Never Mind Reach -- Organic Social Media Vital To Understanding Customers

EMarketer recently released a report on organic social media with an article headlined: “Is Organic Social Media Marketing Still Relevant?” One quote caught my eye: “You might as well take your budget to the bank, cash it out in greenback $20s, pile it up in the parking lot, and light the money on fire.”  

This idea considers organic social media from only one angle: reach. But when assessed with a broader vision, organic social media is a rich opportunity to learn more about your customers and what they want.

Today, most brands are bringing a variety of goals to social media and content marketing: from listening and research to marketing and engagement to sales and CRM. These different lenses do not fixate on reach. And whether the ultimate aim is better insights, increased loyalty, or bigger share of voice or wallet, the indicators of success are unique every time. The solitary fixation should be to put audiences first.

The conversation around organic social media continues to evolve. Four years ago, marketers were seldom as motivated as they seem today to understand audiences or to consider what to measure.



Increasingly, organic social insights are harnessed to potent effect. Notwithstanding what this means to colleagues in integrated teams, or even to clients’ product development, it’s helped those in organic social to prove their work really matters.

Also, audiences are getting more of what they want. Organic social marketers have helped brands focus less on letting people know something, and more on helping them to do something. In the end, we are all getting a better deal.

Agencies are at a point now where they can help clients understand who among their followers is a customer. On one level, this helps strategy teams balance thematic messaging to create a better user experience. On another level, an analytics team can track the rate of conversion; the creative team can make better decisions; and the client can justify a budget increase because it can quantify success at the customer level — beyond growth, engagement or click-through rate.

Agencies can also leverage their social listening capability to determine the affinities and sharing behaviors of their various audiences. From this, they can craft multichannel, multi-touch targeting taxonomies for their paid social and paid search teams. They could verify what creative concepts would work, and what messaging would be most relevant. In the long term, that can open the way for clients to invest, scale, and succeed with programmatic video.

A third example of what’s possible turns the idea that organic social is basically a distribution network on its head. There are ways to predict global discussion trends in each line of business. By creating a framework that plots how different conversations will evolve, you can enable a nimble client team to post fresh social content that points to new web pages, creating the perception that the brand is trendsetting.

These three use cases illustrate why organic social media remains vital to marketers and valuable to the people they want to communicate with. And while I agree that the game has changed since 2007, I don’t subscribe to the view that either diminished reach or a more crowded field should narrow ambition. I remain an advocate. The only constraints to a brand’s success in organic social media are its own limits on innovative thinking.

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