How Can You Know If Organic Reach Is Dead?

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Organic reach.  The algorithm. These are terms we hear all the time in the online business world these days, at least those of us who are actively using social media networks for marketing purposes.  Sometimes, it seems like it’s thrown around so much that we don’t even know what it really means. It’s definitely a newer term, something that started somewhere between 2014 and 2016 with Facebook, and then Instagram, after the reverse chronological feeds went down the drain and never came back.  While there are many people who are still holding out hope for those to come back, it is highly unlikely at this point that is ever going to happen, and according to this post by Hootsuite, Instagram has stated that the algorithm is here to stay so we may as well just get used to it.

So what does that mean for a business owner ending 2018 and staring down 2019 in an algorithm-driven world?  We need to understand organic reach and we need to know if it’s something we can still use to our advantage to reach our audience, or if we need to suck it up and set up some kind of advertising budget to stay relevant on the social platforms of our choice.

We all see the paid ads on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media platforms.  We see the business owners who get tons of likes and comments and people signing up for their email lists or programs and wonder…is this the only way to be noticed and reach people on social media now?

I don’t believe so.  I believe that organic reach does still exist and, to be honest, I’d much rather find my people through organic means than through paid avenues as a small business owner or someone just starting out in business.  Don’t get me wrong. I think paid ads TOTALLY have their place and time. And I will use them in those instances (such as when it fits into a marketing budget, or when I have a big webinar that I am running to build my list and funnel people to a specific paid spot).  However, I just don’t think they need to be used all the time. I also worry that people often use them because they think they are ‘supposed to’ and don’t think that organic reach is still a thing.

So, how can you utilize organic reach and how do you know if it’s actually still a thing?  Well, that’s what you’re here to find out, so keep reading!

Paid Ads Mean Nothing Without Organic Reach

I know.  Crazy. But this is so true! If you don’t have organic engagement on your account, it won’t matter how much money you spend on ads because NO ONE WILL SEE THEM!  You need people liking, commenting and engaging in general with your posts on a regular basis. When Instagram, or rather the algorithm, realizes that they are interested in your content and want to see it, they will make sure that those people see it regularly.  They do this by having your posts show up in the feed higher up for them so when they are scrolling they see your stuff. Also, when you then pay for an ad and are marketing to those people (also known as your ideal clients), they are the ones that Instagram will show your paid content to as well.

Are you starting to see now how important organic reach is?  It really does still matter! And there are some ways that you can increase your chances of being seen too!

Optimal Posting Times

Yep, you need to know when your ideal clients are on the app and engaging with your content.  This will differ from business owner to business owner, dependent on WHEN your ideal client is online and WHO that person is.  

For instance, if your ideal client happens to be a nursing mother who is scrolling through Instagram at 3am, and you are WELL aware that the majority of those clients are on in the wee hours (trust me, this is a real thing, I used to be this person), then you want to set up your posting schedule to send content out for the middle of the night.  If, however, your client is a working woman with a corporate or traditional 9-5 job, then they are probably not on the app until after supper hour, so curate your content schedule accordingly.

One way to know when this time is for your client, is to do some market research.  Go find the person you are targeting in your business and ask them questions. Get them on the phone, a video call, ask in a Facebook group or put together a poll or email and send it to them.

Another way to figure this out is to check your statistics on Instagram itself.  To do this, you will need to have a business account and not personal. On Instagram, it is called insights and can be found in the top right corner of your page where you can see three horizontal lines.  Click on that, then click insights and you can actually go to a tab labelled ‘audience’ and see if your current audience is male or female, what age group they fit into, where they are coming from including by country or even as small as city and, of course, what time they are on the app on average.  This is a great little tool to stay on top of this and know the best time to post.

Stories and Live Video

If you aren’t already using the stories option on Instagram, well,  you should be. Don’t wait any longer. And if it’s yourself holding you back because you don’t want to show off your face, please don’t think your face is the ONLY thing you can do in your stories.  You can use pictures of other random things like your office, where you are at that day, your kids, your computer, even just simple stock photos or coloured backgrounds with type on it is totally good for stories.

People LOVE stories.  First off, they are the first thing to show up along the top of the feed, so it will often get people’s attention before they even start scrolling the feed.  In fact, there is some evidence (though I am not sold on this yet) to suggest that there are people who don’t even scroll the feed anymore and simply go on to watch stories and videos.  It’s personal and interactive. People like to see the real you, the behind the scenes and this creates a PERSONABLE business owner or brand. They love to engage and to give their opinion.  Test it out. Find out which version of stories really attracts your audience and use that. Often, stories will help bring people over to your main page and if you use hashtags, locations and other means of tagging your stories, you can be found by people who are not even following you, thus enabling you to grow your audience that way too.

Why do I mention live video here?  Well, often when you do a live video (for instance, let’s say you did one once a week), you will show up FIRST in line for stories along the top for your followers.  This means if someone comes on the app and catches sight of stories and decides to spend some time checking them out, yours will be first in line and get you some engagement – this is organic!

Unique, Communicative Content

Last, but not least, is this last point about curating unique content that entices your audience to engage with you.  This is really where it’s at as far as your feed posts go.

For instance, I follow the lovely Dana Malstaff of Boss-Mom.  However, when I see her Instagram content and her Facebook content, it isn’t the same stuff.  She creates unique pictures and posts on Instagram that aren’t necessarily the same across all platforms.  The likelihood is that your audience will end up following you on multiple platforms because, just like you, they are on multiple social platforms.  If they see something on one platform and it’s always the same everywhere, why would they bother. Give them a reason to keep coming back for more of your beautiful posts on Instagram.

Another point here is that you want your audience and those regularly engaging or seeing your posts to ENGAGE with you.  That’s what all this talk about organic reach is all about, right? How can you make sure that they want to comment or like your stuff?

Posting unique content is the first step, of course.

The next step would be having well thought out and thought provoking, actionable copy – the words on your post.  This includes your hashtags! If you haven’t read my post on why QUALITY hashtags matter, go read it! That post will tell you why that part of your post matters, so I won’t go into it here.  

Saying things like ‘double tap if….’, or ‘comment ______ if you agree’ are a couple of ways you can encourage people to engage with your content and help your organic reach on Instagram’s platform.  Trust me, taking the time to really think about your feed, stories and content strategy on Instagram will be WELL worth the effort for when you are ready to invest in some paid marketing.

So, after all of that, I hope you feel like you know a little bit more about organic reach, why you need, why it DOES still exist AND work and how you can increase your chances of being found that way, specifically for Instagram.

What is your favourite way of increasing your engagement that was covered in this post?

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Bre Hamilton

Bre Hamilton

Freelance Writer & Instagram Expert

I’m Bre and I’m a bit obsessed with marketing on Instagram and helping small business owners feel less overwhelmed and more confident when using it to grow their biz!

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