Hint: the answer is yes, but not for the reasons you might think.

One Local Company’s Organic Social Campaign: Mistakes to Avoid

My brother has a friend who does Social Media and Public Relations for the local water utility in her Midwestern town. He once asked her what her job entails, and she answered that her work consists almost exclusively of posting on the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Curious, I decided to check out how, exactly, a water utility might approach organic social media. What I saw was less than satisfactory:

social media post

Followed by this:

social media marketing

Scrolling through their Twitter page, I learned that the vast majority of their posts were either about (a) the importance of drinking a lot of water or (b) how clean Lake Michigan’s water is. Most of the posts come with custom-made images that clearly took time and thought. But aside for a few posts offering safety advice, very few tell me anything useful, solve for any of my pain points, or change my mind about my purchasing choices. I believe they are the only water utility in their town. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure this water utility delivers some fine H2O. But their organic social media strategy has all the hallmarks of a Social Campaign Gone Wrong. 

Allow me to explain.

The unspoken assumption behind organic social campaigns such as this, is that having a social media presence has inherent value, regardless of whether people seem to interact with their posts or not. “Everybody goes on social media these days — so why shouldn’t we?,” seems to be the thought process.

Keep in mind, I’m talking only about organic social media, not paid social ads. Those are a whole other ballgame with their own unique function and value. 

Rather, I’m talking about businesses that invest significant amounts of time into their Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, and Instagram accounts, without bothering to check if they’re getting any bang for their buck. Point in fact: few of the abovementioned company’s Twitter posts have more than four or five engagements of any kind. And they’re probably the employees.

How Organic Marketing Has Changed (We’re Looking At You, Facebook)

To be fair, the lack of success many businesses have with organic social is not just because their tactics are flawed: Facebook itself has also changed in fundamental ways in the last few years.

In 2014, Facebook began tuning down how much commercial organic posts appear in people’s news feeds. This was largely in response to the fact that such posts usually had little engagement from viewers. The slew of privacy scandals and accusations promoting unreputable content did not help matters, either.

The situation has only progressed in the past few years, with organic Facebook posts from commercial entities getting only a fraction of the reach they once did. As of June 2016, organic reach was at only 2%.

facebook organic reach

This means that your small business’s Facebook posts are reaching only a small portion of the audience they once did. Ditto for large corporations too, in fact.

And while platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are not encumbered by the same algorithmic filters as Facebook is, there is still a right and a wrong way to use them for marketing.

So what does all this mean for you and your business?

How to Leverage Organic Social Media to Your Advantage

Okay, so enough of the negativity — after all, I’m not saying organic SM is all bad. In fact, your organic reach on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram can do wonders for even small and medium-sized businesses.

Offer Visual Eye Candy

Visually-oriented social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are perfect for businesses who can benefit from showing off their handiwork. Whether it’s food, clothing, or architecture, companies that produce eye-catching products and services can gain a lot by leveraging mediums that suit their industry.

Even businesses in verticals that don’t seem appealing to the eye have mastered the art of using visual mediums on social media. Take Mr. Rooter, a national plumbing franchise headquartered in Waco, Texas. Their logo utilizes a cartoon character, “Mr. Rooter” himself:

social media image

Simple enough, right? However, Mr. Rooter’s next step was a masterstroke. A few years ago, the plumbing company created a Pinterest page and added a board they called “Where In The World Is Mr. Rooter?” It showcases a Mr. Rooter action figure traveling around the country, and sometimes even abroad:

twitter posts

The company even pins the images to a DIY board that helps customers with easy plumbing fixes, so they can lead customers who find them via Google Images further down the sales funnel. The campaign gives their brand a distinct personality and does wonders for their name recognition.

Enhance Your Customer Service

This is where Facebook can stand out. If maintained consistently, a business’s Facebook page can be great for handling their customers’ questions and concerns. Many companies are surprised to learn how often customers post queries to their Facebook page, and if you take the opportunity, it can be a powerful tool for customer retention and engagement.
Here, I’ll use Lenox china as an example (Disclaimer: Lenox is a client of ours). A few weeks ago, they posted this on their Facebook page. Have a look at the interaction on the bottom:

facebook post

A customer asked about promotional deals available in her city, and she got a helpful response almost immediately. 

As a free and simple-to-use social platform, any small business can leverage Facebook in the exact same way. Many companies even set up their Facebook pages with instant chat features asking visitors if they have any questions, openly advertising that their page is open to inquiries and that customers can expect a quick response.

