Stop All Social Media Activity (Organic) | Solve For A Profitable Reality

Life is short.

It is time to point out an ugly truth, and to be the brave person that you are, the intelligent rational assessor of reality that you are, and kill all the organic social media activity by your company.

All of it.

Seems radical, but let’s take it one step at a time.

To give you a sense of the depth and breadth of ideas I’ll cover today, here are the sections in this post:

I urge you to have an open mind. My plan is to challenge your critical thinking skills, and share lessons that will apply broadly across the professional effort you put day in and day out. Most of all, I’m excited to frame an important problem, and present solutions that will transform an important part of your marketing strategy.

Let’s go!

The Promise of Marketing Utopia. 

I hate pimping (what marketing has come to be). I adore building meaningful relationships – the kind of long-term connections where a brand truly gives a f about their customers, and gives something of value in exchange for their attention. I LOVE brands that can pull this off, and support them with my un-asked-for evangelism and precious $$$s.

Hence, you can imagine how gosh darn excited I was at the advent of Facebook and Twitter (first real social networks). There were a billion people there, spending a meaningful amount of time on these wonderful platforms. Excitedly, brands could have a presence (a "page") where they could contribute meaningful updates (info-snacks) in order to be a part of the organic conversations people were already having by the tens of millions.

Daily meaningful brand connections would be converted into brand familiarity, shifts in brand perception, feeding brand loyalty. #orgasmic

If you were a travel company, meaningful would now translate into helping feed wanderlust. The company could contribute info-snacks about where people should go, exposing the coolest places in the world, helping people travel better via tips, pictures, videos… you know… communicating travel love. The one thing a travel company would have in common with travel customers. The most imaginative travel marketers could even extend this opportunity to helping connect the purpose of their existence, selling tickets and hotel rooms, to helping people create moments of happy by crafting day/s of escape from the rough and tumble of life.

Glorious, right? If you work at Expedia or Cathay Pacific, does that not make you want to come to work and, for at least a part of your employment, create meaning? How rare is that!

If you were Cisco, meaningful would mean sharing info-snacks whose entire purpose could be to get Engineers promoted. Share tips, ideas, schematics, usage shortcuts, creative implementations, solutions to top problems that hold Engineers back… you know… understanding your audience deeply and give them something of value in exchange for their attention. The most imaginative B2B marketers could even figure out how to be a part of solving some of the deepest entrenched problems in the industry (STEM education, equal opportunity, + +) and in turn add an entire value-system to their brands.

Amazing, right?

Marketing based on something real, rather than a coupon or company brochure.

The Broken Promise of Marketing Utopia, Implications. 

None of the above transpired on Social platforms.

Businesses of all types, including Google (SMB, Main), got on amazing platforms like Facebook (and Weibo, Instagram, Pintrest etc.) and started pimping. All that their collective imagination could manifest in a Utopia-possible environment was: LOOK ME I AM SO PRETTY!! BUY NOW!!!

Stuff that is a turn off.

Consider the Google’s first FB page above, it is a complete disaster with not a single post in the last six months being of even five seconds of value to any small business. That page, or the main one, is not an overt Buy Now, but if you think critically like the tough Marketer I want you to be you’ll have a hard time finding a single post that’s solving for Google’s human customers. Almost every single one is pimping Google (or pimping random research Google has commissioned – to pimp Google!). The non-value is so transparent, yet they post every single day something that basically is solving for Google (although only God knows what that is). If someone bothers to interact with the post, the posted comment is a spam or totally useless. Yet. They keep posting. Polluting utopia.

Google is not unique in not understanding the promise, checkout your company’s FB page.

This strategy by businesses lead to what I now call the Zuck Death Spiral. ZDS.

Real humans on Social platforms quickly got turned off by these low-grade Social contributions/posts by companies. That meant humans (us!) refused to engage with them. This was noticed by Team Zuck, who started to slowly turn down the presence of company posts in User feeds. This lead to less Reach for brands. Which in turn lead to even fewer customer interactions for content posted by brands. Which was duly noted once more by Team Zuck. Which… you know where this is going, tightened the screws on organic Reach even more. And, here we are in a barren desert for brands on FB.

Most brands get less than 1% Reach via their organic contributions on social platforms. And, less than 1% engagement of any kind from that less than 1% reached (identified using the best social media metrics: Conversation Rate, Amplification Rate, Applause Rate).

ZDS is solving for FB, as FB should, and it is an attempt to solve for FB’s users.

So… If all you can do is overtly or covertly pimp… And, pimping is not cheap (that Google page, and your company’s page, has pictures, videos, an agency deployed, internal company employees with a “social media execution checklist”, senior leadership time committed, and more)… And, all it does is get you 1% Reach, max, with almost no engagement… Why do you still have an active (organic) social media effort?

Why is this reality not smacking some sense into your marketing strategy?

The Broken Promise of Marketing Utopia: Examples. 

Is it difficult to check if your brand is caught up in the Zuck Death Spiral? No.

Do you have access to any data to measure how deeply non-impactful your organic Social Media efforts are? OMG, yes.

Everything you need, data and information, to do an audit is public.

All you have to do is visit your company’s Facebook page (or Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. presence).

Let me show you what to look for. Let’s start with Expedia. They have 6.4 million Likes as of today. Go look at any post on the page if you are an Expedia employee.

expedia_facebook

First thing you’ll look at is the Applause Rate (likes, other emotions, you’ll see it right under the photo). That number is 75. Divide that by 6,462,977 (potential audience size today).

0.00113%. That’s a painful stab in your heart.

Next Conversation Rate (comments, you’ll see a total at the end of your posts). 7. Divide that by 6,462,977. A sad 0.00011%.

Finally, my favorite sign that you truly added value to a human rather than pimp, Amplification Rate (shares). 3/6,462,977. At this point you are weeping with me: 0.00005%.

To give you some context as to how insanely lame these numbers are, Expedia.com received 59,400,000 Visits in May 2017. This post accomplished 75+7+3. More people walk into the Expedia lobby in Bellevue, WA, every second of every minute.

You might be screaming that is not fair Avinash, the Zuck Death Spiral ensures that a tiny fraction of 6,462,977 are seeing Expedia’s posts! Very fair point. But, is the Social Media Budget at Expedia not justified based on the potential from 6,462,977? Would Expedia commit it’s multi-million-dollar budget to Social Media based on the potential to engage 75+7+3 people on Planet Earth?

One final point. Brand destruction.

Pretty much every single comment on pretty much every single Expedia post is a complaint about how horrible Expedia is (from personal experience I know this is not true). If your Facebook presence is solely to inspire people (see Trish Sayler above) to create clever rhymes about how bad you are… Why are you on Social Media?

Ignore the active smearing of the Expedia brand, let’s go back to data: Is it worth have 75 | 7 | 3 as the value delivered from an organic Social Media strategy for a company with 54,900,000 Visits?

My answer is an emphatic no. Expedia should immediately cease 100% of its organic Social activity.

1/100th of the Social Media budget could be spent on any other random digital strategy to get 75+7+3, and have zero brand destruction!

Oh. And while I’m focusing on Facebook for the sake of simplicity, everything in this post applies to all other Social Media channels. The Utopia failures. The lack of imagination. The small numbers. The uselessness.

Here for example is a post on Twitter by Expedia:

expedia_twitter

The numbers: 9 | 2 | 2. Divided by 391,000 (followers).

You can do the math and assess dent in the universe this content contribution from Expedia is making.

Almost nothing. Technically, perhaps less than nothing.

I hate making recommendations based on outliers, please know that Expedia is the norm. Hence, the title of this blog post.

Here’s a B2B example, a company I think well of… Cisco.

cisco_facebook

Go through the same analysis.

Your numbers are 31 | 1 | 3. Divided by 845,921.

Would you spend a single hard-earned Cisco router and switches dollar to get this as the return from a multi-million dollar Social Media budget?

Like my company, your company, and Expedia, Cisco gets no value from their organic Social Media efforts. Technically, Cisco is getting negative returns once you account for the people, process, tools, agency, leadership investments.

Let’s switch gears and look at a B2C company with a massively positive opportunity to leverage the word Social in every way on these platforms… Chick-fil-A.

chick-fil-a_facebook

Better numbers, as you might expect.

1k | 89 | 73. Divided by 7,775,155.

Consider it. Chick-fil-A could buy the most remnant TV inventory on a channel least watched by humans during the middle of the night and get better Reach. And they can also measure how many of them walked into a Chick-fil-A in the next 12 hours.

Does the above number justify custom videos, images, active posting by Click-fil-A on Facebook?

One final example to bring this home.

ProjectManager.com is a lovely tool. It is wonderful that they use folks like Jennifer Bridges, Susanne Madsen and others to create very helpful Project Management videos on YouTube. It seems they are a medium-sized business.

Here’s their Facebook page:

project_manager_facebook

69 | 0 | 25. Divided by 62,951.

Pound for pound, better performance than all three (four including Google) companies above. Shame on them.

Still. Are the resulting Applause Rate, Conversation Rate and Amplification Rate enough for a smaller business to use it’s precious marketing dollars on this Social Media strategy/impact?

Consider this as well for all brands… There is no native discovery model on these Social channels. Your content will live for 20 minutes and then it is dead. Not just because of ZDS, but also because there is no Search behavior by users or a method that would deliver Serendipitous Discovery of content you post.

Unlike say on YouTube, or your Blog, where your Subscribers will see the content right away, and then through Bing and Yandex and YouTube itself people will find your content when relevant and keep viewing it. Your content there has a live beyond 20 minutes.

Win Big: Stop Posting Content for Organic Reach On Social Channels. 

Given the numbers above, and be sure to check any other Social Media channel your company is actively investing in, I hope you have the input you need to apply your critical thinking skills.

Let me give you one final push: You have better alternatives to drive short and long-term Profitability for your company (rather than investing in organic Social Media).

Here’s an example.

I write an insightful newsletter with the singular aim of improving your salary. The Marketing < > Analytics Intersect. You should sign up. It is a companion to this blog, I write once a week there and once a month here.

One year into it’s existence, TMAI has 21,246 Subscribers.

Measuring Open Rates for email is difficult (the tiny pixel ESPs use to track opens are not executed by default for most email programs). Even with that flaw in reporting, TMAI has Open Rates of around 9,000 (9,895 precisely for the last one).  Around 1,000 people (912 for the last one) take an action that is of value to me.

A random person, me, can get 9,000 opens of my content, at least a thousand active engagements with my brand whenever I want. I have over 1,000,000 Social Media followers across the five platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram). I can’t even get 1/100th the impact.

My simple unsexy email newsletter strategy crushes the on paper potential of one million Social Media followers.

And, beyond the impact… I also directly own the relationships with my 21,246 Subscribers, I own the data, the relationship exists on my platform, and I can use it as creatively I want to use it with no limitation on type of content (text or video or dancing penguin gifs).

Why should your company be on Social Media 5x per day to get a lousy 20 interactions with your brand? How is that acceptable ROI from your investment in a 5 person Social Media team, a Social Media Agency, a Social Media analytics tool, a Social Media auto-posting tool and more?

Could you not get 100x ROI from the 0.25 person that's running your email newsletter?

Could you not just take all that Team, Agency, Tool, money, throw it into AdWords or AOL Display Ads and not get massively higher ROI, of any kind, in 10 minutes?

Could you not get better ROI taking all that money and buying remnant inventory on your local Television channel?

Could you not get better ROI if you just took that money and bought free lunch for the employees in your building every other day?

OMG, you most definitely can.

So. Why are you on Social Media?

Is it fun to shout in a vacuum?

Why does it not feel dirty to go waste your shareholder's money?

Stop it then.

Welcome to the world of higher standards for impact delivered. Feel cleaner and prouder coming to work every day as a Marketer/CMO.

Is the Huge Audience on Social Media Platforms Completely Useless? 

NO!

There are a couple of billion people on Facebook (and billions or hundreds of millions on other Social channels). From an advertising perspective, that’s still an audience that might be of value to your business.

Kill your organic Social strategy completely, switch to a paid Social Media strategy.

Buy advertising from Facebook. I’ll make it easy, click this link!

Buy advertising from Twitter. From Snapchat. LinkedIn. Oh and WeChat and Line.

This simple switch from the fuzzy Organic goals to concrete Paid goals will give the one thing your Social Media Marketing strategy was missing: Purpose.

It is now easy to define why the heck are you spending money on Social Media? To drive short and medium-term brand and performance outcomes.

Fabulous.

Set aside the useless metrics like Impressions and 3-second Video Views. Set aside hard to judge and equally useless Like and Follow counts. Measure the hard stuff that you can show a direct line to company profit.

Define a purpose for the money you are spending.

For the clients I’ve worked with across the world, expressed behavior of the users suggests that the largest cluster of intent is See. There is a little bit of Think and a little bit of Care. (This is why Social marketing strategies that target Do intent yield extremely poor results.)

[Bonus Read: See-Think-Do-Care Business Framework]

If the purpose is to execute See and Care intent marketing strategies (in the old world sometimes incompletely referred to as brand marketing), you can use the following amongst my favorite metrics to deliver accountability:

1. Unaided Brand Recall
2. Likelihood to Recommend
3. Lift in Purchase Intent
4. Shift in Brand Perception (negative to neutral, neutral to positive, positive to proactive evangelism)
5. Lifetime Value

Humans have measured these using primary and secondary research methods for 3,500 years. Quite easy to do the same for your newly focused paid Social advertising efforts.

