You hear about “organic reach” but do you really know what it is?

You probably know that paid-reach is when you pay to have your ad or your content put in front of the people you want to reach, organic reach is when you reach these same people without having to pay. It’s kind of like winning the lottery or cheating the system…well, that is how it can feel.

Organic reach and paid reach became a part of regular business lingo with Google. In fact, it is still common to hear businesses say “I want to be on the first page of Google”. And Google regularly releases best practice or requirement updates for how they rank and display content.

As social media has grown in popularity, the social media platforms have adopted similar models because they too are search engines. Though, while similar, there are differences in how content is sorted and displayed. What is consistent is each social media platform and the search engine is proactively making changes to tailor content results to the individual user.

So what does this mean for your business?

This means that not only do you need to be aware of the rules, your results are increasingly being driven by your next-best-customer. It’s about how THEY are using the search engines and social media platforms. How they use them will determine what they see.

When I give my presentations, I explain it like this: “Imagine each and every one of us were to open our device—phone, Surface, laptop, iPad, whatever you use and search the exact same phase on the exact same search engine or social media platform. Each one of us would get different results based on how we use that particular tool.”

This explanation is generally the beginning of their ah-ha moment as to why they are not getting the results that they want and leads them to start asking different questions. Even if the question is “well what should I be asking or doing?”

In the early days of social media, the theme was “more is better” with everything, but today…and tomorrow, not so much.

In early 2018, Facebook started making major changes to its algorithm to favor friends and family connections over businesses pushing their mainly impersonal content on its followers. Before it would boost your analytics if your business page post was in a users’ news feed. Now it will only boost your analytics if it appears on the screen they are looking at. Facebook then took it further by specifically targeting click-bait posts (posts that tell the viewer to “like this” or “share this” or “comment below” or “you won’t believe…”). Facebook has stood true to it is core brand promise from day one, “to be the source for connecting friends and family”. To that, I do modify it a bit to say “friends, family, and communities” because a lot of how Facebook is truly used is to build, nurture and grow communities. Anyway, many companies believe or fear that Facebook is anti-business or that they are intentionally out to get small businesses. I doubt that as these changes cost them $3.3B.

With LinkedIn’s algorithm changes, your content is now prioritized based on your interaction with other LinkedIn users—the more you actually engage with them, the higher priority your content will receive when you post. They also took into account the people who only ‘like’ posts or always comment as “great article” or “great post”. That is not sincere nor intentional engagement, so those actions give you less credibility which means your posts will rank lower in the LinkedIn algorithm and fewer people will see your posts.

Businesses favor automation because it’s easy and one less thing they need to do. Your next-best-client and other consumers favor sincerity and being heard or valued. The algorithms are reflecting this and only the brands that make these modifications are going to thrive.

We’ve left the days of quantity mattering and have entered the days of quality wins. It’s time to stop focusing on the cheap fixes and asking the wrong questions. It’s time to actually get to know your clients, your prospective clients, and the market. Because while technically, Facebook is the largest country in the world, not everyone on it is in your market, is a prospective client, or would make a great next-best-client.

Organic reach is not dead, social media is still not free. It’s just different than what it was and generally more accurate than it’s ever been. So don’t be discouraged. Start with really getting to know your target audience and client avatar. Then create content so when they read or engage with it, they feel like it was created specifically for them. Focus on brand building and the sales will follow, not the other way around.

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