to do this is by utilising the right hashtags on your company’s posts. Hashtag targeting is a system applicable to Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok. Facebook also has a hashtag system, but it isn’t as relevant as other platforms. Taking any opportunity to use each platform’s targeting tools will ensure that your organic content is seen by the right people.
6. Post the right content at the right time
Here is where social media managers and marketers need to pay attention to each unique aspect of the different social media platforms. Don’t expect a 10-minute video to do well on Twitter and you should expect a text-only post to work on a visuals-first platform like Instagram. Socialbakers has found that using the right type of content can do wonders for a page’s organic reach.
On the other hand, posting at the right time is also important to getting great organic reach numbers. The “right time” to post is hard to pin down, and it differs from audience to audience and platform to platform. Some posts have been found to do well during “peak hours”, while others do best during “down time”. This is why it’s crucial to pay attention to data and analytics to figure out when the best time to post is – and how often.
7. Cross-promote your brand’s profiles
It’s highly important to promote your own social media profiles across platforms. Adding social links to your company’s website, to your employees’ email signatures and anywhere that the business is being showcased is one way to do so.
Cross-promoting your brand’s social media profiles across your other channels is also key to getting your presence known. Every so often, promote your Instagram page on your Twitter or your Facebook to your TikTok. Sometimes your audience might not have followed you across the social media platforms that they use, so a little nudge once in a while would be extremely helpful in boosting organic reach.
Although it might be difficult to obtain organic reach on social media, it isn’t an impossible task. Learning and mastering the differences between social media platforms is the best way to achieve great organic reach numbers across them.