Take Up More Space on SERPS

On the more technical side of things, having social media pages can also yield awesome SEO value by helping you take up more space on SERPS  (Search Engine Results Page). 

Think about it. Let’s say you own and run Bobby’s Pizza. Somebody in your vicinity searches for “bobby’s pizza” on their phone, and your website comes up. Awesome. However, if your pizzeria’s website only has one or two pages, and if your website is your only presence on the web, the rest of that Google page will be filled with other businesses and related searches. 

However, if your business also has pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, those can show up in the search results in addition to your website, helping you fill up all of Page 1 when people search your name and keep your competitors out of your Google real estate. (Protip: listing yourself on online business registries delivers the same benefit.)

Showcase Your Thought Leadership

Organic social media platforms can be your microphone to your audience and others in your industry, giving you the tools to broadcast your thoughts, opinions, and creative ideas and tips.

Twitter shines in this department — though that doesn’t mean everything is Tweet-worthy. As of this writing, Twitter imposes a 280-character limit, ideally suiting it for concise thoughts and links to other articles.

Let’s say you run a company specializing in office layout and design called Janet’s Office Design. Not only can you use Twitter to showcase your work, but you can also use it to show off your business’s innovative techniques or share opinions on the latest industry trends.

Maybe Janet’s Office Design has innovated a new approach to arranging open work spaces, and you want to get your creative idea out there. Besides trying out your novel approach with your clients, you could post your idea on Twitter. Before you know it, you could be systematically Tweeting a new idea every few weeks, and situate yourself as a thought leader in your industry and grow your brand name. 

Connect with Influencers

Mediums like Twitter and Instagram are also perfect for connecting with influencers in your industry. 

Let’s continue imagining you own Janet’s Office Design, and let’s say you’re currently doing office layout for a business with broad name recognition. You and your client could both Tweet about the progress and ultimate result of your project, allowing you to benefit from their social influence and, if your business carries some of its own clout, for your client to benefit in return.

Although this approach naturally lends itself to visual mediums, there’s no reason a local HVAC company working with a major office downtown can’t utilize the same approach. 

Provide Free Value to Your Audience

In some ways, this one incorporates all the previous opportunities listed. Organic social media gives you the chance to offer your audience something of value for free, helping you build a conversation and trust with your current and potential customers.

It could literally be almost anything. It could be coupons or sales deals. It could be announcements for events or local programs. It could be free information or DIY guides. Your imagination is the limit!

What About Paid Social Ads?

As I mentioned, paid social ads have their own value that is distinct from organic social media. However, there is some overlap. Paid ads can go a long way in promoting and showcasing your work, as well as offering free value to your current and potential customers. Many businesses of all sizes invest money in promoting (or “boosting”) their blogs and eBooks through social ad campaigns, all for the sake of building and nurturing a relationship with their audience.

For instance, Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning (Another disclaimer: this is also a client) often promotes their blog posts on Facebook via paid advertising, covering everything from DIY tips to interviews with others in the industry. Their approach is quite successful, and has been fantastic for garnering attention for their business and establishing brand loyalty.  

Final Thoughts: a Word About That Water Utility

Today, many utility companies are on social media, some to greater success than others. How might that small-town water utility I mentioned earlier put their social media presence to better use?

organic social media

For one thing, they could use their Twitter platform to engage their affected communities in real time. For instance, let’s say the water utility is doing some repairs to a pipe downtown, and water will be cut off to some of the surrounding apartments. The utility could post to their Twitter feed live as they are working to let their community know how far along they are on the project, giving people a minute-by-minute update on when they can expect their water to come back on. 

Imagine how much easier they could make their customers’ lives if they did this whenever they needed to turn off the water somewhere in town, or whenever a major project was underway.

Further, this water utility keeps putting up generic posts about how clean the water from Lake Michigan is. Why not dig a little deeper, and do a History Series on the story of how Lake Michigan came to be the main water source for this town, and tie it into the story of the town’s initial settlement?

As for their Facebook page, why not turn it into a platform for registering customers’ questions and handling complaints? Sifting through Facebook posts and comments has to be much faster than, say, going through phone call records for their office’s missed messages. It would probably be a boon to their customer service quality.

Got your own take on organic social media strategies? Feel free to share them with us and our Social Media heroes today!

About the Author

Nachum Balofsky is an SEO & Content Strategist at 1SEO I.T. Support & Digital Marketing. His key skills include developing creative content campaigns and SEO, both on and off the page.

His ideal meal is chicken & waffles with black coffee.