[Bonus Read: Brand Measurement: Analytics & Metrics for Branding Campaigns]

If on the other hand the purpose of your paid Social advertising is to target Think and/or Do intent, you should measure the impact using the following across your digital – and pan-digital presence:

1. Recency & Frequency
2. Loyalty
3. Task Completion Rate
4. Assisted Conversions
5. Macro-Outcomes Rate
6. Economic Value

We have measured these for a long time on the web. You can use your quantitative tools to measure most of these (Google Analytics, Adobe, True Social Metrics). And. You can measure these for your ecommerce, non-ecommerce, B2B, B2C, pure content, non-profit, or whatever else kind of delicious business you are running.

Now, you’ll hold your agency and employees accountable for delivering business profitability for your Social efforts just as you do for any other advertising effort – Search or TV or Email.

Just as you would do in all those other cases, do more paid Social advertising if the metrics show a business impact and improve/eliminate your paid Social efforts if they don’t.

It will mean a different Social content strategy, different targeting strategy (leveraging rich Social signals), and a different landing page/app strategy. Proper end-to-end user and business optimization. Nirvana, delivered by that magical word… Purpose.

The path to your salary and job promotion is also now crystal-clear. Right?

Is the Idea of Marketing Utopia Permanently Dead? 

I’ve seen the near-future, and I believe we’ll get to Utopia Marketing.

The fact that companies don’t know how to be human, how to take even 20% of their people plus budget and invest optimally in understanding humans and deliver something of value to those humans is deeply heartbreaking.

Yes, I can blame the short-term quarterly focus of the CMOs and the SELL, SELL, SELL MORE incentives they create for you to earn your bonus. But still, how heartbreaking is it that not even 1% of us could convince our CMOs to allow us to do what Social was actually good at? How sad is it that we have such little influence? I blame us.

Still. I am optimistic that Marketing Utopia, as I’ve imagined it at the top of this post, is not dead. I think the solution will be to get rid of the humans from the process!

What? Human marketing by getting rid of humans?

Yes. Hear me out.

I think AI/Machine Learning will solve this problem.

Today, humans and their limited ability to process data, and the finite incentives in place, are the reason we burned Utopia to the ground. We simply can’t process billions of signals across tens of millions of touch points across millions of people, and figure out the best message at every moment and its short, medium, and long-term business value.

Current advances in ML already give me hope that algorithms will understand intent a billion trillion times better than your current employees AND these algorithms will have the inherent capabilities to process billions of data points to truly understand complex patterns of user behavior and a robust understanding across all that to know exactly what delivers business profit.

Companies can then take the equivalent of their Brand and Social budgets and allow smarter algorithms to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time across all clusters of intent. All the while, optimizing for long-term business profitability.

It will help that Machine Learning is not embolden to trivial company politics. :)

[Bonus Read: Artificial Intelligence: Implications On Marketing, Analytics, And You]

Bottom-line.

While I’m recommending you stop doing something, hearing no is not super-inspiring, I hope you’ll see that my goal is help you think more critically about where you spend your personal time and your company’s money.

I also hope you’ll see how the shift in strategy I’m recommending brings Social in line with your other advertising efforts, allowing for a ton more focus on your Social efforts and a billion times more accountability.

Finally, I hope you feel optimistic that around the horizon lurk technological solutions that will allow for the manifestation of the beautiful humanity that exists in your company (even if we have to take human employees out of the equation to get there – don’t worry, they’ll still, for now, be responsible for the novel elements required).

Demand more from Social, because Social can deliver more. It just happens to be paid Social.

Oh… And if you've chosen to define your professional career as a Social Media Analyst or a Social Media Guru or a Social Media Marketer, I respectfully offer that you should rethink your strategy. You likely already see deep pressure on the possibilities in front of you, and on your compensation growth. This will only get more severe. Figure out how to expand your skill-set, and then scope of influence/impact, so that you can delete the first two words from each of those titles and retain the last one. If you are remotely good at what you do, you'll be in a recession-proof digital career. The opportunity is there, your career trajectory and compensation growth will be up and to the right.

As always, it is your turn now.

If you’ve achieved sustained success from your organic Social Media content strategy, would you please share your example? If you disagree and believe Marketers should invest in organic Social despite poor Reach, ApR, CoR, and AmR, would you please share how you see value/impact? If you’ve successfully dumped organic and pivoted to paid Social, please share stories of your victory. Are you as optimistic as I am that Machine Learning based intelligence will solve optimally for the Utopia opportunity?

I look forward to hearing your smart perspectives and cogent challenges.

Thank you.

Comments

  1. 1

    In my case, I could see that the time spent organically promoting my content with manual outreach has a much higher cost in hours per result than my hourly rate converted to an advertising budget.

    The bottom line is paying for ads is much cheaper than spending time on organically promoting my content. I think it's worth considering this in every business.

    • 2

      Well explained.

      Please confirm that "organic" social media has no impact on creating "relevance" for the primary website.

      My understanding was that "who" looks at organic social media or "why" is less important than the volume of traffic and the number of new visitors in forcing the Google algorithm to list my business FIRST in a relevant listing.

      If I'm understanding you correctly, targeted ads and the buying traffic will achieve the same effect?

      My biggest concern is ending up listed on the second or third page of a search for my product/services within my geography.

      Please clarify. Thank you

      • 3

        Karen: I think there are many layers to your comment, let me try to unpack.

        You might be massively over-estimating the influence of your organic social activity on Google's algorithms (if there is any impact at all). I would not do Social for Search anything.

        It is not accurate that volume of traffic to your site has an extraordinary impact on your Search rankings/listing. My site has very tiny traffic compared to many other massive competitors, yet my site ranks for so many terms higher than them simply because Google's algorithm assesses that I'm a more authoritative right answer for the user's search query.

        Paid Ads (Display, Social, Video) will not have an impact on your Search rankings (I think this is what you were saying).

        Paid Ads on any platform, Social or not, targeted smartly with the right ad content, will deliver more relevant traffic to your business which will convert more and deliver the macro and micro-outcomes you want.

        There are many, many, many (thousands) factors that go into a website showing up above the fold on page one on Bing, Google, Yandex etc. Geo proximity is one of those.

        You are right though, showing up below the fold on page one will result in little to no traffic from any search engine (this is even more true on mobile).

        Free advice: I fear you have a sub-optimal SEO consultant or source of Search Advice. I would recommend switching to someone, or a company, that is smarter about Search.

        Avinash.

        • 4

          Thanks for clarifying this!

          So, from what I understand Social Media organic reach and engagement, no matter how good it is, has almost zero bearing on Google's algorithm and search ranking.

    • 5

      Right, social media signals may mean nothing for SEO.

  2. 6

    Oh My God! & We are going more towards the social channels for future projection but now Social Platforms will be claim that they meant for branding persona so they should not equally measured by conversion rates only.

    • 7

      Prem: Look, social platforms can claim anything they want. You have access to data and the ability to experiment to figure out what business outcomes you actually get.

      I believe social platforms are better for See and Care strategies, you don't have to take my word for it (just like not taking the word of the social network). Spent $500, experiment with different marketing, measure success using the metrics I recommend above. Then, use reality to decide what works best for you! :)

      Avinash.

      • 8

        Sure Sir! Although i had already got the detailed analysis & stats in the above post & i don't think so that there is any extra clarification needed upon this projection.

        Just i am thinking that how could i convey my Brand Manager regarding the same.

  3. 9

    Hi Avinash,

    Good article, you said what I've been noticing more of and thinking about lately. I keep seeing massive social following with littler interaction and it seems heart wrenching like you said.

    Now what about the idea that people are going to talk about your company/brand on social so you should be listening for these conversations?

    Also social as a customer service channel, I see a lot more people going to Twitter & Facebook to get customer service – should brands be on social for the listening/customer service aspects or just abandon social and go all in on paid social?

    • 10
      James Rowe says:

      I agree that more people are going to social for Customer Service. You have no choice.

      Many business's faq's or help articles don't address critical question or problems customer's have. In many instances this is done intentionally. Business's are purposely not solving for the care aspect. They are solving for their COST aspect.

      Of course digital has "successfully" eliminated the need for human contact via outdated voice communication. That's how many businesses operate. Social as in the example given in the above post demonstrates is becoming a relief valve for the customer.

      Yes we do need to rethink the social strategy organic or paid. Stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Maybe that will get you better results.

    • 11

      Mike: My friend Brett Crosby used to have this as his Twitter bio (when he was still running Google Analytics marketing): "Customer Service does not work in 140 characters." :)

      I believe that. The tens of time I have been desperate enough to hit a brand up on Twitter or FB to get customer service, the answer is: "Call us at this number to get help." Or a variation.

      You don't need to go very far, check out: https://twitter.com/comcastcares/with_replies?lang=en You DM them, they give you a phone number to call. Not bad. But, what's the point?

      Social monitoring is an adjacent issue to this post's recommendation on organic social content creation. I consider Social monitoring to be a part of all monitoring that any company would have in place to see what people are saying about the brand in blog posts, news articles, YouTube videos etc. This is of value.

      Avinash.

      • 12
        Michael K says:

        What you describe is just bad customer service, but it doesn't mean that good customer service cannot be delivered through social media. Most of the companies just don't leverage, yet, the opportunities that it offers. Social media allows a personal approach to each customer, but you're absolutely right, "Call us at this number to get help." is not really CS.

        Of course, coming back to the main point of the article you should always measure your ROI on any activity you do and not just do it for the sake of doing it. Or even worse, just because everyone else is doing that. What works for one company doesn't work by default for other company. Just like individuals every company is different.

        • 13

          I guess I am very late for my answer as this post is over two month old. However I do see some advantages of using SM in the Care phase. It depends on how you define Social Media. Is the Facebook Messenger also included? I think that the current shift to paid ads is a phase as some platforms move to the cash cow phase after years of not earning money. Still new platforms will arise and there you can reach potential customers with good content without paying. But right now I agree with Avinash. Paid Social, Performance and Programmatic Display, Search – That's where to invest your time and money right now.

  4. 14
    Kolja Siegmund says:

    Very interesting post. However, I think that social media plays another function then just direct lead generation. Yet, those are hard to measure:

    – If users visit a social media presence of a company, that is not well managed and updated, they might perceive a company as 'dead', favoring another one instead

    – Customer service on social is a way to show that you're actually willing to support your customers

    – In the article, numbers of social page views (can we see them somewhere?) are not used. However, given several communication theories (read priming, agenda setting, framing) contact with social concepts (such as a lot, including brands)…
    …enhances their perceived importance for potential customers
    …enhances their perceived quality for potential customers
    …enhances their perceived value of the brand
    …enhances the chance to actually remember and recognize a brand – making it more familiar

    At the end, all this should enhance purchase likelihood – on short on longterm. This is proven within experimental settings in academic research. However, it is hard to test in real-world-settings, as setting up an experiment that covers the theory will not only fail as it is unable to follow and recognize the respective users.

    Even though not proven in real life settings, the academic evidence for those effects (and much more) mentioned above, just through contact, might some be of some actual value for brands on social media. You won't prove it, yet, you won't disprove it. Given that point, I think many company's (correctly) accept rather small costs for un-paid social media presence instead of taking the risk of longterm loss.

    • 15
      Girish Pai says:

      Totally agree with you on this.

      Also it's not just customer replies to the social media posts but how many people have seen them but chose not to reply or like or engage in any kind, which is also very important in terms of brand perception. For example I see many posts by Nissan and I don't reply. Like or engage in any kind. But when I bought a car, Nissan was my first choice.

    • 16

      Kolja: You'll understand that more than any other person on the planet I will not buy the excuse: "Look, it works. We just can't measure it."

      Consider your last sentence. It is completely unproven that there is a business impact, yet you are connecting it to a risk of a long-term loss.

      Some things you mention below take effort to measure, I will grant you that. But everything you mention below is measurable, even my friends at Facebook will tell you that. The question to ask yourself is: Is there a desire to measure it?

      – Tens of thousands of companies in the world have dead or no FB presence, they still exist and are profitable.

      – Customer service on Social basically is: "Call us on this number and we'll try to help." Or: "DM us and we will get someone to call you." What's the value add of being on Twitter or FB for service if none of these companies will solve your problem via Twitter or FB?

      – All four bullets can be measured.

      – You can, and others have, experimented with various content and advertising strategies and used brand or performance metrics to measure outcomes. Use data.

      At the end of this five year experience of active experimentation here's my personal lesson: There is Opportunity Cost to being on Social, even if it is to pay lip-service via organic content. My recommendation is, you can get the same results smarter and higher doing other things.

      Avinash.

      • 17

        @Avinash: I guess we'd all be really interested in a post from you about measuring how social – and organic search – enhances (a) perceived value of a product and (b) brand recall. You also said in a reply to Girish that a change of mind is perhaps the easiest thing to measure. How? Hope you can find time to do this!

        Thanks in advance!

        Rohan

      • 18
        Kolja Siegmund says:

        Hey Avinash

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

        To say it directly, of course everything can be -somehow – measured, and everything can be experimented on – thus everything can be proven or disproven (don't let my former statistics prof hear this). Let me reformulate it: Depending on the size of the business, and on the opportunities to receive data, the afford of analyzing all this might not even come close to the spending for social media.

