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A Boutique Marketing Consultancy

Natascha Thomson
Natascha Thomson is the CEO of MarketingXLerator and brings over 20 years of experience to her Silicon Valley consulting practice.
© 2019 Marketing XLerator

As somebody who’s been around since the early days of social media marketing, I am ready to say “goodbye” to organic social media (for B2B and B2C marketing). I’ve built my consulting practice around social media marketing, so how can I say this?

Social media has been used and abused. The original idea was to create two-way communications versus sending out messages to the masses. The idea was to share content that is of interest to others and in return to create mutually beneficial relationships. But that approach no longer works.

The “PAID” Mandate

Today, it’s impossible to create impact without advertising, and I use this word loosely to include boosting, sponsoring, trending and any other way to get more exposure for an account or post via paid.

Is there an exception to the rule? Yes, fame. If you are famous (or infamous) it is still possible to create organic success. Just look at @TheRealDonaldTrump or the Kardashians. Also, simple brand recognition makes organic success on social media a lot more likely. If you are a big brand, say “Coca-Cola” or “SAP”, you have a “built-in” following of fans and other members of your ecosystem. Without a brand, it’s much much harder to get noticed.

Yes, there are campaigns that go viral or get at least a lot of attention but the odds are that these campaigns are backed by social media advertising, we just don’t think about it. Look at Facebook: without paid, only 2-7% of your fans will see something you post in their newsfeed. Boosting is required to even reach your loyal base. Most brand posts you see have been boosted.

But what about the Influencers?

Ther are many influencers out there who have built an organic following with elbow grease. Usually, they have niche knowledge and built their fame via offline and online networking e.g. Mom Bloggers or IT experts. But I can tell you from working with some of them first hand that many are paying third parties to get help so they can increase their following and engagement. Many influencers get paid by brands or get something else in exchange (often information) for touting somebody else’s message, particularly in B2C.

While we often hear about the school girl or college boy who built their own YouTube empire to rake in 6 figure paydays, I firmly believe that these examples are similar to viral videos. Everybody wants to have a viral video and we seem to see them all the time, but percentage wise, they are the exception.

Yes, it’s Semantics but not Just

So at least in my book, organic social media is (mostly) dead and I can no longer advise my clients to set up social media channels if they aren’t planning to pay for reach and engagement (or even conversion). Of course, there is much more to it, like great content and an overall sound strategy, but paid matters.

Social media is now just another advertising channel; a mass marketing tool.

Ironically, the declared goal of brands is still to reach individuals and to engage them in two-way-conversations. When in reality, brands are striving hard to eliminate any form of actual human interaction as human time has become much too expensive.

Today, “social” means automation. “Personalization” is the pretense of a social interaction executed based on data analysis.

So is this Wrong?

It’s not wrong and it works. Yes, paid social media works if done right. And, to my surprise (but I generally don’t seem to be the typical target audience), many people are satisfied with it. Just look at the emergence of bots. People now have many conversations with bots and they are happy to get the answers they need quickly. Only, I would not call that social media as I don’t subscribe to the belief that a machine can be social.

Are we getting tired of interacting on social media?

So back to my point. “Goodbye, Social Media” and “Hello to AI”. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al have mostly lost their social character and as a reaction, tools like WhatsApp, Messenger and Snapchat have become more and more popular. Why? Because they allow genuine social conversations. I guess the rise of Instagram is a clear sign that interaction is being (deliberately) de-emphasised (by users) in exchange for visual interactions via pictures and videos. Are we getting tired of interacting on social media? What do we really want? Connection but little investment?

AI is the Logical Next Step

AI is the natural extension of this process. We are still operating under the illusion of interacting one-to-one when really it’s mass communication that we have outsourced to machines.

Don’t get me wrong, I see endless benefits of AI in so many areas of life but I am concerned about outsourcing my online social life to AI. Considering how much pressure many people seem to feel about just being on Facebook (and so many are horrified about unfriending somebody online), I see a market for people who want to use bots to like others posts, share and maybe even comment.

But I don’t see the point for myself and I don’t call it “social” media, rather “social duty”.


What is your view on the state of organic social media? Please share.

4 thoughts on “Why Social Media Is No Longer Social – And Why Nobody Seems to Care

  1. I think you are spot on. The move to paid social was inevitable because social networks like FB had no choice but to make money someday and this is one of the few ways a social site has. (Of course, FB and YouTube are moving from social to paid TV services which is a different paid model)

    We started on social media at about the same time. Back then there were some huge successes with unpaid social media campaigns; now the question is “which is more effective – a social ad or traditional ad”.

    I don’t see bots as social interaction but as answer machines (on help sites) or assistants (like Google Now).

  2. I agree with everything Michael has said. Social media or advertisement or both? It will be interesting to watch and see the changes that have happened. And will be coming…

    What is even stranger is that sites where we used to go to communicate with others – SAP site, has now become a great place to see marketing of new products. It isn’t so good with communicating with other people. I wonder how many other sites have done that? Switched to marketing their products.

    AI – Don’t get me started. I agree they should be help sites or assistants. However, I’ve been in some disturbing sessions where “the general public” shouldn’t even get to vote. We answer questions a computer decides based on those answers who we should vote for, and then it votes for us.

    1. Michelle, thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful comment. Sorry to hear that SCN has decided to go the promotional route. I am sure every site is trying to maximise ROI but it’s important to stay on the pulse of the community and not get too greedy, IMHO.

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