The recent trend of companies and brands declining organic reach on social media is not a good thing. For years, marketers have been working toward a day when their advertising will no longer need to be pandered to in order to get their message out to an audience.
The only way for this to happen is if social media curation algorithms are also implemented across all mediums. If you’ve been paying attention over the past few months, you’ll know that this has already begun to happen.
In its now-annual report on the digital trends impacting marketing in the United States, the global research firm eMarketer predicted last month that “advertisers are starting to understand that negative campaigning can have unintended consequences, and they’re getting more cautious about spending money on messages they don’t feel people will actually read.”
However, they did not predict that these changes would first begin being felt on social media.
What does Declining Organic Reach on Social Media Mean?
As we’ve seen, the biggest reason why declining organic reach on social media is not good news for marketers is that it has a knock-on effect on paid reach.
According to eMarketer, paid social media has become more lucrative than organic social media. At the same time, organic social media has experienced a dramatic fall in use, with many abandoning Facebook and Instagram in favor of the new formats. So, while organic reach is down by more than 50% in just five years, paid reach is up by almost 50%.
As the old saying goes, where you go, the people will follow. If that’s true for individuals as well as companies, it’s also true for social media. Nowhere is this more evident than when a company’s online presence begins to wane. When so many other sites are available to explore and enjoy, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, companies knew one thing for sure: if their brand didn’t have an active presence on social media, they would suffer. Whatever the reason may have been for opting out of social media in the first place, now that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.
Today, businesses of all kinds and sizes are diversifying their digital presence in order to keep their customers coming back for more.
While some companies might decide to go all-in on digital marketing and spend thousands of dollars a month on services like Facebook ads or Instagram followers alone, others may choose instead to limit their exposure in order to retain control over their brand’s digital footprint while still attracting new followers without breaking their budget
The Problem with Declining Organic Reach
Organic reach is down for a number of reasons. It’s important to remember that these metrics are reported annually and are likely to be influenced by seasonal and daily fluctuations, as well as other external factors.
These metrics also include the number of people who have clicked on or watched a given ad. In other words, organic reach can go up when people are more likely to click or view ads that are more relevant to their interests — and it can go down when they’re less interested in what you have to offer.
Furthermore, organic reach is down thanks to the rise of social media platforms that have replaced the need for paid promotion.
As we’ve seen, more and more people are now using social media platforms without any paid features.
Why Declining Organic Reach is a Problem for Businesses
Over the last decade, the average reach of organic reach has declined by more than 6 percentage points. This means that while organic reach grew by almost 3 percentage points in that time, unnatural reach grew by almost 15 percentage points. While this decline is not as alarming as it may seem, it is still a very real problem.
The most significant factor contributing to this decline in organic reach is Facebook’s policies prohibiting organic content. Facebook’s policies prohibit users from posting links to and from pages and groups that are not on the social network’s platform.
While these policies were meant to protect the environment by preventing deforestation and limiting freshwater pollution, they have had a chilling effect on social media and online connectivity.
In order to get around these limitations, many brands are now investing in “likes” and “shares,” which boost a user’s organic reach by allowing them to actively promote their page or group.
Facebook’s Problematic News Feed and Instagram’s Slow Growth
Just as Facebook’s policies have impacted organic reach, Instagram’s policies have had an impact on the number of people using the service. As Facebook’s reach has grown, so has Instagram’s, but this is not the case for other leading social media platforms.
In fact, the average number of people using each of the leading social media platforms has grown significantly over the last few years.
This growth has come at the cost of traditional media, as people move away from traditional sources of content in favor of social media alternatives.
Facebook has the Mainly Negative Impact on Organic Reach
Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms, and it’s also the one that has seen the biggest impact from technological advancements.
Over time, Facebook’s algorithms have become much more sophisticated, meaning that brands seeking to reach a wide audience must constantly be repositioning their content to stay at the top of the page.
As a result, Facebook has become less and less favourable toward brands that are not actively engaging their followers.
Many brands have been forced to employ the same kind of marketing tactics that Facebook deems spammy, or even worse, violating the platform’s terms of service. As a result, organic reach on Facebook has plummeted by more than 50%.
Instagram Has More of a Mixed Bag for marketers
On the one hand, Instagram has been an incredibly valuable platform for marketers. It’s a platform with a ton of potential, and it’s free to use.
Furthermore, Instagram’s algorithm has been showing a sign of approval toward brands that are often new and creative.
However, even though Instagram is still viewed as a highly relevant platform, it’s not as influential as it used to be. As a result, organic reach on Instagram is down by about 25%.
Twitter Has a Lot to Answer for as well, but is Declining Organic reach bad for all brands?
One of the reasons why declining organic reach on Twitter is not such a bad thing is that it might also be a sign of things to come on the other social media platforms.
As we’ve seen, Twitter has been slowly but surely adopting a more selective approach toward spammy Tweets. In short, it’s making a deliberate effort to limit the reach of Tweets that are simply full of advertising.
Unlike Facebook, which has also banned certain types of advertising, Twitter has not introduced any new restrictions.
In other words, it’s still letting advertisers reach their target audience — but only if they’re not spamming the platform with irrelevant information.
What Can Go Wrong When a Company Drops the Ball on Social Media?
Social media is king when it comes to marketing today, but that doesn’t mean that companies have to ignore other forms of media as well.
Companies can still benefit from all forms of digital communication and can even strengthen their digital presence without abandoning other forms of marketing. What companies must understand, though, is that the reach and impact of social signals can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors.
For one, the volume of conversation and the number of followers that a brand’s followers are engaging with can both matter. As can the quality of the conversation and the number of likes, comments, and shares that a brand’s followers are providing.
These factors all affect how useful a given post or photo from a brand’s account is to its followers and, by extension, how often those followers are engaging with that brand as well as its posts.
Another important factor is the quality of the followers that are engaging with a brand’s posts and account. Quality follows volume, which means that the more often a brand’s followers engage with a brand’s posts and photos, the more frequently those posts and pictures will appear in the streams of those followers.
More followers and comments, meanwhile, don’t always mean more likes, shares, or comments back. Sometimes the quantity of engagement that a brand’s followers are providing is more valuable than the amount of engagement back.
It’s also worth noting that while brand engagement might be important to the overall health of the account, it’s not always indicative of how well the brand is doing.
What Should a Company Do When a Social Media Reach Is Declining?
There are a few things that companies can do, though, in order to compensate for a declining organic reach on social media.
The first is to increase the frequency of social media posts. In a recent study, brands found that posting three times as many posts was more effective than posting twice as many posts.
Second, companies can try using different strategies in order to increase the amount of engagement they’re receiving. Engagement, after all, is what makes social media posts useful and engaging.
Engagement that’s not matched by comments or shares, or that comes at the expense of quality conversation, is unlikely to persist in the social stream.
Third, brands can boost the overall health of their social media accounts by providing engage-worthy content and follows for their followers. When followers are engaging with posts and accounts, rather than just the posts and accounts themselves, the posts and accounts get more value.
Social media remains one of the most effective strategies for marketing. However, declining organic reach on social media is not good news.
The old adage that where you go, the people will follow is true in more ways than one. As the popularity of social media grows, it can be challenging for brands to keep up with the competition.
What can go wrong when a company drops the ball on social media? The most important thing that companies can do when it comes to a declining organic reach on social media is to understand the drop and take corrective action. What may have seemed like a great idea a few months ago can quickly turn into a huge mistake if a business doesn’t take action.
The main reason why is that it may also be a sign that people are switching to alternative platforms without paid features. While organic reach is down by more than 50% in just five years, paid reach is up by almost 50%.