        Yet, I somehow have the feeling that we might have a different perspective on things: Job wise, my perspective is that of a small sized online company, that is offering membership based b2c services. Taking this community spirit, that is thus central to the company's identity, social media is a great place – not to go for direct sales, but to show that you live up to that identity – besides, our customer service is saying more than just 'call us back at…'. Especially as there are not to less (potential) customers researching services before signing-up to one. Saying, the approach that we – need – to use is rather quality instead of quantity. And yes, if we do not live up to that, people tend to go crazy. Of course, also the social fragmentation happening on social also helps us to reach 'the right' audience.

        I think that is a very different perspective from large re-sellers or manufacturers, or other large brands, as their approach is rather focusing on large scale communications and campaigns. For those companies, I totally see the points you made. Yet, I do not think that this formula can just be applied to any business, but that business specific needs above all should always drive (social) strategy.

        Best,
        Kolja

        • 19

          Kolja hi, Avinash hi,

          I think what you are both saying is: most social media is done poorly and thus a waste.

          – Business value is through the customer lifecycle.
          – Measurement is important. Metrics should align to business value.
          – Earlier lifecycle/journey metrics, such as 'unaided brand recall', are much harder to measure.
          – Measuring the number of impressions is easy. Measuring the impact of impressions is hard.
          (It's not difficult to measure how many people saw your social post, and moved over to your website.)
          – Whether it makes sense to directly comparing email to (organic) social media depends on your business model.

          In short, don't just 'do' organic social, think carefully about where your customers are, your brand values, and the opportunity cost.

          Thanks
          Jane

        • 20

          Kolja: If I were working with a small company, one with no direct sales, I would quite organic Social strategies even faster. In a world of finite resources (small biz) there are so many better ways to achieve digital success.

          Two thoughts to see if I can still change your mind. :)

          1. Do you get my newsletter? Last night's edition covers the topic of how to look at the big picture smartly. Check it out. Draw the graph that is in there for your small B2C business.

          2. Coincidentally a consultant for a small business asked me what I would do for them. This company sells products through offline stores. Here's my advice: "I would put together a constantly refreshing strategy to have content on the site (drives SEO, gives you content to advertise), I would pick out long tail keywords to target (or use Smart Campaigns in AdWords to automate), and use lots of cheap Display (via GDN) to put out engaging ads targeting home improvement sites of every kind (you won't believe how cheap this is)."

          Food for thought!

          Avinash.

  5. 21
    clong says:

    Thank you…a thousand times over!

    I work in a nonprofit environment and have been trying to get our departments to understand the "yelling in a vacuum" reality of organic social. I will be using this post to launch another round of conversations.

    We see great returns using paid social when people will make room for that in a project budget. I also appreciate the reminder that a qualified email list with consistent messaging and creating/sharing original content on YouTube will take you much farther with the same amount of staff time than efforts on unpaid social.

    When we pin a post on Facebook related to one of our mission programs, we can usually bump reach up to 7-8% which is helpful when viewed from a PR perspective.

  6. 22

    Extremely insightful, and a good slap in the face.

    I struggle to find the value in organic social, but am an evangelist when it comes to paid. The only success I've seen with organic is that real, human-like posts get more engagement and social applause.

    I absolutely hate it when I see brands using social media as a billboard. Rude.

    • 23

      Betsy: I agree that real, human-like posts get more engagement. One of my fav brands that does that: https://www.facebook.com/innocent.drinks

      Even for them though, I wonder if I could get the results they want via 50 other much easier digital strategies. That's my core push with this post, to get everyone to think differently not just about what works, but is that the best way to get those results.

      -Avinash.

  7. 24

    Inspiring read again, as always.

    Although are the examples of Expedia and especially Cisco unsuitable for the argument? Both promote content, their campaign objective might just be to get Click-Throughs. And that may be working for them.

    So, in a way, they could indeed have ditched the organic efforts and use FB for content promotion/distribution. :)

    And, if they approach this a bit strategically, they monitor click rates and boost those posts that perform in an initial test period…

    • 25

      Matthias: Excellent point, beautiful thing is that you can measure this!

      The post I used from Expedia uses this short link: http://bit.ly/2pCfujs

      You, yes you the public, can measure clicks on any short link. Just put a plus at the end and type it into a browser. Like this: http://bit.ly/2pCfujs+

      You'll notice that link by Expedia had 33 clicks.

      Thirty. Three. Only.

      Is there anyone in the Milky Way galaxy that thinks this is a great use of Facebook by Expedia?

      Use data. Think different.

      -Avinash.

      • 26

        Great article… and thanks for the awesome tip of adding '+' to short URLs to check clicks and other stats…

      • 27

        > Thirty. Three. Only.

        60 at the moment.

        27 of which I suspect are coming right from your link above.

        • 28

          If I worked at Expedia I would pay you Avinash to double my click through rates on social media LOL nicely done!

          Of course my coworkers use the argument that you just have to do Social Media for the customer experience and loyalty… I pointed out Anthem's Facebook stats after I finally found their site which wasn't easy by the way. 750K followers and like 30-40 interactions with organic posts at the most and the best one was a video of someone going down a water slide that has nothing to do with healthcare insurance outcomes.

          It's ridiculous how social is used and not measured.

  8. 29

    I agree with most of the points here. Thank you Avinash.

    My experience with paid social media (Facebook mostly) is by implementing its pixel (similar to AdWords Conversion pixel), FB can use its AI/ML algorithm to reach folks who are more likely to "convert" – The convert here can be a "think" intent, for example, "download a whitepaper".

    This way of measurement is easier to implement than using the primary research of measuring brand recall/unaided awareness

    • 30

      Tom: I am with you completely on the first part.

      Identify the intent you are solving for, create the best ads, give Facebook (or LinkedIn or Weibo) the signals they need to know what's working and what's not so that they can optimize your campaigns.

      For See and Care, you will need to use Primary Research to measure success – for that is the success those campaigns deliver. If you measure those campaigns using the FB pixel, it will show the campaigns don't work. If those brand outcomes are your goal, this might be judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree. :)

      Avinash.

  9. 31
    Jose Luis Martinez says:

    Your words are hard but true. This article remembers me the Samsung's Facebook page. Every article they create has hundreds of detractors complaining about product failures or bad support cases.

    If I were the community manager I would switch off the article comments option. They don't let any positive result for the brand image.

    If a customer has a problem he must use the established contact options to solve it, not the facebook page. Before, they were paying the customer support team to solve troubles, now add the community manager team doing the same task or scaling the problems. It has no sense.

    • 32

      Jose Luis: As James says in his comment, if the company treats customer service as a Cost it will only result in sad outcomes.

      I am all of using Social pages to resolve customer service issues. BUT. The company should be willing to put dedicated people, improved process and timely response metrics to truly do it well. If not. Just quit. Don't pay lips service because that is the perfect recipe for brand destruction.

      -Avinash.

      • 33
        James Rowe says:

        That's it in a nutshell. Anything else leads to brand disparagement by any means necessary and that includes social. And you see that showing up in many organizations social pages. Your solution Avinash has been around even before the Digital Revolution.

        Now that the aforementioned sidebar has been addressed, social as default customer service or more accurately default customer venting channel.

        Social media and Organizations

        Solving for Social Utopia can begin.
        I am intrigued by the idea of AI/ML being the answer. Is the problem is that our imaginations get muddled, by the shear amount of data we have to analyze and organizational objectives? Or is it our inability or refusal to first solve for Customer intent as an organizational objective? Can being human keep us from solving for humans. Is our natural inclination to solve for what we believe leads to utility (charts,graphs, metrics) get in the way? Or is it simply as I BELIEVE what has been implied, using a gadget for the gadgets sake. A cart before the horse thing. Are many in this industry taking advantage of the onslaught of technological change to justify budgets before an unwary senior executive looking for the latest silver bullet? Does it buy you more time?

        Thanks Avinash, there has to be mind shift when it comes to benefiting from digital marketing social included. Analytics should be giving us the ANSWERS, not further obfuscating the problem.

        • 34

          James: On the sidebar… thank you for your thoughts, really provocative questions.

          I do blame short-term profit oriented mindsets in companies and the incentives they create for Marketers for the crapification of the nascent promise of Social Media. I don't think ML can solve that problem.

          At the same time, as your questions indicate, we don't live in a world where we analyze one or two or ten signals to deliver the right piece of content (which only sometimes will be an ad) to a human. We live in a world where we have an understanding of tens of millions of people across hundreds of millions of touchpoints which throw off billions of behavioral signals. You can't hire enough humans to solve this… ML to the rescue.

          Likewise, if ML can truly understand, at that scale, the only missing ingredient will be that there is enough content from a brand to deliver across all those hundreds of millions of touch points. Amazingly I think Brands will need less content than they imagine, and ML Will sort it all out.

          Avinash.

  10. 35

    Great article thanks!

    I sometime agonize that I don't do enough on Social Media, being a marketing team of one it's difficult juggling everything, so this makes a refreshing read. All too often you see businesses with seemingly virtually zero engagement and it seems such a waste of time and effort.

    I find Facebook very useful for targeted advertising and it has it a great ROI for us. I don't spend a lot of time on organic posts, often share interesting events in the area or blogs that we have added to our website, so don't worry too much if they don't appear to get much engagement, but when they do it's a bonus. More and more though our Facebook page and messaging is being used for customer service – useful for the customer and little cost to us, so all good.

    So Facebook still gets the thumbs up from me, but now I feel much better with myself for not being so active, so thanks :)

  11. 36

    Great piece and spot on. I've said from the start of social media that social is social. That is, users use social to be social with their friends and family and, maybe, brands and orgs.

    If all you do is post about how great YOU are, no one will care. Press releases, photos of the CEO smiling with other CEO's, product announcements, etc…. are all NOT social.

    My rule of thumb is that you need to be posting at least 50% OPC (other people's content) because unless you are Disney, you are not going to be creating content that people WANT to share. You just are not.

    1) Know your audience
    2) Post awesome content you create that people WANT to share.
    3) Post awesome OPC that you find that people WANT to share

    One tool that is critical for me and my clients? CrowdTangle (crowdtangle.com) which was a high priced content discovery tool but is now free. CT allows me to know what content is going viral right now on fb, twitter and instagram within any category I like (self created).

    Best,

    Shaun

  12. 37
    Stefan Milutinovic says:

    I manage a few pages in different industries and my organic reach almost never was below 10% of my audience and it is usually 15%-50%.

    I agree that fb is killing the organic and push you into the paid.

    I also think that you put too much focus on externally visible engagement metrics in this article. Beside clicks, just one impression can remind your customer why does he liked your page and indicate a wish for your product/service.

    Maybe the combination of limited focus on organic social media strategy and paid advertising is the best solution.

    • 38

      Stefan: You can measure that someone likes your brand after just one impression. You can also measure if you changed their mind about buying your product after just one impression.

      Hence, I recommend not using faith to judge… use data!

      Avinash.

  13. 39
    Sigfredo says:

    The vision of the business has to be consistent with its marketing strategies. Research is nevertheless a good thing, today people is experimenting by using unilateral channels based on plain scientific research which ultimately will converge in sophisticated who-will-you-marry global strategies.

    People will sleep better (some) and more revenue will be generated from interesting #orgasmic #world stuff.

    Good examples here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxAwPyMynpc&t=6s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l69tJ9sC6bQ&t=9s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5tJUg_0Qs8&t=7s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu4Z0lI9Ggg
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz3OVv4H38g
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-KoVIYj8mo

    https://www.doubleclickbygoogle.com/

  14. 40
    Girish Pai says:

    Good post. I agree that conversion doesn't happen on social media organic contents, but very important to maintain one for a business, as one of the tools to be in touch with the existing and potential customers.

    I will share my recent experience. When I wanted to buy a car, I did lot if research on Google, you tube reviews , asked friends and came to a conclusion that I should go for Honda. But when we went there in their showroom the experience with the sales person wasn't what I was looking for. So I just dropped the idea of buying any of the Honda vehicles. But I was constantly looking out for other brands.

    This is the time when Nissan caught my attention. Their fb ads made me look more for their content , when I saw you tube reviews, wasn't much impressed, but when I saw their fb page and was constantly looking at their posts, somehow I started to like Nissan, which was not even on the top of my mind list. I once asked a particular question in one of their posts, they reached out to me via asking me to message them in private message on messenger and they convinced me to walk into their showroom and sold me a Nissan Versa which was what I was looking for, all the time. Hence maintaining social media presence is also important, if not conversion happens immediately, but good for creating brand awareness and change customers preference on the long run.

    Today I see Nissan vehicles, 4 out of 10 random vehicles I look out on the road in my place.

    • 41

      Girish: If the right tracking is in place, and for my clients I work very hard to ensure that that is the case, your experience of buying a Nissan car can be measured easily using the Data Driven Attribution models.

      These models take into account active engagement (clicks etc.) as well as passive engagement (impressions etc.). They can help Nissan quantify the value of Social.

      The benefit of data is that we don't have to rely on a singular experience to decide the fate of millions of marketing dollars.

      Oh, and DDA will also help you start evaluating if those millions, even if they work on Social, might work even better somewhere else.

      Use data. :)

      Avinash.
      PS: Oh, and the fact that your mind was changed after you saw the Nissan page, even if you might not have purchased, is perhaps the easiest thing to measure across FB, Twitter, YouTube etc. You can use the metric in the first cluster I recommend.

      • 42
        Girish Pai says:

        Thanks for your reply. Awaiting for more such blog posts where I get to learn a lot.

