Organic Reach Isn’t Dead, You Just Expect Too Much From It

by • May 24, 2016 • Experts TalkComments Off on Organic Reach Isn’t Dead, You Just Expect Too Much From It8104

Marketers are are worried! Organic reach is melting away like ice in the sun, and “disappearing” they say.  Some even claim organic reach is already dead on social media, and now it’s “pay to play” or “go home”.

Well, allow me to disagree.

Yes, organic reach is lower than ever, but can we really blame platforms for it? The truth is that social media is victim of its own success: today, everyone and every brand is on social media, and it has become really hard to find space. It’s a very cluttered world out there, and from now on you will need to work hard to make your voice heard. Sure, I get it. But…

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For years, we satisfied ourselves by just shouting about ourselves… Those are what I call the “me, me, me years”. Golden years for some may I add, but never very inspiring in terms of originality or creativity. Thankfully, those years are over. Now is the time for greatness. Today, and in the future, only GREAT content will shine.

The main reason for this is that social media platforms are moving away from relying on simple chronological feeds, where everything shared appears in the order it was published. Twitter announced it a while ago, and recently Instagram said it has started doing the same on selected accounts. For now, it is only a test, but I have little doubt that this will become the norm. People were obviously quick to assume the motivation was financial, that non-chronological feeds were just a new way for platforms to convince us to spend money, to boost our posts and place them at the top. Well, while this might indeed happen, I think it would only be a consequence rather than the main reason for which chronological feeds are disappearing.

In fact, chronological feeds were always doomed to disappear. They worked fine when the average user had 200 friends on Facebook, and would only follow a couple of hundred people on Twitter or Instagram. But as platforms grew, and more and more people signed up, it just could not work anymore. I have over 3000 friends on Facebook, I follow 18000 people on Twitter, so imagine if I had to scroll through everything these people share, to find what really mattered to me! It just would not be possible. So if an algorithm can identify what I need to see, then I’m all for it.

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Algorithms select the content that will appear in our news feeds and timelines, based on our past interactions: because we have liked something, commented on a post by a specific user, or shared content relative to another user or account. This is pretty good. But what we really need now is for those algorithms to become time-sensitive. For example, I like to know what is happening in the world in the morning, and would rather see content from news broadcasters on my Twitter feed for example. But later in the day, during my lunch break for example, I usually choose to reconnect with my family and friends, and then I want to see pictures and updates from them.

So How Can We Still Make Our Voice Heard On Social Media?

Well, for starters, we will have to become more interesting, so that people engage with our content and help us stay at the top of their feeds. That’s important, because being at the top is a clear advantage. Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford, studied hundreds of elections in the US between 1996 and 2000, and he found out that when the name of a candidate was listed first on the ballot, he would get on average 2% more votes than if his name was listed further down. I think the same applies to social media feeds.

So, getting more engagement will lead to our content being positioned higher in the feeds, which will then result in us getting more engagement. It’s a good system, no? But how do we start?

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Well, first we need to become really good at capturing attention. And to do that, we need to understand the 3 types of attention. Are you ready?

There are 3 types of attention: immediate, short and long. All of these are important, as they lead to one another. Long attention is obviously the one you want to capture, because it is the one that will lead to people looking out for your content, and will create the most engagement in the long-term.

Immediate attention (or fundamental attention) is at the core of our very own survival. It is made out of subconscious elements that form what we call our “instinct.” It is very easy to capture: someone shouts, we look in that direction, if something moves, again we tend to immediately focus on it. That’s why GIFs are so successful on social media.

Short attention is the next stage. It is about our ability to focus on something we judge worthy of our attention. Short attention is when we move from a subconscious state to a conscious one, when we decide to allocate our brain resources to something. But short attention only lasts until something else triggers us again.

Long-term attention is acquired via repetition. It is a state of expectation. Long-term attention is deeply linked to what we know, to what we have experienced time and time again. In fact, long- term attention is the opposite of quick wins, it’s about building long-term interest that will help trigger short attention over and over again. Long-term attention is born through being exposed to a brand, person, or specific interest, repeatedly. It’s the reason why pop stars get attention every time they release a new track, or why Kim Kardashian breaks the Internet. But it also is the reason why a video suddenly seems to go viral out of nowhere. Believe me, it is not out of nowhere, it’s because the specific brand or context had our long-term attention long before the video was published.

Think about what you can do within your social media strategy to trigger those 3 types of attention. Automaticity, framing, disruption, reward and acknowledgement are 5 triggers that particularly work well on social media.

So Do We Need To “Pay To Play?”

No! But if you did everything else right, paid media support will let you reach even more people outside of your regular audience.

It’s when you need to pay to reach the people who have liked your page or followed your account that you know you are NOT doing it right.

This post was originally written for Disrupts UK.

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