How Brands Can Win Organically on Social Media in 2018

By Ben Nesvig

I’ve heard every excuse. It’s the algorithm, it’s the switch to a business profile, it’s required that you pay to play now, and on and on. The consensus from marketers in 2018 is that organic reach and engagement on social media is dead (or at least on life support). If you want people to see your content, you’ve got to open your wallet. But what if this isn’t true? Is it still possible to win organically on social media?

An alibi is convenient because it absolves you of all responsibility. A good alibi means you no longer have to adapt to what works on social. You only need to spend money on impressions—or so the thinking goes. But the belief that paid is the only way disintegrates when you learn there are brands getting millions of organic impressions on social media in 2018.

The Social Lights’ quarterly report, Trend Tap, highlights several brands that are winning the organic game. Here’s how brands are doing it.

Be Bold in the Moment

Being normal doesn’t get you noticed. Being normal allows you the comfort of risk aversion and forces you to remain invisible in the sea of sameness. During March Madness this year, the last team you’d expect to dominate social conversation was 16-seed UMBC. But dominate they did. Not only did they upset #1 ranked Virginia on the court, but also UMBC gained 100k new followers on social in one weekend thanks to timely, witty tweets.

Another brand that used a relevant moment to launch itself as an immediate favorite brand on Twitter is MoonPie. The 100-year-old company proves that any brand has the potential to become a fan favorite with enough creativity. MoonPie’s jab at Hostess Snacks’ marketing-speak tweet went viral, earning millions of impressions and a snowball of new followers for MoonPie.

Tap Into the Cultural Zeitgeist

How do you promote a (likely average) Christmas movie without a big budget? For Netflix, it took only a single tweet that earned 115k retweets, several blog commentaries, and millions of organic impressions. Over the past year, Netflix has capitalized on the cultural zeitgeist of the moment, often leveraging “internet speak” and meshing TV shows or movies on their service with cultural trends.

Memes have become a popular way for brands to tap into the trends of the moment. In the example below, Chex Mix leveraged the “distracted boyfriend” meme into something that resonated with their audience, resulting in a post that received an impressive 5x as many shares as likes on Facebook. You can expect more brands to leverage memes in the next year, as they’re one of the fastest ways to connect with an audience.

Organic Engagement on Social Media is Still Possible

Winning organically on social media in 2018 isn’t impossible; it requires doing what people like. I realize this is obvious, but some of the biggest brands in the world are still publishing their TV commercials on Facebook without optimizing for the fact that most users watch videos on Facebook with the audio off. The algorithms haven’t killed all hope for organic engagement on social media. Marketers without that alibi already know this and they’re the ones who are dominating social media today.

For more on the current state of social media engagement, read Trend Tap: Social Media Engagement in 2018.

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