        Best regards

  15. 43

    Awesome post you have there Avinash. Sincerely though, I do believe every resource expended to keep these social media platforms running is just so as not to give the impression that a brand aint serious with social. Most customers and prospects still assess brands based on social media presence and the regularity of social posts. Should we then ditch this because we ain't getting worthy ROI off it?

    Having said that, When it comes to results, the fastest and most profitable results I have recorded doing social came from paid, targeted campaigns, especially on facebook and twitter. It sort of beats every other efforts hands down once deployed.

    • 44

      David: You had me at "having said that, when it comes to results…."

      :)

      If you have infinity money, it is ok to spend it on things you feel are working or might be working. If you don't, the optimal path is to quantify this: "Most customers and prospects still assess brands based on social media presence." It can be quantified. Smart decisions flow from that!

      Avinash.

  16. 45
    Scott says:

    Great post (as usual)! Just need to point out one little FYI… I probably wouldn't have found your new email newsletter had someone not retweeted it in Twitter. Same thing with getting updates to your blog, I see them on there now that I'm following you.

    Granted, you are sharing relevant information rather than selling a product so it's apples and oranges, but perhaps publishers could benefit from social as a general rule?

    • 46

      Scott: You are hitting on the perfect rule: If there is user and company benefit in the value exchange, do more.

      My personal use of Social Media is basically driven by the fact that I am a voracious reader and when I find something interesting, I want a way of sharing it. Once in a while I'll use that presence to pimp my newsletter or the latest blog post. Neither of which makes me any money, but they do make me happy. So. I solve for happiness. :)

      While publishers can't survive on solving for happiness like me, They can use Social to get their most crazy fans (say me and New Yorker) to know when new content is there. Publishers have to solve two more problems: 1. Figure out how to overcome the ZDS Reach stifling. 2. Obsess about Recency and Loyalty as KPIs.

      Avinash.

  17. 47
    Michelle says:

    Incredible read! Thank you! Your perspective and data is written validation to what I have wrangled with far too long. Will be sharing link to your article…seeing is believing.

    One last observation that is worthwhile to note is business owners are busy and often automate social posts…IMHO automated posts do not engage and are often generic and uninspiring….no wonder I love and laugh at animal videos:)

    Thanks again for a great article!

  18. 48
    Andrew Copp says:

    Do you have any video courses available that you teach?

  19. 50

    Avinash, This is something we have been talking to our clients at We Are Social of late. Metrics such as ApR, CoR, and AmR are becoming less valuable as an indicator of success and we are ramping up our efforts in the communication effects and the biz outcomes department.

    The good news is that platforms are getting on board, with Facebook Brand Lift studies now available and as of this morning I learnt that Snapchat have their own Brand Lift study in partnership with Nielsen.

    Re: ApR, CoR, and AmR

    When it comes to measuring behaviour do you think it's time to upgrade the rate formulas to account for Paid? i.e. ApR: Likes per post / Fans * 1,000 -> Likes / Impressions.

    This would not allow competitive comparisons but would provide a better measure of ApR.

    Michael

    • 51

      Michael: A small clarification, ApR, CoR, AmR are all wonderful metrics, they have not become any less valuable. It is that Social Platforms have evolved to being ineffective at being places we can accomplish desired outcomes with our organic content.

      If our clients are still in the audience building business on Facebook, I make recommendations for best metrics to measure those here: Facebook Advertising / Marketing: Best Metrics, ROI, Business Value

      But, in this post I am recommending that that audience building on these rented platforms is not a strategy we should follow.

      Thank you.

      Avinash.

  20. 52
    Carol says:

    Hi Avinash,

    What then, would be an acceptable Conversion Rate and Amplification Rate?

    Is it 1%, 3%, 5%? Any benchmarks on this?

    • 53

      Carol: We don't have enough data to create benchmarks. But if you use a tool like https://www.truesocialmetrics.com you can run competitive reports and see how you are doing.

      Fair warning: If the entire sector sucks (which is very common now), competitive benchmarking is less valuable.

      Hence, I default to seeing if the raw numbers I can accomplish could be gotten more easily via other marketing strategies. Then, I'm benchmarking Social against other digital strategies.

      Avinash.

  21. 54

    Hi Avinash

    Loved the term ZDS, so much easier to explain than EdgeRank :)

    On a side note – do you think the way this has evolved, organic sources would be debunked or discounted entirely from performance oriented campaigns?

    • 55

      Prasad: If new businesses leading with intelligent Paid Media is a smart idea – within the budget that delivers profitable outcomes from Search and Display. In my experience it has to be paired with systematic investment in Organic efforts in Search, Referral and Email.

      The latter will grow more slowly over time, but the momentum (traffic) will be sustained over a long period of time.

      Avinash.

  22. 56
    Yigit Kocak says:

    The think / do intent eventually leads to unoriginal content and kills genuine experiences with brands. Every single brand which has that intent follows similar steps from below:

    1. Find popular industry-specific content or hype news
    2. Ask a simple question or mix it up with a comment
    3. Add unnecessary emojis (think that this is cute)
    4. Add a catchy image unrelated to post which is copied from others
    5. Put logo somewhere in the image
    6. Rinse & repeat and think that you're a SM superstar

    So, this is machine work in flesh & bones. I would definitely want to see the work of an intelligent machine than a human with no empathy or creativity.

    • 57

      Yigit: : ) I appreciate your sarcasm. Seriously.

      Machines are now writing music, painting, giving love advice, and more. I'll grant you that they are not there yet. But, you'll be surprised how fast they are progressing.

      Here's a paper from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at University of Tubingen in Germany: A Neural Algorithm of Artistic Style.

      Checkout page 5. And, this is AI just imitating. And, it is two years old. You can see the impressive potential.

      Avinash.

      • 58
        Yigit Kocak says:

        Thank you for the great post. It's always great reading your stuff.
        I'll definitely check the paper. I appreciate it.

  23. 59
    Shuba says:

    Your email on chasing rabbits was on point.

    We never stop to think why we should do something, except that it will be good for the org.

    How good and whether the effort is worth the results seems so obvious yet we miss it all the time.

  24. 60
    Pooja says:

    Dear Avinash,

    As always – a spot on article. As a small digital marketing agency that was established just 4 years back by people who had no prior knowledge of digital marketing, from Day 1 we have been told all our customers that without a paid strategy, don't go social – it's just not worth it – for the measly organic reach the SM platforms provide. Even for paid reach, we often "fight" with clients to not be present on all SM platforms, but choose 1 or 2 or none – with care. And, you probably won't be suprized to know that clients don't like to be told that they shouldn't be present on all channels.

    Regarding your SM follower base, I'm a case in point. I look forward to reading TMAI & Occam's Razor, and make an effort to read each one of them, but I would never follow you on Social. In my humble opinion, social has become a place only for "fluff". I'm seeking substance – I'd much rather stay out and choose other content options, because for the few companies that do provide quality content, there are 100x that don't and it's not worth the time to sift through it. I'd rather selectively choose my content, even though it more effort.

  25. 61

    Yes, I have been thinking about this very thing for the past few months. Why is everyone chasing rainbows on social media? I see the lack of return on my own efforts and I don't even sell anything! A curious bystander watching the circus come to town and noticing people are not coming to the circus anymore, cause it's boring.

    I had a company ask my advice a few weeks back and I said to them, don't waste time or money on organic reach on social media, spend on ads, spend on SEM, spend on getting your site optimised, spend on getting your local search optimised and do less on social media but when you do, be as interesting as the internet, if you can't then don't.

    Look at spending on billboards, radio or as you said, odd TV channels.

    I'm looking at all the Social Media Management jobs on Linkedin and wondering, do these companies realise what is going on? Probably not.

    I feel the same way about native apps, don't spend on developing an app now when we are so close to AI and service workers replacing them, maybe PWA's as an interim.

  26. 62
    Sigfredo says:

    Rabbits are good, the big fishes take care of them. It's about branding: why not use social media for it? It's much more efficient. A good way for public communications. Thinking holistically and strategically is also an option, there is no need for you to love it while help is usually welcomed.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post Avinash. What would we do without you?

  27. 63
    Catalina Bosuioc says:

    Hi!

    I think besides conversation, applause and amplification rates we should also take into consideration click through rate for a social media page. I consider clicks engagement too, maybe more important than engagement, because they can also bring you money, because they transform into visits and you can sell those (I work for a publisher).

    Regarding your examples, I checked the bitlys and they also have only 30 clicks, so it is still bad, but I would consider adding CTR as an important indicator.

    Also, I don't think it is fair to compare engagement rates for pages with 6mil. fans vs. 60k fans pages. I believe it is a natural trend for engagement rates to drop as the fan base grows, as it is more and more difficult to create content that engages such a big pool of people.

    I believe you are right about the changes AI will bring for our entire industry. About paid vs. organic social media my opinion is that most of the pages do not use the targeting Facebook gives them for every post. They just share posts publicly, without a minimum effort of thinking a targeting strategy for each post. They go this small extra mile only when we are speaking of paid social media, because there are money involved and they get more aware of cost per result. Also, Facebook could and should improve the targeting possibilities for organic posts too.

    Thanks and love your work. I would like to see more about measuring publisher websites and just pure content.

    • 64

      Catalina: I'm with you on Click-Thru Rate, important to measure and as you saw they have a 30 clicks, which is sad. I also complete the end-to-end picture. So CTR to Bounce Rate to Pageviews/Session to Micro and Macro Outcomes Rate. Then, we know if it is really working.

      Facebook is a for-profit entity, and they are entitled to use ZDS to control your Reach. I do not expect anything to change on that for organic Social content from companies.

      If you want to read more on Publisher sites, I highly recommend my friend Thomas Baekdal: https://www.baekdal.com/plus

      Avinash.

  28. 65
    Charles Wu says:

    Hi,

    While organic FB reach has certainly gotten more challenges, it is possible to continue to be successful in that arena with quality content that is relevant to your audience. I can't post screenshots, but we routinely get 4:1 and 5:1 reach vs follower counts on video posts. Recently, we hit a home run on a 1.7 million follower page with a video that reached 54.9 million, had 24 million views, 382k reactions and 454k shares.

    That said, this is generally top of funnel material (e.g., SEE content) and as direct response marketers focusing on the consumer space, we supplement that with a fairly aggressive paid funnel for the THINK and DO process.

    Here are some more detailed statistics of another organic social campaign utilizing facebook live for awareness (in this case, marketing worked great, we just had offer issues so we have had to shut things down and retool in the short term)

    blog.nexem.co/day-2-prescribdmarketing

    • 66

      Charles: Congratulations on the home run! I ignore View Counts on Facebook, but it is easy to see from the reactions and shares that this was a very successful video.

      If you can retain the attention in future videos, that would be real and amazing success. For content that targets See intent, I recommend the first cluster of metrics in the post.

      Avinash.

  29. 67

    :D Great post! And true I think. I became a Google+ expert only to detox from it, I have build my own Twitter Tool that I used to manage follower acquisition and keyword based tweet filtering etc for 50 paying business accounts (Twitter Manager) and for this tool I had a database with 1.900.000 profiled NL Twitter accounts.

    If it really was worth the $45 I charged a month for the tool and acquiring followers etc for them, then why was it so darn hard to sell for this small amount? Because even that is to much after a while for 99% of small business I think. And the pudding became very bad also.

    If you see the most used tags on a day to day basis you know it are mostly personnel agencies venting dummy positions they don't really have etc. 80% crap, 20% real people, 100% worthless to me.

  30. 68

    Avinash – fantastic article. I came here from your digest email.

    One question — in your email, you repeat the phrase "Is this material?" I think you mean "does this provide value" because that seems like the right thing to measure against opportunity cost… but can you be more specific by what you mean by "Is This Material?"

    • 69

      Dustin: Thank you for being a subscriber to TMAI!

      What I meant by "Is this material" is… Is the upside big enough? It can be the answer to any of these three questions: Can we make a good amount from this effort? Can we reduce lots of costs from this effort? Can we make tons of our current and future customers happy?

      If the answer is yes, you pass that test #1. Then you try to pass test #2 (opportunity cost): What will we not do if we invest time, money, people in this effort? If that's bigger than this effort, you still don't proceed (and do the other thing instead).

      Avinash.

  31. 70
    marco peters says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It is very refreshing to see that there are other people out there who don't fall into the social-media trap and apply critical thinking.

    I work as an analyst for a large company and I shake my head on a daily-basis in disbelief how meaningless metrics like comments, shares and like are highly celebrated, but don't yield to measurable outcome (=sales, leads). And then they call this department 'social media center of excellence'. LOL

    If you can't track relevant outcome directly, social media has it's benefits as an extend arm of customer service, which could lead to brand loyalty, improved brand perception.

  32. 71
    Jessica says:

    I needed this wakeup call. Everyone in my department agrees social holds very little value for us, yet we ALSO keep saying we need to do more of it. What are we doing?!!

    I'm still convinced organic social CAN deliver value for us as a Care strategy. We're a small, niche industry and people like when we post photos and shout-outs: "After-dinner drinks with the @AcmeToys gang. Hanging w/customers is the best part of the @XYZOrg show! #EventHashtag."

    That said, I don't know how to quantify the business value of "liked the shout-out we posted." (We're a B2B SaaS provider. A customer isn't going to buy more user licenses because of Twitter posts. And when the CEO fills out the NPS survey, she may be totally unaware of the 5 times we @-ed her company.)

