Why You Should DIY Organic Social (and Not Paid Social) in 2020
Since COVID-19 shook up the world in early 2020, High Level Marketing has been watching the digital marketing industry closely. One of the things we’ve been seeing is a stronger push for 3rd-party Organic social media management, where small businesses pay a company or individual a monthly fee to develop, post, and/or monitor Organic social media. Now, I’m not one to knock the product offering of other marketers (once upon a time, I was a Social Media Manager myself), but it’s important for small businesses to know what they’re buying, especially if that agency makes promises it can’t deliver.
If you're a small business owner that’s happy with the performance of your Organic social media management, keep reading. We’ll talk about calculating the true ROI of your Organic social.
If you’re the type that doesn’t mind rolling your sleeves up for a bit of DIY, Organic social media is something you should and can do.
Just know that in either scenario, paid social will take so much of your time that this is the one thing you should outsource to an agency. We’ll also talk about why that is.
What is Organic Social?
Organic Social for a brand is very similar to how we use social media for personal use; a business posts, for free, any content they like to their social media platform of choice to an audience that has elected to see their content. This is important to understand later because Organic social can only reach users who have liked/followed/subscribed to your social media channel.
Paid Social is a different story. As AdRoll defines it,
“Paid social refers to anything on social media that’s influenced by advertising dollars. In other words, advertisements or sponsored posts that brands pay a social network to display to audiences beyond their followers.”
Paid Social contains many tools that are unavailable to Organic Social, like defining an audience that you would like to see your post. Audiences are one of the most powerful parts of social platforms, as you can define cities, demographics, and interests to create a “secret sauce” that delivers your content to users who would most want to see it. And, unlike Organic Social, these users don’t yet know who you are.
The Declining Organic Social Footprint
Early in the life of social media, paid advertising didn’t exist. Platforms like Facebook relied entirely on organically generated user content. Competition for eyeballs of users was high, since everything, and I mean everything, appeared in a user’s feed. Facebook began to look at prioritizing social posts that algorithms estimated would be most interesting to each user, but also began to look more closely at how users interacted with brands and brand pages.
Mark Zuckerberg stated on this subject,
“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
The beginnings of limiting brand page visibility started with user feedback on what the brands were posting: sales-y, non-stop posts that were crowding out the content from friends and family. Because organic posts were the only game in town, brands couldn’t even target messaging to a specific audience, making the noise on social media louder.
In 2007, Facebook introduced Paid advertising which allowed brands, for the first time, to target users outside their immediate audience. This was initially a win for brands who could now target individuals that fit the service or product their company offered, but also a pain point for users with large and loyal followings: it was also around this time that Facebook seriously started to chip away at Organic Reach.
The Cost of Organic Reach
Organic reach is a measure of visibility, showing how many users saw and interacted with a post. According to Social Media Today, Facebook has reduced brand organic reach down to 6.4% on average.
6.4% of your total Facebook page audience will see your posts, on average.
This is where small businesses run into trouble when paying for 3rd parties to manage their organic social media presence. The math doesn’t work out when you factor in the monthly cost of social media management vs. how many users will even see, let alone engage with that hard work.
Example: Acme Co.
Let’s say we have a company called Acme Co. with 1,000 page followers that pays $400 per month for Social Media Management. If we use the average organic reach of 6.4%, 64 total users would see a single post.
64 total users would just see an organic post out of every 1,000 followers.
Now, according to research conducted by Iconosquare, engagement rates hover around 3.22%. Engagement rate is any action someone takes on your Facebook Page or one of your posts. The most common examples are likes, comments, and shares, but it can also include checking in to your location or tagging you in a post.
Out of 64 users for Acme Co. that would even see a post means that only about 2 people would interact in any way.
If you were to layer the cost of monthly social media management @$400 per month, Acme Co. is paying $200 per engagement.
It doesn’t take an expert marketer to know that $200 per like or comment is ludicrous.
Engagement is a fickle thing that is influenced heavily by the algorithms of social media. While the averages above are based in reality, Organic social can perform well if users find it interesting. The reality also is that 90+% of posts aren’t interesting.
