The social media landscape has changed a LOT in the last decade. It’s amazing to think that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and all the other social media networks are less than fifteen years old. It seems like they are such an integral part of everyday life that it’s hard to imagine a world without them.
If things are changing so rapidly (we look back at MySpace as being ancient and outdated, but it was dominant until 2008, just 13 years ago) then how are we supposed to make an organic social media strategy that faces the future? Do we even need one?
The answer is that yes, we need an organic social media strategy, and creating one that will last is difficult–but possible. And it’s important.
Why Do You Want An Organic Social Media Strategy?
So why do we want an organic social media strategy in the first place? It seems so much harder than just paying for ads on Instagram and Facebook. Doesn’t a paid social media strategy make the most sense in today’s climate?
No. Organic social media is needed now more than ever–especially because paid social media is becoming bigger. There are benefits that come from organic that can never come from paid, and it all boils down to “How Much Do People Trust You?” vs. “How Much Do People Trust An Ad?”
Organic Social Media Makes Your Brand The Authority
When you are establishing your company online, you are making a statement about who you are and what you do. Remember the definition of a brand is the sum total of the perception of all interactions that a customer has with you. A brand isn’t just your logo or your mission statement or your packaging. A brand also includes your customer service interactions. It includes your product experience. Every single thing that your customer gets from interacting with you, add it up and that’s your brand.
If you want your brand to be an authority, then people need to see you–the real you. Think about a restaurant: the advertising about the food is one thing, but the experience of sitting in the restaurant and eating it is where it really counts. The same thing is true of paid media versus organic social media. People trust their genuine experiences with you more than they trust the advertisements you put out.
Organic Social Media Plays the Long Game
It’s true that an organic message on social media does not always have the immediate sales impact that a paid ad does. Social networks purposely put paid ads in front of people more often to try to get them to convert faster. But when you use organic social media you are playing the long game: you’re creating an online persona and building a relationship of trust with your consumer.
If you’re selling your services as a coach or speaker, an advertisement might tell customers what your current rates are, but it won’t tell people what kind of person you are. Not really. It won’t tell people what they can expect from you–but longtime followers of you will know you by your actions and reactions on social media, and they’ll know if you’re the right person for them.
It’s also a long game because the longer you have a social media account, the more research a consumer can do into who you are. If someone is looking at your services on Instagram and they see a paid ad or an organic account, one of those things will have a backlog of posts that the person can look at and better help inform their decision.
Remember: the best time to start an organic social media presence is ten years ago. The second best time is right now.
Organic Social Media Helps Customer Engagement
The kind of engagement that you get from a paid ad is: someone either clicks on it or they don’t. But when you have an organic social media presence, people can interact with you. You can post questions and get answers. They can post questions and you can respond. They can bring up concerns and you can reassure them.
Basically, an organic social media presence is a lifeline that tethers your customer to you. It gives you–and them–a voice to help resolve problems and provide better service.
Organic Social Media Is Less Expensive
It should go without saying that an organic social media strategy is important because, of all things, it’s free. Not making use of a free tool for engaging with customers is like leaving money on the table. Yes, there are definitely times to use paid media, but you should definitely make use of an organic social media presence as much as you can.
Why Is An Organic Social Media Strategy Difficult?
If an organic social media strategy is so important then what is stopping you from using it? Odds are, it’s one of the following things.
There’s More Competition Than Ever Before
3.3 billion people use Facebook. Yes, that’s BILLION. Half the world. And nearly every business uses Facebook. It can seem like it’s easy to get lost in such a giant swath of people and businesses. But you shouldn’t look at the huge number of users as something to be intimidated by–don’t think of it as competition. Think of it as an opportunity. That’s 3.3 billion people who might be your customers!
It’s Hard to Chase the Algorithm
In social media, there’s always an algorithm–the calculations that decide who sees what. If your post doesn’t meet what the algorithm wants, then people aren’t going to see that post. And the hard thing is that it’s hard to know what the algorithm wants. According to Mark Zuckerberg there might be as many as 10,000 different versions of Facebook running at any given time because they’re always changing the algorithm to optimize results.
Yes, it can be hard to chase the algorithm. But the truth is that while it’s impossible to always be perfectly in line with the algorithm it doesn’t mean that there aren’t best practices that you can follow to be seen more frequently.
Just think of the algorithm like a target you’re aiming at: you can’t control the wind, but you can control your shooting technique.
Social Media Networks Prefer For You To Pay Them
Speaking of the algorithm, social networks WANT you to pay them. They’re going to do everything they can to get you to give them money, which means that paid media is always going to grease the wheels and get you more immediate views, likes, and clicks.