    The OTHER value in organic social is as a recruiting asset. ("Candid shots from Habitat for Humanity project! Spontaneous March Madness party! We're socially conscious! We're fun! You want to work here!") Recruiting top talent is a big priority for us. We don't expect anyone to apply with us BECAUSE of our FB page, but we're worried that letting our page go to seed might make us look less relevant (desirable) than other potential employers.

    Again, great post. Thanks so much!

    • 72

      Jessica: My most valuable Care strategies are via use of Mobile Apps. It is a platform we control, and we can be so much more creative. It can work so well, but it is perhaps most useful only for larger businesses.

      But. As I mentioned in the post, FB can be great for See and Care. Your problem is still ZDS. So, as you do Care strategies you'll have to but advertising from Twitter and FB and target your existing Followers/Likers so that they'll see the content.

      For measurement, since you'll know these people by name… You can send them a 2x per year survey to see if their likelihood to recommend has changed materially (or if it differs by a statistically significant amount vs. existing customers who don't follow you on Social). Or, something like this.

      Avinash.

  33. 73
    Keith Aldrich says:

    While I agree with your overall premise, you're numbers for social media (Likes, Comments, Shares) are all for interaction, not for reach, but then you compare to reach by saying you could get more with a remnant TV ad.

    I can say from personal experience that Likes, Shares, and Comments only tell a small part of the story. it's not uncommon for a post to get many clicks resulting in many desired website actions while getting low interaction numbers.

    I feel to really do a thorough analysis you'd also need to know the Reach, Clicks to Site, and Website Actions for posts as well. These are numbers that are not publicly available, which is stopping your analysis short.

    • 74

      Keith: Is Reach worth it if you can't get any result from it? I don't mean Conversion Rate – though that would be lovely. I mean, you reach 1 million people and you get 34 Likes, 2 Comments, 15 Shares, is that worth the Reach? That's what I'm pushing us all to think.

      I agree with you that Clicks are important to measure, and I wanted to share that that data is public. You can see the Clicks for any business you want, as I mentioned in my reply to Matthias Ihnken by showing how to see the Clicks on the Expedia post. The magic of +.

      Avinash.

      • 75
        Keith Aldrich says:

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. I really enjoyed the article and it was very thought provoking. I agree with the overall point you are making and applaud you for pushing people to take more of an analytical approach to their social strategies.

        My response to "is it worth it" is "it depends".. It depends on what your goals are.

        If your goal of is to get social interaction (shares, likes, and comments), and you are getting very little, then no it isn't worth it and you should try a different strategy.

        If your goal is to drive clicks to your website and get users to take a desired action, and that occurs despite a lack of social interaction, then yes it is worth it.

        I've seen posts (both paid and organic) get very little social interaction but far exceed expectations when the goal was to drive website traffic and conversions.

        I think one thing to keep in mind is that the items on Facebook (paid or organic) that tend to get a lot of social interaction are ones that are typically either controversial, humorous, or hit people on some emotional level. Topics such as politics generally see a lot of social interaction because people have strong views on the subject which drives a lot of discussion in comments (although not always healthy) and shares.

        Most of what businesses post do not fall into these categories, which is why you see very little social interaction.

        Maybe the lesson here is that when businesses use social media (paid and organic) they should keep in mind what their goals are, then measure and adjust accordingly. If their goal is to get social interaction and they are not achieving that goal, then they should consider changing their strategy by either moving dollars into more effective channels or posting content that will drive social interaction.

        If you want an example of a company that is able to get a lot of social interaction, check out @wendys on twitter.

        • 76

          Keith: I'm completely with you.

          If you do Social for Social Engagement, measure it. (In this post I'm documenting that this is almost entirely worthless now given how Social Platforms have evolved.)

          If you do Social for brand or performance business outcomes, measure it using the 5 + 6 key performance indicators in section 5. As you mention, Clicks might be one of the starter metrics.

          Agree with you as well on Wendys, they are doing better than others on Twitter. Roughly 2,000/1,910,000 | 500/1,910,00 | 400/1,910,00.

  34. 77

    How refreshing to finally hear this!

    We've long abandoned most if not all organic social activity with the exception of Instagram Stories which (probably due to the internal push FB is giving them) seem to deliver reach up to 10-15% on any given day.

    Other than that, 100% paid. Trackable results and particularly visits on our web properties where we are the owners of the relationship with our users/customers.

    I loved the paragraph explaining the lack of serendipitous discovery on social vs SEO or YouTube

    Thank you for sharing once again!

    All the best from Milan,
    Enrico

  35. 78

    Thank you, Avinash. Some important points:

    * organic social media is a platform for content and succeeds or fails based on that content
    * it fails your marketing tests because like any medium it depends on the quality of information, education, entertainment, art, humor, etc it conveys …. imagine a television network that tried to succeed with only ads and no programming? Social media isn't a marketing tool.
    * don't judge the platform because the way it's used is lackluster or formulaic or "pimping" …
    * authentic/fresh/practical/inspiring/funny content still works a treat on social. I offer my former company Bulletproof 360 as an example. Dave Asprey, the founder and CEO, makes it a point to post often, in person and in-depth on his FB and Insta accounts…. he does FB and Insta lives (the AMA's allow people to interact in real time)… and his voice and persona ring clear and genuine proclaiming his "biohacking" gospel of controlling your biology to lift energy and performance… We had data showing his ability to engage thousands … but beyond that … every time he posted organically it was information/opinion from the source. Social media is a cheap way to provide that kind of entertainment/engagement/practical advice.
    * This may be sacrilege here in the analytics-land … but data are not the deity… rather, data are just extensions of our own assumptions about what it important to measure … value judgments … hypotheses … you and others on this wonderful discussion have mentioned many KPI's…. but what more qualitative research questions such as … "Does this social media channel provide content that people value? What content do they like? Are they happy when they see our stuff? Is it useful? Is it enlightening or challenging?"

    Build great content and people will engage with it. Much social media right now is failing by rote — pretending to offer info why really trying to sell. (You made this point well.) The way forward is to gain the audience by using the platform in the best possible ways — by offering service that people want. Then use other means to harvest leads/sales from the relationship of trust established by great, authentic content.

    Abandoning social media because the data is poor is like choosing amputation over physical therapy or piano lessons. There are other, more innovative, options to consider first.

    With respect and gratitude,

    Steven

    • 79

      Steven: The cluster of questions you ask in your last bullet… All of those can be measured. All of them. You just have to want to. And, if they show the answer is an emphatic Yes, do more!

      I mentioned Innocent Drinks FB page before. To me, it has always been a brand that uses Social as Social should be. Human, non-pimpy, engaging content, perfect for it's audience. I love the brand. I love their content. Their reach is still tiny, due to ZDS. Don't underestimate that.

      Your criticism of me is right, I don't like using faith when it comes to spending real money on behalf of my employee or clients. I like using data, qualitative and quantitative. And, if I were advising Mr. Asprey, my instinct would not be to rely on this Likes and how many AMAs he does. It would be to do two things: 1. Look at what the data actually says. 2. Ask if I can use that same time and money from Mr. Asprey anywhere else to get him a higher qualitative/quantitative return.

      Social media for me lives or dies based on the same thing any other campaign does: Business Impact.

      Avinash.
      PS: I want to emphasize that for my larger clients I assign 20% of the budget to experimentation, for small clients 10%. I constantly try new and crazy things with that money. We see results, then do more or kill! :)

  36. 80
    James Houchin says:

    Avinash,

    As always, this was a great post. The one area of social that seems to be missing from marketing is social selling. Leveraging employees (particularly in sales organizations) can not only humanize a brand but also bring about real revenue. Unfortunately, most organizations see social selling as just spewing more marketing/"buy now" messaging.

    There is an opportunity for organizations and employees who have a clear, value driven message to break through the milieu of content and have meaningful conversations. Technically this is also much more pragmatic because of the 1:1 nature that personal accounts have over brands. This won't work for many B2C companies but can be effective in the B2B world—particularly with complex sales.

    Just my 2¢,

    James

    • 81

      James: You make an excellent point.

      There were early experiments in empowering all company employees to go out and be human, be representatives of the brand, and contribute content or just help customers out. Best Buy and Zappos were great examples of this strategy.

      Sadly, both failed. It did not scale I think, and it is very hard to assume each employee can be a passionate representative consistently (even employees that love the company).

      I think this is why it never took off. I do hope that companies will try again and experiment with the possibilities now.

      Avinash.

  37. 82

    Hi Avinash,

    You mention that your engagement through mail is overwhelmingly more effective, has better ROI and you also control and own the data versus organic social media.

    Is this perhaps not the case of using the wrong content on social media? I would have thought that engaging, relevant and meaningful content would get the same response regardless of the distribution channel?

    Based on your article, the FB algorithm therefore significantly hampers your organic post reach to motivate you to use paid advertising. So we are just falling into the FB trap!

    I was planning on launching my Social Media Strategy on Monday so great timing and a lot to consider.

    • 83

      Johnny: It is very important that I point out that even with the most spectacular content, you can't escape ZDS. That puts a cap on your Reach, predictability, and outcomes. You will do better than 1% with better content, but nothing a million miles close to what you will do if you choose to do smartly targeted Paid Social.

      For myself, and for my different clients, I have experimented with many types of content, across platforms, to see if we can make the Organic strategy deliver worthy results – results that would be better than if we put those efforts in other channels. The result was sad.

      As you go off on your new journey, compare Social's performance – with metrics I mention in the post – with all marketing investments you make across Search, Display, Email, Affiliate, Video etc. For the same types of campaigns, use a common metric to compare. Then, make smart decisions.

      Good luck!

      Avinash.

  38. 84
    Ripul says:

    Great enlightening article to the extent that it is "Beautiful!"

  39. 85

    Really, this is what I got this morning from Linkedin. I really don't know what to make of it.

    Is it Domino's pizza the tech company 2.0 or something? OMG, I can't wait to try to explain this to Dutch people. Haha. https://www.linkedin.com/search/results/content/?keywords=%20%23DominosIPO&origin=GLOBAL_SEARCH_HEADER

  40. 86
    Helena Anguren says:

    This is very inspiring…

    I work in a very small firm and, besides other stuff, I do the social media, updates in web, etc..We have a very limited budget consisting in 1,5-2 hours/week of my time..I have recently developed an interest in the analytics aspects of the business and I have beed gathering info from your posts for few weeks; I think I´m ready to measure my data and, from what I have just read, I think my efforts perform better that the big companies you mentioned :)

    I will be sure next week.

    Thanks for this posts, they help me a lot..I´m a digital indigent putting effort in self-learning and your post always give great insight, resources and humor…

  41. 87
    John Lewis says:

    Hi Avinash,

    What do you mean with this article? Use FB and Twitter only to promote your products and use e-mail to share content because it's not worth to do it on FB and Twitter?

    Just a bit confused, but I think it's your intention :-)

    • 88

      John: Roughly by each section (on top of the post):

      1. ZDS ensures you have almost no reach to people you thought were your owned audience on social platforms.

      2. Organic content you create – with real money you invest – will reach almost no one.

      3. So, why waste money and risk being fired by your employer?

      4. There is still a large audience, if you want to drive brand or performance outcomes for your company, use Paid strategies on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc.

      5. Some day AI might solve for nirvana.

      Hope this helps.

      Avinash.
      PS: I'm assuming you were asking a serious question, if you were being cheeky I'm sorry!

      • 89
        John Lewis says:

        Thanks for your answer.

        Yes, I'm very serious. I'm sorry if I gave you this impression but English is not my usual language.

  42. 90
    Chase H. says:

    Avinash, my wife has started a "blog" in the DIY sewing space and she doesn't have any money to put into advertising, but she does have time to create awesome content and partner with other social influencers. She's been doing it for about 6 months and because she's built up a FB page and FB group with about 10k people (total), she's been able to generate $9k in revenue over the last two months.

    I guess my point is that I think there's still value in organic social, but the key to success is the content you're using to fuel your social community and being creative to improve your organic reach. If it wasn't for organic social she wouldn't have even been able to get the few products she does sell in front of anyone.

    (Apologies for typos, this was written on my phone.)

    • 91

      Chase: I want to confirm that there can be some value for some folks. One of my friend's wife hand-makes jewelry, and received a good chunk of sales from her initial Facebook strategy.

      After we did thoughtful analysis we realized a few things. 1. It was taking her a lot of time to do anything meaningful on social platforms – FB and TW – (which did result in sales). 2. ZDS overtime consistently limited her ability to get her message out to her 18k followers. 3. It got harder and harder to get to new people with a pure FB group strategy.

      Here is what we did. Shifted the group creation strategy to people who would buy from her, and moved that to Email (driving loyalty and repurchases). Shifted her content strategy to her own site (created a blot), which after some consistency in creating content (sharing her tips, diy tutorials, fashion tips etc.) became a slow and steady engine for new folks to see her (primarily via SEO). Shifted a small amount of money from her small profits to Display with hyper targeting to drive conversions.

      She is spending roughly the same amount of time on marketing, her revenue is up 8x six months later. And, she has a more robust marketing strategy, on platforms she owns, with direct customer relationships. She posts on FB roughly 1x per week (something short from either the email or blog).

      It is a journey for sure. Your wonderful wife is a bit earlier in the journey than my friend's wife. I wish your wife all the very best!!

      Avinash.

