Organic Reach is in Decline—Here’s What You Can Do About It

By Jimmy Thomson

Social

Image via CHU TAI under CC0 1.0

Organic reach on social media is how well your posts perform without any money behind them. And with algorithm changes at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, it’s in decline. Call the authorities. Call the doctor. Call someone, because this is changing the way businesses use social media.

On Facebook, organic reach has been on decline for some time. The world’s largest social media platform is opting to give users more content from friends and family in their newsfeeds. At the same time, it’s showing less from publishers and pages.

“You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” Mark Zuckerberg said at the start of 2018. “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

If it’s happening at Facebook, it’s happening on other social platforms too. This means your social media posts aren’t reaching as many people as before. What to do? Here are some ways to deal with the decline in organic reach.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.

11 ways to tackle a decline in organic reach on social media

1. Create unique content for each platform

Don’t repost the same thing on different platforms. Your content should be tailored for the platform it appears on. That will make sure you’re using the vocabulary and norms that are expected on those platforms.

We use that strategy here at Hootsuite.

For example, our Instagram feed often showcases behind-the-scenes content. It’s a backstage pass to what it’s like to work at Hootsuite.

This is a lot different from our Twitter handle. We tailor that content to promoting the Hootsuite blog, thought pieces from our CEO, and other articles that are relevant to our audience. Twitter is where we fuel online discussion. That’s why we host our Twitter chat #HootChat once a month.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, we share blog posts, short videos and news updates, and broadcast live video.

Tempting as it may be, we’re aware that reposting an image from our Instagram directly to Twitter will look weird because it will just appear as a link. The caption norms are different, too. So going the extra mile to make unique content for each channel is worth the effort.

2. Feature someone else’s content

In marketing, as in life, it’s not all about you. Don’t just push out your content over and over again, hoping that your audience will become obsessed with everything your brand has to say (they won’t).

Recognize that social media is about being social. That means sharing other people’s content and not just your own. Take the time to learn as much as you can about your audience. Find out what engages them, what they want to learn, and what could be helpful to them. Use these insights to start curating content that you know will suit their interests.

By catering to your readers, you position your brand as one they can trust—and one that cares about what they want.

Sharing relevant content also establishes you as a thought leader that knows what’s happening in the industry.

Serve real value to your readers—it’s not always about them knowing what your company can do for them.

Having curated content also saves you time, is cost-efficient, and keeps things moving when it comes to finding variety. It’s why Hootsuite’s social media team adopted the hashtag, #ChoiceContent. The team zeroes in on what they think audiences would like and shares that content. We also publish any content that we as a social media company find useful and engaging.

If we see something of value, we want to share that nugget of wisdom with you too.

3. Know the algorithms

Social media platforms use algorithms designed to bring you the most relevant content. Now, more than ever, they give preference to posts from family and friends.

Your best bet to make the most out of these formulas is to study them closely and learn how they work.

Here’s a quick low-down of what to expect from some of our favorite social media platforms:

There are as many as 100,000 factors that influence the Facebook algorithm alone. Most of these factors are based on how users behave and how they interact with content they like. User behaviour is always changing, though, so we recommend keeping up-to-date with how each platform ranks content.

4. Put budget behind your content

Social media ads, sponsored content and boosted posts are among the best ways to reach your audience. It’s true, this reach is not truly “organic”, but they’re still a good way to build out your base and awareness. If you pay to promote content that resonates with your target audience, you will likely gain new followers. And then those people will see your organic content in the future.

Nielsen Brand Effect found studied over 475 online advertising campaigns. They found that people remembered ads on Instagram three times more than regular online ads.

We took a look at popular paid channels like Facebook ads (the same tools as Instagram advertising), LinkedIn ads and Twitter ads. Here’s what we found to be the best reasons to get into social media advertising across all networks:

With Hootsuite, you can “boost” Facebook content that’s already doing well organically. If it’s gaining views, shares and impressions without paying, imagine how well it’s going to do with some help.

5. Work with an influencer

Influencers are the rockstars of the social media world. As go the influencers, so go the audiences. So how can you harness their prodigious follower counts to build your brand?

