Why Community Strategy Matters

Organic reach on social media is an incredibly competitive space, leading some marketers to pronounce it to be basically dead. Those who are more optimistic spend time talking about tactics that brands should be leveraging- from influencer marketing to employee advocacy.

But I’d like to suggest something a bit different. Organic reach in its original free-for all form is indeed mostly dead. Yet this does not necessitate the turn to a paid-centric approach. Rather, the introduction of the algorithm signaled a new era in Organic reach rewarding community-centered content and social strategies.

In this space, platforms filter posts according to a complex algorithm which takes into account the reception of a post by a user’s network to decide whether to serve it to the user. The 2016 US presidential election brought these filtered out “bubbles” into sharp relief. People went onto Facebook believing they were getting an accurate sample of their network’s views when, instead, they were receiving pre-filtered views through the algorithm. (This led KIND snacks to create a “Pop Your Bubble” App  which connects you to 10 people on Facebook with different opinions than your own.) Regardless of the pushback, however, Facebook knows that it’s doing something right. It just hit the 2B user mark and Instagram which also debuted an algorithm last year, is now at 700M users. Most significantly, this past July Google entered the personalized algorithm fray with the introduction of personalized search results based on your interaction with various Alphabet properties.

Social Influencers represent another key group of actors in the organic Community-focused approach. Influencers derive their power from cultivating a strong follower-base and building a unique community. They are driven by the desire to set themselves apart for personal branding purposes and building power niche audiences- such as black vegan bloggers– that brands can appeal to. Influencers work to get their communities to engage with them, which in turn sends a powerful signal to the platform algorithm to continue to deliver the same type of content to those users. Influencers + Algorithm means that suddenly, there could be a whole dedicated group of social media users engaged with the #BlackVeganBlogger hashtags.

Brands embarking on an organic community strategy should assess all of the niche communities that relate to their messaging/product. Every piece of content, and corresponding social posts, should be created with the goal of generating interaction with one of those communities. For example, a brand selling Kale Chips could market to: Black Vegan Bloggers, Mom Vegan Bloggers, Urban Vegan Bloggers, LGBT Vegan Bloggers, Parent Vegan Bloggers, College Student Vegan Bloggers, you get the point- right? Content highlighting these niche communities tends to get shared more simply because it’s less common. This tactic is first and foremost about making sure that your content is geared to speak to target communities with the aim of getting picked up and re-shared.

According to this model, tactics such as influencer marketing and employee advocacy are part of a larger overall community-strategy geared towards increasing social media organic reach. It follows therefore, that the smallest unit of social media marketing is not the influencer or the individual. Rather it’s the niche community through which social media marketing derives relevance.

 

 

 

The Danger of Creating Content Without Strategy

Every 60 seconds on the internet, 1,440 WordPress posts go live, 500 hours of video get uploaded onto YouTube, 65,972 Instagram photos are posted, 448,800 tweets are tweeted and a whopping 3.3Million posts generated on Facebook.

Sounds like a lot right? But here’s the problem- content is not consumed evenly. Rather it’s consumed in viral clusters as trends and algorithms push views of particular stories. So even while we find out that consumers view 1 Billion hours on YouTube each day (8.4 minutes per person!), there’s a good chance that much of those hours are focused on the same piece of content. And you can bet that it’s much more likely to be a video of a cat running from a cucumber, than it is to be your brand’s latest product launch. 

To the content marketer this cycle can feel like a giant hamster wheel. This is particularly clear when you know deep down that the content your creating just isn’t going to get consumed. No matter how much we chant: “right content, right time, right place” we still find ourselves in the content creation/consumption vicious cycle. Podcasts to create, live videos to shoot, blog posts to write, because the content monster never quits. In this scenario, content becomes something that is created because you need content. It’s content for content’s sake. 

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As always, Tom Fisburne nails it perfectly.

As long as we stay in the content-for-content’s-sake creating area we can churn out professional-looking videos, well-edited podcast series and blog posts demanding disruption. We can call ourselves successful thought-leaders and behold, we are. “Look at the content!” we say, “With so much of it clearly our business is successful”. This is the approach taken by many brands (both corporate and personal!) and it’s leading to a massive race to the bottom where we will all loose out.

Social media transformed the marketing industry by created mediums where brands could interact directly with consumers in a nearly-human way. Unfortunately over the past few years, the practice has become polluted in a race to the bottom click-bait, fake news, bot-filled, world. Consumers are bombarded with far too much content created with no reason other to create content. Just as poor quality ads led to the rise of ad-blockers, the over creation of badly done content marketing risks leading to a  mass desensitization of consumers and the introduction of algorithms and newsletters to act as third party mediators to weed out the signal from the noise. 

Your audience should want to visit your website, social media page, etc. to get the latest content from you. A healthy social media marketing mix should not have to rely purely on paid media for ROI. For these to be true, your content marketing efforts must align with the consumption habits of your target audience. 

Here’s my challenge to all of you: Take a look at the type of content you create, ask yourself why you’re doing it, and whether you’re really seeing ROI from it. If you are- great! But if you aren’t, then it’s time to press pause and reevaluate. Don’t keep pushing out noise with no signal.