There are tactics to combat this, but mathematically they don’t make sense for small businesses unless you can add one or two zeros to your follower count.
By our best mathematical guess, 5,000 followers should be the minimum to begin thinking about an agency managing your Organic social.
At this level, according to industry averages,
5,000 Followers =
320 Average Organic Reach
10.3 Average Organic Engagements per Post
So where’s the value in Organic Social?
There is a lot, actually. While the math is scary in the context of an agency, the numbers make a lot more sense when you don't add in the extra cost of management.
And there's a bigger, more important concept in Organic social besides Engagement: branding.
Brand identity is something that’s massively influential, especially during COVID-19. Marketing Land identified that,
“New consumer data from Survata makes a strong case for brand marketing and argues that trusted brands are winning during the pandemic. That survey and other evidence point to brand visibility being more important than ever — and that brands that continue to build awareness will emerge stronger.”
Marketing Land Article: Should You Go All-in on Brand Marketing Now?
What this means for small businesses is that brand messaging can start simply with a “Yes, we’re open.”
But it can and should extend to more authentic, human discussions that actually make the most of social platforms, well beyond the sales-y stuff mentioned earlier.
A real-world example of how genuine, human dialogue can make all the difference for a brand is Bad Brads BBQ. Full disclosure, they’re not a client of HLM, just a brand I personally follow and have enjoyed for nearly a decade:
The background is that this company was overrun with Mother’s Day orders and was unable to keep up with the volume of requests. Mistakes were made and the company owned up to it. They’re publicly asking to have discussions with their customer base.
If we were to use traditional measures like engagement to measure the social media response to this post? As of 5/12:
348 Reactions (Likes, etc)
And this cost the company zero dollars to post themselves.
DIY Your Organic Social Media
Doing well in Organic social is tricky, but it’s not impossible. The “trick” lies in being authentic, having a genuine connection (and conversation) with your audience. It’s not about posting often, it’s about making each time you do post meaningful. Things like meme posts from brands highlight how fleeting people are on social: while humor can increase the amount of users that interact with your post, they’re empty interactions, like laughing at a joke and directly moving on.
What truly sticks? Loyalty. And that’s earned.
We’ve seen social media blasting out messages that are ignoring the COVID crisis, pretending it’s “business as usual” when we all know that isn’t the case. For those of us sitting in our home offices, door closed, wailing children and a howling pomeranian in the next room, the idea of pretend-it’s-not-there-and-it-goes-away seems ridiculous.
For better or worse, we’re all here right now.
And No one, I repeat, No one can tell the story of your business better than you can right now.
So What About Paid Social?
Paid Social is one of those areas that’s tricker to manage in-house. For small businesses, the amount of time required to oversee a paid social campaign isn’t something the average owner can spare.
But that’s why there’s paid social agencies to manage that for you.
This is the place where budget is tied directly to your outcomes. Here, you can establish your budget and alter it midstream without a contract to get in the way (like with a 3rd party managing your Organic would).
Paid social management analyzes all the factors, from the messaging to the precise audience, to deliver the absolute best performance for your dollar. This is why a 3rd party is better suited to manage paid social: analysis takes time. Lots of it.
Audience is one of the most powerful parts of Paid Social. There is a wealth of targeting options, from locations to interests available, all of which can be layered to show ads only to the people most likely to need your services or products.
Need to target homeowners within a 10 mile radius of your business? Done. Need to target homeowners in only two cities that also like Minecraft and the color blue? You could do that too. Any audience outside of your immediate follower base is available to discover your brand and become a loyal follower.
With Paid Social, you’re not stuck with the audience you have; you get the audience you want.
Overall, Paid social can deliver a significant boost to your social presence and a necessary complement to any Organic social initiatives. We’d rather see an owner post themselves once a week and supplement that with Paid Social than to see small businesses get taken advantage of by 3rd party providers.
That’s why we only manage Paid Social campaigns at HLM; for small businesses, we actively support you becoming a DIY social media marketing expert.