  43. 92

    I've been a devoted disciple of your blog since its inception. Every month I eagerly await your post, and each time I think it is wonderful – astute, challenging, funny, inspiring, conspiratorial, frank, thought provoking, and practical (I go away and try to practice or test your propositions). Each month I think you have gotten better.

    This post, truly, I think is the best ever. Just look at the discussion thread it has precipitated . I have always refused to spend more than 10 percent of my budget on organic social for all the reasons you cite. It has caused many a row with my bosses but I can at least show ROI for every cent invested in paid social.

    TMAI is also a weekly gift to my inbox of huge value,not just for the practical advice in it but because I really do feel you are in a conversation with me about improving my job prospects. Recently I have moved out of a digital marketing role into a customer services role and your posts remain startlingly relevant because you put human behaviour and desired outcomes at the heart of your thinking.

    Thank you Avinash

  44. 93

    Insightful.

    I landed here organically thru twitter (Rand Fishkin).

    This post challenged my understanding and thought process about Social Media Marketing strategy.

    Although, it seems I should quit my efforts for organic and focus on paid ones. But, this also challenges me to work on ways to improve success rate for organic results.

    How? is obvious next question.

    Well, the first thing.

    1] Target
    I guess, I all the examples you gave, % calculation is low ( or high ), due to denominator – the size.

    Better targeting even if it means just thousand Followers, who could engage on regularly is better than millions.

    There is a temptation to accumulate Followers in Mass without real targeting and than crib about poor engagement.

    2] Segmenting
    Even just those1000 followers need to be segmented based on Customer Lifecycle.

    This help us with target content

    My take is, we should focus more on the Process Quality to improve Quantitative Performance.

    Anyways, for me it is an opportunity to focus on How to improve organic engagement and results? rather than dumping it just because it doesn't seem to right NOW.

    Thanks once again for insightful post.

    PS : I 100% agree on impact of Content Marketing thru Email, even I get my best results from this channel.

    • 94

      Anurag: The wonderful thing about digital is that there are multiple strategies at our disposal. I've written about Opportunity Cost, and Materiality, in my replies to Kolja and Dustin. Please check those out.

      In a world of multiple choices, and finite time, and sometimes finite budgets as well, it is well worth to consider the Opportunity Cost of something like Social (atleast in its current avatar).

      Avinash.

  45. 95
    Jaime Thomas says:

    A thought-provoking post Avinash and an attention-grabbing discussion in comments.

    I applaud you for taking the road less traveled when it comes to Social Media. I am a SM Consultant with a major company and have to admit that I have been too focused on what I was able to do in the past. I've just created the graph you'd sent in your companion TMAI to this post and it has opened my eyes to what I am (not) doing.

    This has not been fun, but necessary. Thank you for keeping it 100.

  46. 96

    Wow!

    Here's a sad little story:

    I had my homepage set to your blog for a couple of years now. I was trying to learn how to dig deeper into analytics at the time that I set it.

    The sad part is that I paid attention to the distracting noise 99% of the 'experts' put up on the web. There was time invested in reading, applying, reading some more, buying some upsells… and the cycle repeated. The process yielded few results. The main culprits were:

    1. Information overload. A very serious problem. What social media and search engines put in front of you is NOT necessarily the most valuable information you could have on any given subject. That ALSO applies, in some cases, to longtail searches, and in other cases, it applies especially to longtail searches (since there is a limited number of players competing for those searches and they create a high volume of low-quality content). The issue has deep roots that are hard to explore in a comment. But one question that comes to mind is "How do you serve quality content from established authorities AND fresh (maybe slightly lower quality) content from emerging voices (that deserve a chance to be heard) WITHOUT the quality going below a certain threshold? I am sure that the question will become A LOT longer if we put out minds to it, but it also might generate some quality answers.

    2. My own inability to filter out spam/low-quality information and find the quality results. Mainly because of:

    3. My own impatience to find some insights that will help me get (almost) instant gratification.

    Today I clicked a link in David Mihm's Tidings newsletter and it took me to your "Stop All Social Media Activity (Organic) | Solve For A Profitable Reality" post. After reading it, I realized that the blog, that has been my (unread & unused) homepage for a long time now, has a lot of the answers I was looking for. So, our sad little story has a happy ending after all.

    Thank you.

  47. 97

    Hi Avinash,

    It's a been a long time since I last posted here but I felt compelled to come out of lurkerdom when you asked "If you’ve achieved sustained success from your organic Social Media content strategy, would you please share your example?"

    I work at an Aussie ecommerce company called "Appliances Online" and we achieve good organic social results (5x the reach and 2x the engagement rate you cited, on a 385k follower base). From my observations of other similar business pages, the number one factor that these pages all share is how much people love the product/service (aka CARE). We get a lot of extremely positive interactions with our brand and we have a very strong NPS of ~80, so perhaps the FB algorithm can see our organic engagement is decent and rewards us for it by showing it in more feeds than the average business page?

    That's the correlation I see on other engaging Facebook business pages – lot's of people that care about the brand due to past positive interactions.

    • 98

      Lucas: I am thrilled that despite an average of zero to five people engagement per post on Twitter and five and twenty on Facebook, you are getting strong NPS. Your audience is being influence on the Reach you are getting. I am confident there are valuable lessons there you can scale to other channels.

      You are following the optimal path (similar to the graph I'd shared on Ian's comment), measure success across all channels, compare to each other and invest more in ones that deliver best ROI .

      Avinash.

  48. 99

    Like this article a lot.

    There are more downfalls of social media. For example it promised to create more relevant and more quality content back in the days – Wikipedia was a lot pointed out as a prime example. It also promised to create a better common understanding and proper discussions in terms of political content among users enabling more democratic values and quality among its users. We all now how it is today. Politically social networks are a complete mess. And also "neutral" content is often inflated by clickbaits.

    But there are very good niches today. For example look at the online-gaming industry. Esports is rising a lot. In Germany we have professional football clubs that's have esport-units growing up. In these industry the use social networks intensively to promote new content/products. But more importantly they collect user-feedback on their products there. Developers and Managers also are present and give AMAs in person.

    There are good examples, but you cannot measure this with sales-metrics. And it should not be a focus goal. It is culturally dependent a lot. I think brands will need to grow up and re-think how they can really improve their values in relation to a community they build.

    • 100

      Arne: I am passionately supportive of companies building communities, I believe that they can be of immense value (especially if focused on moving an industry/product ecosystem forward or of their existing customers). The requirement is to ensure there is deep commitment from the company to it.

      Where I might perhaps disagree with you is that you need to create these on "rented platforms" like Facebook, and play by their rules of reach, engagement, and content type. Build these on your "owned platforms."

      You are right, you can measure impact using non-sales metrics. Use the first cluster mentioned in the post. (Though if you focus on the latter suggestion above, LTV might also be a good KPI.)

      -Avinash.

  49. 101

    How could you destroy your brand with posts that don't have any reach? People don't see you fail, so why bother about low engagement?

    If you have a great story to tell you will have to pay for it to get high reach and positive feedback. Stop organic posting is not the right solution and people don't look at these numbers, only marketeers do. Just stay active and post great content!

    • 102

      B: I have to admit I am of the opinion that a business has finite resources, hence no one should *ever* "just stay active and post great content." There are simply too many good choices out there. Use long-term brand metrics to judge success, use short-term performance metrics to judge success. If neither shows business value, quit.

      Avinash.

  50. 103
    Ian G Fabiano says:

    We had very low engagements on social media (granted the Applause rates were higher than these companies but that's because we have fewer followers), so while reading your post, I thought to myself, "He's right, we are probably wasting our time with this."

    However, when I checked to see how many conversions were coming from social channels, it was surprisingly high (about 8%). Perhaps I need to dig deeper into why this is the case, but it looks like organic content is a successful strategy for us.

    I still haven't been able to figure out which organic posts are responsible for the most conversions because unlike boosted posts, Facebook doesn't make that data readily available.

    • 104

      Ian: It is extremely easy to track Organic Conversion Rate from Facebook, Instagram, et. al. Make sure you add campaign tracking parameters to links in your posts.

      The additional value of this is that you'll be cleanly track Mobile App, Mobile/Desktop Site conversions in either Google Analytics or Adobe or a tool of your choice. Then, you can segment them by post type, call to action, offer or anything else that you would like to.

      As regards to if your investment is returning optimal results, draw a graph like the one attached. It helps you see the complete picture of your business, then you can easily choose where to put your precious $$$ and precious people-time.

      Avinash.
      PS: Impact of All Acquisition Channels on Business
      Impact of All Acquisition Channels on Business

  51. 105

    Avinash – you're a genius! I wholeheartedly agree, with one exception: Instagram.

    Instagram organic engagement rates are still decent if 3% is decent – businessinsider.com/instagram-engagement-rates-up-to-50-times-higher-than-twitter-socialbakers-finds-2014-12.

    I do believe they will probably go the way of Facebook, but only after enough businesses sign up for Instagram to get critical mass.

    Did you study Instagram engagement for companies, and find the same? My hunch (or faith as you call it) says that Instagram is different…for now.

    • 106

      Joe: I am a big user of Instagram at a personal level. It is a great platform. The link you shared was from 2014, now Instagram has 700 mil users.

      The challenge is business is what's the point of being on Instagram? If they say it is to "share the visual journey of our brand with normal people," great. User metrics #1 through #4 in my first list (if you are brave, attempt #5). If they say it is to "pimp coupons and push people into our stores," great. Use the next six metrics.

      In my professional capacity, Instagram marketing campaigns can deliver great Reach of a valuable Millennial audience. This does help shift metrics #1 and #2. Instagram is, as you might expect due to behaviour on the platform, a non-factor for performance type campaigns.

      Organic. No value. As you can easily figure out by experimenting for your company (or by visiting any company's page, ex: https://www.instagram.com/walmart/?hl=en)

      Avinash.

      • 107
        Perry Mizota says:

        Avinash,

        I just came across your post. In general, I agree with the sentiments you expressed. However, I also agree with Joe that Instagram seems to spur a different level of engagement than the other social platforms; at least, currently.

        At Origami Logic, we recently analyzed the social activity of 305 brands during the first half of 2017. On Facebook, 43,676 messages were posted among the brands we tracked and on average, each message received 3306 acts of engagement (likes, comments, shares). On Instagram, 32,653 messages were posted and on average, each message received 29,576 acts of engagement.

        Many of the above numbers are driven by a small number of brands that do exceedingly well on a particular platform. For example, on Instagram, Nike averaged over 316k acts of engagement for each message they posted; GoPro averaged over 211k, BMW averaged over 192k, Audi averaged over 163k, and Mercedes-Benz averaged over 133k. On Facebook, Budweiser, Mr. Clean, and Chanel averaged over 50k for each message they posted.

        Perry Mizota
        Origami Logic

        • 108

          Perry: It is wonderful see the insights from your aggregate data. I am glad that for your clients you are able to see this, and contrast that with the performance of an individual client.

          A brand can now look across it's entire marketing portfolio and assess if getting 29,576 total likes or comments or shares for 32.653 messages (a little less than one per) is worth it. They can compare it across platforms (as you do below with Instagram), and I sincerely hope across email, search, mobile apps, display etc.

          In the end, that is simply my ask: Is it worth it? Use data to answer!

          Avinash.

  52. 109

    Your logic is flawed!! You base it on how many people liked or interacted with a post compared to how many people follow the brand. And then conclude it's a waste of time. But the main flaw lies in the way the different social media giants calculate and show the posts. You have no way of knowing if the Expedia Paris tweet went to 30 or 3,000 people. But it if went to 30 people and 9 liked it… that's not a bad result, by your measurement. I do agree though that you have to give value and not just say "hey look at me, I'm great, download this."

    A much better way to use social is to engage with people and have a voice. Ask them a question, have a discussion. To say "stop all organic posting" is just stupid. If all people used social for was paid campaigning, social would totally suck! Just use it sensibly. Spend your time and effort giving value, creating a conversation, giving joy and fun and being… well… social!

    • 110

      Zeo: Consider the higher order bit. To build on your example, Expedia got 54 Million visits to their site in one month. Why should they care about 30 or even 30,000? They could throw the equivalent of their Social Media Budget out of the window of their HQ and get more engagement and conversions. :)

      (More on this MoR test here: How To Suck At Social Media: An Indispensable Guide For Businesses)

      From my perspective, if I invest my marketing budget in any strategy it has to deliver business impact. It can deliver short-term impact, it can deliver long-term impact. It has to have an impact. It has to stand out in a picture like the graph I shared with Ian. This applies to Social, Search, Display, Video, TV, and any other platform. No free passes.

      If it does not. It has to die. There are too many better business choices out there when it comes to digital. And, that's exciting!

      Avinash.

  53. 111
    Amanda says:

    Very interesting post and definitely helping me think about how we can change our current social media strategy since this has been a topic of discussion recently as we move into a new fiscal year.

    I've always been a believer that organic social media can really help your SEO & site usability efforts. I've always looked at the stereotypical metrics such as likes, shares, comments – but the real value – and what I frequently work to report on was the effect in search rankings. If what I'm posting in social media is helping me to gain traffic to my site (in the right places) can also help my content appear in search engines (to drive customers to the right content) I always saw it as valuable.

    An example I thought of while reading this was during the 2014 Sochi Olympics – AirBnB started with just a regular organic post on twitter about all of the available rooms there were in Sochi. This didn't get a ton of conversion value, I admit. THEN, they started commenting on news reporters twitter complaints and following the hashtag #SochiProblems by helping the reporters find new rooms around the area using AirBnB's website. This was an organic social strategy that had them taking over organic search results and built awareness around their brand by going after news reporters.

