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The Power of Organic

November 2, 2018

There is so much information out there about paid social media. One might even feel pressured to pay to play. I thought I’d offer a voice in support of non-paid social media. At MIT we have a purely organic strategy, and I think it could work for you, too.

Since I started working at MIT in November 2015, we’ve grown our Twitter followers almost 4x, our Facebook page likes 0.5x, and our Instagram followers around 7x in size, and we have never boosted or paid for a post. Ever.

As of October 2018, our follower totals are:

Facebook: 1,119,974

Twitter: 969,090

Instagram: 86,400

By no means am I suggesting that I alone am responsible for this growth. It truly has been a team effort. However, I am saying with confidence that we have built our social media audiences organically. To be transparent, I have no budget. At first, I had no choice but to build a purely organic strategy. But now, it IS a choice, and I do defend our “organic only” approach when the conversation arises to potentially boost a post or pay for social media in the event of a really big announcement.

I realize there are some obvious facts at play here. MIT is a very strong global brand. If we make a big announcement, people are going to hear it. We don’t have to work at gaining followers because our brand speaks for itself. But remember, paying for social is not about gaining followers; it’s about getting your content seen and garnering engagements.

For the past several years, the trend has been to pay less attention to impressions and reach and to put more emphasis on engagements. One thing we know about Facebook’s algorithm is that engagements do impact the number of people Facebook will “serve” your content to.

Engagements are the main metric I take stock in.

For example, in the last 90 days, our worst-performing Tweet in terms of engagements received 23 likes and four retweets. Our best got 2,163 likes and 1,099 retweets. Our “worst” Facebook post totaled 23 reactions, two shares, and one comment. Our “best” received 1,706 reactions, 409 shares, and 41 comments. And in Instagram we ranged from 617 likes and five comments to 5,586 likes and 24 comments.

In social media, you’re always working to increase your engagement totals, but I’m happy with these numbers.

We have built our social media presence on three basic principles:

  1. The content is relevant and compelling to our audiences and the audiences we seek to reach.
  2. The content is optimized for each individual channel so that it is presented in the best way for our audiences to experience it, no matter which platform they see it in.
  3. Everything is authentic.

We know what our audiences are interested in. For instance, our community loves numbers, so we know that posts about Pi Day, Avogadro's number, and really anything else with a play on numbers will perform well. We know their sense of humor, and we create content with that in mind.

And by optimizing content, I mean we take the time to sweat the details in every platform we post in. For example, when posting a video on Twitter, we make sure that the video starts at a frame of a compelling image, not on black. If a video starts on black, it will show on your timeline as a big black box, which doesn’t look great. All of our posts are reflective of MIT’s culture, and nothing is forced.

It all comes down to staying true to yourself, which in this case is MIT’s culture, and being picky about the content. Think carefully about what you post and how you post it so your content can easily be seen and enjoyed.

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