You may also want to avoid influencers who seem to post a lot of sponsored content already. That could mean they aren’t very picky about who they work with.

6. Publish quality content that resonates with your audience

Okay, yes, this one should be a no-brainer. But it often gets lost in the shuffle while social media managers fret over schedules and follows.

Quality content means work that’s thoughtful and relevant to your audience. Reward your followers every time they click, with something they’ll actually enjoy. They’re more likely to share it, more likely to engage with it—and most importantly, more likely to come back. All those metrics in turn help the Algorithm Gods push your posts to more folks.

7. …and publish it consistently

This is not a set-it-and-forget-it system. One solid post is much more effective if it’s followed up with another. So get on that hamster wheel and start jogging. Consistent posting is good for your audiences and for the algorithms.

Posting regularly helps keep you on your users’ radar. It’s an awkward feeling to open Facebook and see a post from some page you followed in 2011. Consistent posts make you a part of your users’ experience and expectations.

Social algorithms are working to watch who engages with your content. They then take that information and use it to make the site work better for users. So consistent posts mean you’re giving the robots more data.

And there’s nothing robots love more than data; it’s like catnip for robots. Give the robots catnip and they will reward you with clicks.

To help you get all these quality posts scheduled, think about using a social media management platform like Hootsuite. Why, I believe that’s the very tool this site specializes in! It’s a powerful way to make sure you don’t have holes in your schedule.

8. Experiment with video

All the major platforms are beginning to add new video features. The Facebook algorithm is starting to prioritize video, and we expect that the other platforms will follow.

Live video is especially important right now. Try to find ways to incorporate it into your publishing schedule.

Live videos are not only useful for gaming the algorithm, though. The format is especially conducive to behind-the-scenes style broadcasts. It’s a way to let your audience into the company or get a different perspective on events. But before letting the intern loose in the break room, make sure you’ve got a plan for the live video.

Even if live video becomes less trendy in the future, it’s still worthwhile to change things up. Try out different content formats. Video, live video, interactive chats, VR—you may find your users prefer to be reached in all kinds of ways.

9. Don’t underestimate Stories

Instagram and Facebook Stories are a way to skip the regular feed algorithm. So if you’re having trouble reaching your users, it is more likely that you will get seen in the Stories feed.

Verified accounts on Instagram can add a “swipe-up” option to their Stories. That function lets you direct users to a landing page or other piece of content. Not verified? There’s always the good old-fashioned call-to-action via a link in the bio.

As with regular posts, Stories can be discovered via hashtags and locations, so use them.

And this breaks my little photographer heart to say it, but, shoot vertical. Ugh. This is how the world is now, so… just… do it. It’s better for engagement.

10. Use micro-communities

There are thriving communities on social media revolving around nearly every imaginable thing. If you sell artichokes, there are dozens of videos with over one million views on how to prepare them. There is an Artichoke Appreciation Society. It has ten members BUT STILL. Your people are out there. Create community around shared interests.

Hashtag discussions are a good way to find your Twitter audience. The key to hosting a successful one is to do it regularly: host a discussion that people can come back to.

Instagram hashtags are similar. Grow your community by creating a hashtag that people want to use to find their people. Look to Herschel as an example. “The #WellTravelled hashtag is a route of escapism on Instagram for us,” says Sheila Lam, Herschel’s community manager. “We can showcase not only where our product goes, but the stories and people behind it.” It has become one of the most popular travel-related hashtags on Instagram.

11. Make the most of your analytics

Social media platforms give you a lot of valuable information about how your posts perform, and there are many social media analytics tools that will give you even deeper insights. Don’t waste that valuable data: put it to work. This means checking on each post and tweaking your approach to make the next one better.

A/B testing (or split testing) is also available on many platforms. Use it wisely to speed up your learning.

When you find the perfect approach, great news! You now have a strategy you can use for the next five minutes because the algorithms will change. They always change. This is your life now.

Use Hootsuite to easily promote your content organically (or boost it with advertising dollars). From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish posts, engage the audience, monitor conversations, measure performance, and much more. Try it for free today.

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