Why Social Matters (The Organic Version)
I know I know. I shouldn’t even have to write this post. You know social, you live it. YOU know it’s important, but a lot of decision makers don’t. So, this post might help you make that argument to… a client, a brand, or agency.
To understand the importance of social media we have to take step back to before social even existed. For the entirety of the last century, communicating with consumers was a one way street. Major brands pitched their products via mass media. Radio, Print, outdoor, and TV… That was the play because that’s where the audience was. And the audience is still there for the most part, but now they are online too.
Up until the 2000’s the online strategy was the same. Brands had websites and display ads but those were still one-way communications. Enter Live journal, myspace, youtube, facebook, and especially twitter and consumers are talking to each other in mass. The internet became a giant conversation with no gatekeepers. Individuals themselves, not just TV shows, could attract audiences in the millions. Normal peoples social circles grew from a handful of real life friends to the hundreds or thousands of online friends and a simple product recommendations could travel very far.
What does this mean? It means that one way street is now a 10 lane highway, that flows in all directions. Brands are talking to consumers. Consumers are talking TO brands and TO each other about brands. Brands are even talking to other brands. And while this happened in the past, it’s now very easy to track and measure. So, as a brand you can still put up billboards along this highway, or you can be part of the conversation and build an off ramp right into your brand.
Now paid media will always be the domain of brands with big budgets. They dominate there, and always will, especially in non-digital. But organic social is where smaller brands can fight back and quite often, take the lead. The internet has super-charged consumers push for individuality. Not only are their more brands than ever, but there is more ways for consumers to show off those brands. People have become billboards and brand evangelists to their small spheres of influence.
Multiply that small sphere by say, 196,000 and you have La Croix going from almost 0% market share to 13% and the Number 2 sparkling water brand in just a few years. They clobbered Perrier and Poland Springs, not because they outspent them, but because they started a conversation and then a community and casually let consumers know which off ramp to get off at.
This is great for brands with marketing budgets under 10 million dollars, because while the currency of paid media is dollars, the currency of organic social is authenticity and connection. And while these two things aren’t free, and requires some investment, it’s very difficult and expensive for big brands to acquire them, which levels the playing field for smaller brands to compete with the major players.
What’s the ROI of social media? Well Gary Vaynerchuk will ask you “What’s the ROI of your mother?”. Well I love my mom too, but I’d rather just calculate it. Organic social media delivers impressions. Impressions have value, because you otherwise would have to pay for them.
This tweet by burger king probably has around a quarter million organic impressions. The cost to get those impressions if BK had to pay for them, about $1400. Not bad for 57 characters.
But do these tweets sell burgers? You’re damn right they do. Not only does it reinforce top-of mind, but each tweet or post pushes the consumer further along the spectrum from unaware of your brand, to an evangelist of your brand. Evangelists don’t just buy burgers, they get their friends try the latest double quarter pounder rodeo bbq whopper as well.
But what if you don’t have millions of followers? What if you only get 100 impressions or 2 likes on a tweet or Instagram post and that’s only worth a few nickels in free media. Is it even worth it?
Well, first, you need to start somewhere. And second, organic impressions are earned media. You earned that follower and their impression. Earned media builds trust. If you don’t see the value in trust, how are you still in business? And when your followers share, like, or comment — that’s what word of mouth looks like these days, and word of mouth is five times more effective than paid media.
And lastly, why organic social matters is because people are opting into your brand. You become the show, not the interruption. That social media profile you built up is a real asset with real value. When your paid media spend is over, you might as well turn the lights off and go home. But having a solid social media profile keeps the flame burning for when you want to be a part of the conversation that consumers are already having about your brand.