But just because paid greases the wheels doesn’t mean that organic can’t be effective. We’re going to talk about creating an organic social media strategy in the next section.
How Do You Create an Organic Social Media Strategy?
Choose Your Platforms and Be Consistent Across Them
There are a lot of social media platforms, but you don’t necessarily have to be on all of them. If your target is primarily men, then you should know that 90% of Pinterest users are female–maybe it’s not the best choice for your business. If your consumers are older, then maybe you don’t need to be on SnapChat.
Once you decide on which social media platforms you want to be one–and remember that you can always add more if you want to–you need to be consistent in tone across all of them. Remember what we said right at the beginning: a brand is the sum total of all interactions that your customer has with you. So if you’re using one persona on Facebook and a different persona on Twitter, it can be harder for customers to understand you. And if it’s harder to understand you, they’ll be less likely to pay for your services. Choose your platforms, and be consistent.
Show Your Personality
If you’re not on Twitter, you might not think much about the personality of Wendy’s (the fast food chain) or Heathrow (the airport). But if you follow them on Twitter, you know that they very definitely have strong personalities. People follow Heathrow even if they’ve never been to London. People follow Wendy’s just for the snappy zingers.
When you’re on social media, that’s the time to show your personality. That’s what sets you apart from the rest. And if this is true for fast food and airports, think of how much more important it is for service-based professionals: coaches, authors, speakers, consultants, and experts. All of you are trying to convey your voice, and social media is the place where you can let your colors show.
When you have a strong personality–whatever persona you use, whether you decide to be funny and casual or informative and intelligent or posh and erudite–you are adding to that brand image that customers have in their heads. That’s what you want.
Make Engaging Content
Your content should be engaging, and by that we mean that your content should get people to do something. It should ask questions. It should answer questions. It should provide information that is needed at the time it’s most wanted. In other words, you need to make yourself valuable to people.
Some people on social media are followed just because of the power of their persona: they may always have a joke or an insight that makes people want to follow.
But other people on social media are followed because of the quality of content that they produce: articles and infographics and blogs and videos. But the best people on social media do both: they combine personality with content and provide interesting things in an engaging way.
The world has changed in the last ten years, and the last five years, and the last twelve months. But with every change, social media is getting more and more visual. When Twitter was launched, you could only post text, but now every other post is an image or a video. YouTube is the second-most visited website on the internet, just behind Google, and it’s because video is SO IMPORTANT.
Don’t be afraid to go visual with any and all of your posts. Across any social network, people are more likely to click on posts that have visuals than posts that are just text.
Put yourself on the screen!
Use a Social Media Calendar
Just because we’ve been talking about how social media is personal and how you need to be engaging doesn’t mean that you can’t plan things out in advance. Yes, you should always be willing to engage with a customer (or potential customer) if they ask a question, or if you have a valuable insight that they can use right now. But you can also plan that you’re going to tell a certain story, or use a certain joke tomorrow or the next day or the next week.
Some of the most valuable posts on social media are stories–humans love stories. So if you have a story that goes well with Mothers Day or autumn or Halloween or football, then save those stories on a social media calendar so they’re ready to go when you need them.
Remember: just because you’re being social doesn’t mean you have to be spontaneous. Some of the best social media is planned in advance.
Use Influencers and Microinfluencers
When we think of influencers we tend to think of the really big names like Kylie Jenner or Selena Gomez, and those people get paid A LOT to promote a product or a service. We’re talking millions of dollars for a single Instagram post. But you may have people you know who are influential to your target market. Maybe they’re former customers–people who have worked with you who will be willing to give you an endorsement. Don’t be afraid to ask!
And don’t be afraid of the concept of microinfluencers. Just because someone only has 3,000 followers on Twitter doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful to you. Microinfluencers change peoples’ buying habits every day in all sorts of industries. Think about the products you buy or the books you read–there’s a good chance that someone tipped you off to how good those things were. These are microinfluencers.
Remember: you don’t need Oprah to shout your name. You just need word-of-mouth to spread.
Yes, there are obstacles to overcome when you’re choosing to use organic social media strategy. Yes, it is a long game and it won’t necessarily yield immediate results the same way that a paid ad might. But if you do it right, then the power of organic content will be more influential than any paid advertisement would.
Having an organic social media presence is all about having a consistent personality that engages with customers in a way that is valuable to them. Yes, that may take some work to achieve, but it’s really all there is to it!