    What is your take in using organic social media to help boost your SEO strategy?

    • 112

      Amanda: I am afraid you might be massively over-estimating the impact on your SEO (/Search Rankings) from your organic Social Media efforts.

      If you consider hiring a reputable SEO Consultant, they'll be able to help you orient your SEO strategy optimally.

      Avinash.

  54. 113
    Gal Baras says:

    Avinash, I love how you write. I would send this post to my clients, but they're already convinced based on their own dismal experiences…

    Look at the direct engagement on this post. I'm sure it already beats the FB post examples you've shared :)

    Social networks are for socializing and "social business" is a contradiction of terms, because you can either act within "social norm" or "market norm", but not both. As soon as there is a self-serving interest on someone's part, we're in market norm (every man to himself) and there's typically no going back. Businesses are self-serving by definition and every preschooler knows it.

  55. 114
    Sandeep Gupta says:

    Interesting post with a different perspective! Thanks Avinash.

    However I think, it is not fair to view social with only one filter. I think social media is one of the platforms to reach out similar to print newspaper, tv or radio.

    No media is good or bad; different businesses get different value from each media. For some, print may work whereas a TV ad may be better in other situations.

    Agree to your point that you have to find value in social media and not just do it as herd mentality but not reject out rightly too.

    • 115

      Sandeep: Fair or unfair is assessed based on performance.

      What you see in this post is an assessment of Organic Social, in low tens, in context of where else we can spend that money. It turns out those other places you mention are better – and should be compared apple to apple with Paid Social which might also deliver results!

      Avinash.

  56. 116
    John Lewis says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Reading your last TMAI email. How do you get the graph? The data came from Adcquisition/All traffic/Channels ordered by sessions?

    In my case, and having an eCommerce, the order is Organic Search (62%), Direct (18%), Referral (10%) and Paid Search(7,5%), and the rest but with very little % is Social, Email and Other.

    Thanks,

    • 117

      John: In my case the graph was showing where profit came from (by Traffic Source). You are welcome to use Channel of course, and you can also use Visitors or a different metric – I wanted to obsess about the bottomline.

      Your distribution seems normal. In my humble experience (with all the limitations that might be present there) a healthy distribution is around 35% from Organic Search, 15% Direct, 30% Paid (Search and Display), 15% Referrals and rest Misc (mostly Email). You are super close.

      Avinash.

  57. 118

    Avinash – You make so many great points in this post, but my favorite takeaway is this one

    "I am afraid you might be massively over-estimating the impact on your SEO (/Search Rankings) from your organic Social Media efforts."

    There is so much misinformation & misunderstanding regarding the impact (or more precisely the lack thereof) of "social signals" on SEO.

  58. 119

    Great Article!

    We have been shouting from the rooftops that marketing and business strategies are being shaped by consumer demands and yet we make a fundamental flaw with social media by serving them content that business thinks is most 'relevant'.

    As a consumer, why on earth would I follow/subscribe to an Expedia FB page that shows offers to Slovakia or Timbuktu while I am planning on flying to Las Vegas? I might share/like something witty, but never make a transaction through this medium.

    Time to convince the boss who is looking to hire a new agency to manage Social Media!

  59. 120
    Steven says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Interesting point of view, and I agree with a lot of what you see. But what about plain old "reach" on social media? You're defining it by likes, shares etc, but as for me, I dont't like or comment that easily on Facebook. That doesn't mean I haven't seen the post or that I dont't find it usefull.

    Let's say 100.000 people see your post on FB, but only 20 of them engage with the post. Might not seem like a lot, but if 100.000 see your add on tv, there's not even a direct way to engage or respond to the add …

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks!

    • 121

      Steven: I'm recommending the measurement of the value delivered to the business.

      So, how do we judge TV? Yes, the initial non-valuable metric is Reach. But, the actual valuable one we use is Store Sales, Brand Affinity, Increased Searches, Likelihood to Buy. We use Media-Mix Models, we use Surveys, we use Controlled Experiments to measure these metrics. That is how TV is justified.

      I'm saying, just do the same for your Facebook investment to ensure you are not getting just Reach and no business value!

      Avinash.

  60. 122
    Anand kumar says:

    Thanks for this article…..

  61. 123
    Sabrina says:

    Hello Avinash,

    I think that large companies should move their budget of people involved in Social Media from the Marketing Department to the Customer Service department… Maybe it does not bring much conversion rate, engagement, etc. but it is still a good way to keep in touch and solve issues to their already existing customers.

    Maybe this switch would be more effective!

    Cheers from Italy!

    • 124

      Sabrina: If a company can deliver customer service on Social Media, it is sensible to move the budget to the Customer Service department.

      What I see in practice is that companies either don't reply to Service issues or they reply with a phone number for the human to call. I'm not sure how valuable either is. I would take the budget and hire a few more Customer Service reps to answer phones or improve the training of the existing phone reps. :)

      Avinash.

  62. 125

    Avinash,

    I have seen organic work in the following cases :

    1. Sharing personal experiences — eg: humans of New York/ Mumbai,
    2. Sharing content / experiences not easily available– mental health ,
    3. Content with click Bates

    Burning whole, I agree with your assertion that organic is dead on social platforms.

  63. 126

    Really interesting article, but I'm struggling with your engagement KPIs. While reactions, comments, and shares are more or less the industry standard for engagement (some still use 3-second video views and link clicks), how valuable are each of those in the bigger picture?

    If I'm paying for a FB ad that's optimizing on engagements, how many post reactions do I need to get to feel like I've made an impact? Aren't reactions just drive-by approvals that rarely result in an increase in reach? Comments are the only direct interaction, whereas shares are what make user advocates. All of that is to say – isn't it the goal of some brands to be on social media (paid and organic) to just be top of mind while their customers are perusing the internet? I'm not a huge fan of reach and impressions as a KPI either, but if a brand with 500k likes posts 25 times organically per month with an average of 8k reach per post, they've still reached their users (not all unique, I understand frequency is a large factor when looking at multiple posts) 200,000 times in a given month. To me, that's much more relevant than the amount of reactions any given post can garner.

    All of that being said, I completely agree with everything you said about "pimping". Brands need to earn the interest of their customers on social with unique content that provides value beyond standard promotional materials.

    • 127

      Max: Engagement KPIs were important because the tie to the original purpose of Social Media. Now, these same KPIs help us understand just how worthless it is to try and accomplish that purpose. It is not that the KPIs are not useful anymore, it is that the SM platforms have changed.

      To your analysis on impressions… Please allow me to unpack two things.

      1. I'm not recommending you use the Social Media advertising platforms to get more Likes on your posts. The only exception here is that the post has something so immensely valuable that that Like all by itself is worth it (rarely the case).

      2. I am recommending you use SM ads to drive business outcomes on your site/app. And this, you judge by the exact same KPIs you use for your Google ads, your AOL ads, your Terra ads.

      Avinash.

  64. 128

    As the person who has sat across from an executive in a meeting room asking them if we have any data to support the course of action we are taking in regards to social media, I thank you for writing this blog post. Now if only we could get more CMOs to read it.

    One point of view that was not explored in this post was the potential for Facebook to be more of the evil empire than a champion for its users. What if Facebook always planned to prevent unpaid social media posts from reaching its users regardless of the quality. I worked for a social media agency and we used to run tests with some small businesses, where from the moment they started there would be not just excellent but great engagement from the audience. And by great I mean when you have 2,000 followers and you make posts that have 40 comments, 20 shares and over 100 likes. What we found was that our reach began to decrease because of "filtering" even though our engagement numbers remained steady or continued to increase. My gut feeling is that regardless of the quality of any content that was ever posted online, Facebook was going to prevent it from being seen by users to entice businesses to shift towards paid advertising. It is important to note that we did not run into these issues with Twitter or Google+.

    What are your thoughts?

  65. 129
    Rebecca Caroe says:

    You asked for examples of organic social media reach that is successful.

    Rowperfect (niche sport website dedicated to the sport or rowing crew). https://www.rowperfect.co.uk

    Facebook followers: 4708
    Recent post on How to win at Henley Regatta
    Reach 1096, Likes 10, Shares 4
    Teaching Timing to rowing beginners
    Reach 3439, Likes 16, 1 Comment, 11 Shares

    It can be done. We got this from FIRST building a community base of passionate sports fans

    • 130

      Rebecca: Thank you for sharing your example. I am glad you are seeing the numbers that you feel are adding business value.

      I started TMAI a year ago, and I'm delighted there are around 22k Subscribers. Their active engagement is another example of your point about building a community unselfishly first.

      Avinash.

  66. 131
    Chris Teso says:

    Great post here. Thanks for writing this.

    At Chirpify we're passionate about this topic. Our platform, and our customers deal with this head on by enabling marketing automation, instant conversion, and loyalty programs on social media. They literally automate the delivery of content, utility, and incentives for engagement.

    So, there is a third way forward beyond posting organic feel good content and spray and pray ad buying. Brands that are solely pumping endless feel good content expecting magical organic engagement to occur are definitely wasting their time and money. And, brands just doing social ad buys don't build loyalty. They are a one way non-relational mechanism that consumers generally abhor.

    They like recognition, and the delivery of relevant and timely content and rewards though. For the brand the value is connecting social identity to customer records, driving increased participation, engagement, and ultimately spend. They're seeing significant incremental spend increases and ROI because they've given consumers a reason to engage with the brand, and they've provided a symbiotic 1:1 relationship paradigm.

    • 132

      Chris: I concur with you about what humans want, the questions brands should ask themselves is: Can they truly be human?

      Then, one more simple question: Can they be human at scale?

      I'm a huge fan of 1:1 relationships, but it is currently impossible to do it at scale. Just imagine that challenge for some of the brands we discuss in this post. But, at the same time I want to emphasize that very small businesses succeed because they can still pull off 1:1 and that can translate into business value.

      Avinash.

      • 133

        Would like to understand why you feel it is impossible to scale 1:1 relationships. The brands using our software do just that by auto-responding based on natural language processing, and performing rules based social media marketing automation, under the umbrella of a social media loyalty program.

        • 134

          Chris: To quote you: "our software… auto-responding… programming rules… marketing automation…".

          That's 1:M (one to many), at its pinnacle. Assuming none of the limitations of natural language processing, nuance, complexity of issues, and the ability of humans to can all the possible answers to all the possible questions could be solved.

          Consider both parts of the phrase: "1:1" AND "relationship." When was the last time you got that as a result of a chatbot computer thingy? I mean outside a hollywood movie.

          I want to emphasize two things.

          1. I'm not saying Chirpify is useless. You solve a varied cluster of problems for your customers, I'm confident you do them well. Sincerely.

          2. As computers master intelligence and then consciousness, I'm optimistic that the phrases at the top of my comment will yield a different result. 2035 is less far away than we think. Until then, my humble strategy is to understand reality at a real level and then make promises I can keep. This entire post is trying to do just that – even if part of internalizing that reality brings some sadness (which it does to me as you'll note at the top of this post).

          -Avinash.

          • 135

            Thanks for the dialogue. And don't worry, I'm not thinking you're denouncing Chirp, and hope I'm not coming off defensive.

            Agreed fully that we're nowhere near AI. And 100% of chatbots fail to satisfy human expectations. What we've built is very basic logic comparatively, but, our brands do get consumers what they want most of the time, and they get it to them instantly. They tell consumers what to do to get X. When consumers do it, they instantly get X. The autoresponses and marketing automation software enables them to respond to people on a 1:1 basis with content and rewards. Not 1 to many. The responses are written by humans, and they are varied based on user criteria, campaign, and language. This satisfies their consumers and makes them engage and spend more with the brand, so I believe this is one of the closest thing brands have right now to building "relationships" on a 1:1 basis, at scale, in a symbiotic way, on social platforms.

            Anyway, I originally commented to show one way how brands are employing your well thought out call to kill organic and think in terms of results. I didn't mean to go on a Chirpify self promo rant. :)

  67. 136
    David Ulkei says:

    Hi Avinash!

    I completely agree on the uselessness of organic social for most of the brands.

    It's a question if we could consider a music band, stand up comic or any other "celebrity like" figure as a brand from a marketing perspective, because in these segments of organic social activity I can see much success for some (Ricky Gervais on his better days can easily hit over 10K shares for example).

    Regarding to paid social I see these days that it could be very successful for the "Do" phase too, it depends on the service/ product type you offer, travel, hotels, skydiving any kind of "experience" based thing could work for selling right away with facebook ads. Their targeting is really sophisticated and I see better results on year after year.

    Long time fan of your Blog.

    David,

    • 137

      David: For any person/brand, if the engagement is there – the original promise of social media is delivered upon – then the participation is a good idea. Else. Not.

      I'm a big fan of Mr. Gervais! He has always been very savvy about digital, using his blog and newsletter and other strategies in a very clever way to have a direct connection with his fans. Hence, it is not surprising that he is also able to translate that to FB or TW. Most celebrities are not that savvy about digital, an important reason they struggle.

      Thanks!

      -Avinash.

  68. 138

    Extraordinary article…

    … and a debt of gratitude is in order for the amazing tip of including "+" to short URLs to check clicks.

    Thanks for the post.

  69. 139

    Spot on as always. I've long campaigned against what I now term 'anti-social media' as the majority of posts seem to be filled with disparaging content (see recent UK election coverage) or corporate fluff.

