Why Organic Social Media Sharing Doesn’t Work

organicFor every 100,000 followers on Facebook, only 130 people will click on an organic post. With Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all focused on a paid social media model, paying for reach on specific posts almost always yields a better return on investment than organic social media posting. As Contently’s Shane Snow so eloquently argued earlier this year, “Social media is like meth. Meth’s great for a while, but over time it’s harder to get the results you once got.” You don’t have to be a Breaking Bad fan to know Snow has a point. Since social media appears to be a direct line to consumers, we’ve bestowed upon it a tremendous amount of perceived value. In reality, brands are stuck in an echo chamber talking to themselves. Organic social content sharing may not be completely dead, but it’s definitely on life support. Agencies need to move to a paid model of social media content promotion– or risk that their clients’ messages will never be heard.

Marketing experts have long-warned that social media is no panacea for a brand’s engagement woes. Despite the increase in snackable content (small snippets of branded material crafted by professional writers for quick consumer consumption), brand penetration on social media has plummeted. According to Forrester Research, organic Facebook reach is 2.6 percent, with only 0.7 percent of fans actually interacting with a post. This stat should be a serious wake-up call for agencies. It means that if your client’s brand has 100,000 followers, you can expect roughly 2,600 to casually glance at your client’s posting as they scroll through their newsfeed. And only 700 will actually read the post. It’s safe to say that making Facebook the center of your client’s social media efforts is a waste. And it’s not just Facebook; Twitter and LinkedIn (while boasting slightly higher visibility rates of 20%), aren’t exactly hitting it out of the park, either.

Social media should not be the center of relationship marketing.

Organic social media reach is too limited to make a difference for brands. This is partly our own fault. As agencies pushed brands to get active on social media, we diluted our own audience: more voices equal more noise. Organic social media is also time intensive, demanding consistent posting, fresh material, and clever hooks to even grab a follower’s attention for a five-second span. Social media sites themselves are working against us: sites like Facebook make money when businesses pay them for sponsored posts and promoted content, so their content algorithms are naturally pushing businesses in this direction. Is it worth paying for sponsored content and clicks? In a word: yes.

Let’s take a look at Facebook again. Clicks cost, on average, $0.50 to $0.60. That’s not cheap, but they pay for themselves. Returning to Snow’s earlier analysis, he found that spending just $100 on Facebook at $0.20 a click yields 500 readers and 25 new email subscribers, who all paid for themselves eight times over within a year. And yet brands continue to mistakenly believe that organic outreach should be the centerpiece of their social media efforts. They’re not entirely wrong: organic social media does drive traffic– but this traffic arrives at a company website from peer-to-peer sharing, not from brand-to-follower sharing.

The bottom line: if your client wants to build a genuine presence on social media, stop wasting their money on organic outreach and invest in a paid social media strategy. Building out a robust peer-to-peer sharing strategy for your client’s employees (rather than the company page) won’t hurt either.

erin mErin M loves adding stamps to her passport, photography, scuba diving, hiking, and cooking.


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