    Delighted to hear that I'm not alone!

  70. 140

    Fantastic post! You are right on.

    Many people keep on social media, but they are not able to connect the dots to revenue, or potential revenue.

    I have one client who insists on social media and posting every day. He thinks having it is giving his potential customers positive image of his online brand, but he doesn't have any customers yet.

  71. 141
    Sadhana says:

    This post.. WOW!! It blew my mind,

    I recently did an experiment for our company mapping out our competitors, number of followers, average engagement per post and such measurable metrics. This was to prove a point that I would much rather be spending my efforts creating useful blog posts instead of creating an organic social media strategy. And I saw less than 0.01% engagement.

    While I do agree maintaining a presence on social media is important, I would rather spend my resources on other strategies than organic social media.

    Thank Avinash for a great post!

  72. 142
    Chris Ingraham says:

    Sometimes it is hardest to see things that are right in front of your face.

    We have been so focused on keeping pace with all the Facebook changes that we failed to see the big picture as clearly as we should have.

    Thanks for this comprehensive removing of the bandage Avinash. It is painful at the moment for me as a Social Marketer to hear your message. It is necessary though.

  73. 143
    Prateek Malpani says:

    A beautiful post Avinash. Absolutely agree with your view points.

    Even I have had to fight daily battles internally to make people understand that my time would be more valuable in doing something else rather than creating Facebook posts for "engagement" of a 75+7+3

  74. 144
    Vic Stathopoulos says:

    I use Social Media to promote my music.

    Twitter seems the best. I post about 40 times per day.

    I thought of advertising; but I have been reluctant because people don't want to purchase music.

    Facebook is a total waste of time these days. I've given up posting cause the posts do not get much impressions.

    Google+ is okayish. Pinterest people pin some of my pics, but really visit my website.

    I put some of my music on youtube and it gets some traffic. I found the article backs what I thought all along that social media is a bit of a waste of time. If they don't come to your website or in my case listen to my music, whats the point in using websites like Facebook.

    Regards Vic.

  75. 145
    Yuen Mi says:

    It's so hard to get organic social engagements on Facebook.

    It's not like how it used to be, so I have to agree on the paid aspect of it. I haven't been able to utilize it properly yet so when I made a campaign, it wasn't successful. This is a really great article. I now have to reassess and try it again.

    Thank you for this. It was very informative.

  76. 146

    This validates everything I felt to be true about social media! I just always assumed I was doing something wrong.

    Of course, as the Marketing Manager for a small company that places a large amount of importance on organic social media, I'm responsible for devoting a huge amount of my time on something that produces such little results. I share the data with my colleagues regularly but they are still unconvinced. It is amazing how much people ignore and distrust data that contradicts their own beliefs.

    Anyway, last week I was discussing social media and the lack of impact on our ecommerce site with our PR Manager, who remarked 'how unusual' it is that we see such little results from social media. Then when I told her organic and direct traffic are our biggest sources of traffic, she insisted that Direct traffic surely is mostly people seeing us on social media, and coming to our website. I simply said there is probably some amount of people where that is true, but that couldn't possibly account for all the direct traffic because we can see that our reach is relatively low for any given post.

    What are your thoughts on this? What is an insightful way to respond to that?

    Thanks so much.

  77. 148
    Tim Osborne says:

    Excellent post Avinash.

    Along with some of the other key points my most valuable insight was your outline of what Machine Learning could enable. I am not sure that I am prepared for that future, but thanks to your wake up call I plan to invent in learning. Thank you.

  78. 149

    Could you plz share similar data for paid social media campaigns/posts?

    Would be helpful to do a comparison for organic vs. paid.

    Also would like to read your thoughts about the cost of per user engagement (like, comment, share) between the two.

    • 150

      Ateesh: Solutions like TrueSocialMetrics have benchmarks they publish from time to time:

      As regards to cost per engagement…

      Remember that there is almost no engagement for organic posts (this post you read tells you how to identify that). Then, my recommendation that you compare the cost per engagement (or even better cost per outcome) between paid social and other paid ads.

      Avinash.

  79. 151

    Awesome Avinash.

    Thanks for all these points and the big picture

  80. 152

    Hi Avinash,
    I'm very grateful to you for writing a bold, succinct, well-articulated and honest article about the real value of social media marketing. It confirms the subconscious reservation I've had about social media for a long time. At the same time, however, it is amazing how resistant people are to data analytics and the way they only choose to see what they want to believe.

    I'm currently assigned by my company to leverage the company contest to improve awareness, interaction and submission. I'm astounded to discover that the company's website hasn't been updated in months and the UI looks like what was in trend when I was in high school. And this is top 5, or probably the leader in stationery products in the country.

    I've noticed the same patterns among many companies in my country: They seem to prioritize Facebook over their own websites for very little ROI that is visible to anyone with a little bit understanding of analytics.

    Do you have any advice as to how I can convince my managers of the company's website's purpose?

  81. 154
    Carri Bugbee says:

    Avinash,

    I've been following you for a long time and I admire much of what you write, but I think your perspective on this topic is rather narrow.

    For example, it appears you've had very limited exposure to #custserv via social media. I and many others I know have had excellent results (either as consumers or brand stewards) with customer service via social. It rarely (in my research and observations) requires calling a phone number. That is particularly true now that Twitter has unlimited characters for DMs.

    Likewise, when customer service happens publicly, it can definitely boost the image of a brand and make people predisposed to favor that brand. A lack of customer service may be even more effective at diminishing the value of a brand when customers see that questions are being ignored or given short shrift. Is this marketing (or a lack thereof)? Many would say it is since it is in the public sphere. But how do measure the positive or negative impact of that? Where does that fit in the paid social mix?

    On the topic of image, I also don't see any discussion here of how you're measuring PR and brand perceptions as part of the marketing/social media mix.

    IMO, nobody is going to buy a car because of a post (paid or organic) on social media, but people may become predisposed to buying a certain brand or type of car because they feel it reflects their values in some way (safety, status, innovation, frugality, whatever). Those opinions may be formed—for better or worse—because of a positive safety report in the news, a debacle about an employee (which can be a purely social media-driven crisis), the appearance of a car in a chase scene in a movie, etc.

    The same could be said about toothpaste. If a brand sponsors a high-profile campaign (that might not employ any advertising) to help disadvantage kids get free dentistry, will people be more predisposed to buying that brand? Will that not at least make them intersted in clicking on an ad? If a toothpaste brand is discovered to have toxic ingredients from a manufacturing plant where it was made in China, will any amount of online promotion (including offers of huge coupons) really help?

    All of these things may be noticed and discussed via social media and will definitely have an impact on the effectiveness of advertising (and in the case of cars and toothpaste, there is probably little-to-no consumer appetite for a corporate newsletter). If people think a brand sucks, will they click on the ads for that brand? If they don’t click, is that a reflection of poor targeting or creative? Or that paid social doesn’t work?

    If people love a brand because it was a sponsor of their favorite music festival and then decide to click on their Facebook ads, is that a reflection of great ad targeting and creative or something else entirely? How can we measure that?

    I agree that getting the right message to the right person at the right time (i.e., personalization) is the holy grail of marketing, but I think it behooves marketers to realize that brand image absolutely impacts the effectiveness of paid media. Just because you can’t easily measure it, doesn’t mean your brand shouldn’t put its best brand foot forward at all times and in all places that the public is watching. Obviously, the bigger your brand, the more places you need to be.

    Of course, if your brand ever finds itself in a crisis, having a large group of genuine fans and ambassadors may be worth ten-fold the price you paid for organic social media engagement over the past five years, even if you didn't see (or couldn't measure) the value until that moment. Even if social media users don't look at past engagement (though I think many will) during a debacle, journalists might scour your brand's social media feeds and frame a story based upon how you've been serving customers (or not) up until that point. In fact, YOU SHOULD PLAN ON IT.

    It might not be possible to measure the value of social engagement even then, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth doing.

    • 155

      Carri: You are absolutely right.

      My direct experience is limited to brands I use like Comcast, American Express, Amazon, United, Tylt, Ticketmaster, Walmart, AT&T, Samsung, Lands End, Lenovo, Google, Sony, Patelco, Doordash, P&G, UPS so on and so forth. None of these brands can deliver customer service worth a lick on social media. I combine this with clients I work with at work (we get data like time to resolution, customer satisfaction, likelihood to recommend – all lousy for social channels).

      It is still a finite sample set. If you are using social channels to do customer service: Measure success. Contrast it with other mediums to deliver service. Don't forget to keep scale in mind. Then, proceed accordingly.

      I'm afraid I do not advice my clients to solve for service on Social media on the off-chance that a PR windfall of getting a story on TV. It does not scale, and loads of resources are required waiting for that lightning strike.

      Let me separate this from brand marketing – the second half of your comment.

      Brand marketing is an extremely worthy exercises. Company should buy billboards, sponsor music festivals on YouTube, buy ads in Instagram, etc. etc. These efforts are also immensely measurable.

      To your very last point…. It goes to the very core of the argument of this blog post (if you choose to buy it): It is false to say there are millions of "genuine fans and ambassadors" waiting to be unleashed on the world. You saw brands in this post with millions of "fans" listed on Facebook, not even five of them could be bothered to engage with the brand (a combination of Edgerank and the brand's lame content). So. Should we continue to invest more because on paper the brand as a million fans and they'll come to some kind of proverbial rescue (given the reality of their engagement on facebook)? My answer is no.

      You want genuine fans? Use mobile apps as a strategy. Don't suck at content and own a direct relationship. (More in my See-Think-Do-Care post.)

      -Avinash.
      PS: Re your last line… I do not believe in faith-based initiatives when real money is being poured into them. There are simply too many data-informed choices for our marketing that deliver provable results. I'll stress that not everyone agrees with me. It is ok!

  82. 156
    Eduard Krecmar says:

    First I completely agree with the post and actually fighting for the analytical/paid approach to social media for most brands (most because for example Red Bull sometimes throws somebody from space and it just works…). The simple reason why it is so hard to be organically successful even when you have a great content is that the competition is everyone and for every little piece of information on any newsfeed an algorithm is deciding what is more relevant – which is usually won by the UGC.

    On the other hand some of things you mention as examples – Expedia on Facebook – just be careful as their page is within a "Global Pages" structure, which means, that it seems there is only one page, but there are actually lot of local pages (you can try it by clicking on the context menu below a cover image and switching the region). It doesnt change that much on the large scale and the argument you made is still valid, but I learned from you to dig as deep as possible to not misinterpret the data :)

    • 157

      Eduard: I second your wonderful suggestion to dig deeper, and ensure that decisions are made on the most relevant (ideally your specific) page/presence.

      In case of Expedia, and most brands I showcase here, the end of that journey also does not conclude with satisfactory results when we consider the data. At the same time, there are some small businesses (real estate, lawyer) where the local area results for them were sufficient to stay with a good organic content strategy.

      Data over opinion. :)

      Avinash.

  83. 158
    DP Vishwakarma says:

    Hi,

    I read this post some months ago and still consider it the best guide.

    Today, I have read again and gained some good point how to apply in social Platforms.

    Thanks a lot and all the best!

  84. 159
    MITHUN SAMANTA says:

    Very nicely said Avinash, it is about paid campaign as life is short. It may be possible over the very long run we can get much engagement in any good quality post or picture or video, but the necessity is doing the right thing at right time.

    So, don't be slow be fast and learn the tactics to improve ROI in social media rather than waiting for the organic search to generate positive cash flow.

  85. 160

    Great article and something I've thought about for a long time.

    I'm currently a social media marketing pro (I call my self a digital marketer to avoid the pigeonholing) and I've had the luck of working on the celebrity side of social media, as well as the brand side.

    To this day, any celeb-related account I've managed has insanely higher engagement. The organic piece is helpful because once an audience is large enough I just target to different regions of page fans – I had a celeb account with 300k+ on FB, and targeted ads to SF sold out our events, for instance.

    I see companies that are successful really making the transition to media companies on social and better content marketing. We also currently use some rather expensive analytics tools that I'm trying to make the case to kill since they don't really give me anything that valuable aside from some pretty reports.

    I still maintain that social media blew up so people could connect with friends, family, and celebs. The brand aspect came once we realized the audience and then it just went insane with self-promotion, and I don't think this last election cycle in the US helped things much.

    I think organic social is valuable if you can actually put out entertaining stuff, and not forcing stuff out there for "engagement." I still see fairly large numbers on brand pages from more fun content as long as it's genuine. I try to treat my brands like people and have them act like people on social as much as possible. But I do agree, without the paid component it's really hard unless you're an actual person.

    • 161

      Evan: Let me first congratulate on your astute choice to call yourself a Digital Marketer. It is very wise. You remain open to the possibility that one type of digital marketing could die and you'll still be fine.

      The overall strategy of: 1. Let's figure out if organically we can get our goals met. Yes or No. 2. If Yes, let's do more of it, keep checking if we are hitting business KPIs, not just in isolation for Social, but Social in context of all other marketing. 2. If No, let's kill it and use Paid and keep checking if we are hitting business KPIs.

      You are right. On rare occasions a brand does truly create exceptional "See Content," and they are able to overcome Facebook's EdgeRank to get higher engagement. For a celebrity (your use case) perhaps that is enough. For a business, still combine that with paid.

      Thank you so much for sharing your real-life experience!

      Avinash.

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