How Top Social Brands Are Handling Organic Content on Facebook

Reach is plummeting, but there are strategies to cope

There's more than one way to respond to Facebook’s litany of News Feed algorithm changes. bombuscreative/iStock

Brands on Facebook face tough decisions when it comes to their organic posting strategies. How much effort should they put into a platform where reach continues to plummet toward extinction? But on the other hand, can they really afford to ignore a social network with 2.2 billion monthly users?

Facebook cautioned that its recent update to the way it reports organic reach would cause figures to drop by 20 percent, and a Wolfgang Digital study unearthed a 34 percent fall in organic reach since CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s January bombshell.

But despite all this arguably frightening news, the brands we spoke with found their own ways to cope with the loss.

How brands have adapted their strategies

In response to Facebook’s litany of News Feed algorithm changes, some brands, like Southwest Airlines, chose to stay the course. Others, like Dodge, eased up on the throttle a bit. And then there are brands like Steak-umm, which creates just enough organic content on Facebook to maintain its presence while looking elsewhere—Twitter—for true engagement with consumers. All three have been affected by the changes, but they’ve found ways to adapt.

Dodge said its organic reach on Facebook has been stable throughout 2018. Meanwhile, Adam Hernandez of Southwest’s social business team said that while there are “always dips and spikes,” the brand’s “best content seems to continue to perform well.”

And Alleback Communications director of strategy and digital services Christian Betlyon, who works with Steak-umm, said the frozen steak company has actually seen expanded reach in 2018, adding that it’s been “much better with consistency in posting” and more focused on delivering content to which its audience responds well.

Betlyon said that changes in key performance indicators (KPI) mark the “biggest radical shift with the organic direction Facebook has gone,” adding that his agency has moved away from “vanity metrics” such as likes, impressions and shares “that don’t really measure true awareness” in favor of an index that measures the volume of conversations and their impact on its brands.

Video was a common theme among those brands. Southwest finds that sharing personal stories of crew members and passengers results in the most organic reach for the brand; short, experiential-type videos works for Steak-umm; and muscle cars-in-action drive engagement for Dodge.

Steak-umm shifts its focus to Twitter

Steak-umm’s Twitter account really began to sizzle late last year with a truly unconventional approach spearheaded by Allebach, but even with its recent surge, the company’s Facebook followers more than double its following on Twitter.

Betlyon said of the two social networks, “Facebook is really preplanned, curated, designed and full of rainbows and butterflies. Twitter has real conversation and opportunity for brand awareness.”

“Facebook is really preplanned, curated, designed and full of rainbows and butterflies. Twitter has real conversation and opportunity for brand awareness.”

Steak-umm tweets a few times per day while limiting its organic posts on Facebook to one or two per week. Betlyon said Allebach recognized that Steak-umm’s organic resources should go toward conversations with customers, admitting that the brand’s posting frequency is “definitely greater” on Twitter and Instagram and saying of the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network, “We really incorporated Instagram into our organic strategy.”

Allebach social media manager Nathan Allebach said that the challenge with Facebook is that it’s “tough to grab somebody out of their News Feed and get them to interact with the post.” That said, he also highlighted that Steak-umm has found some success with short, experiential-type videos shot on iPhones, which have “quadrupled” impressions compared to the brand’s typical organic posts.

Southwest stays the course

Hernandez said that over the past two or three years, Southwest has remained “pretty diligent” about posting organically on Facebook four to six times per week.

That’s not to say that the effects of Facebook’s algorithm changes haven’t been felt. Hernandez said, “I look at posts from 2012 and 2013 and wonder: How did we get that many people to look at our stuff back then?”

This video from 2013, for example, was shared more than 4,100 times:

He added that Facebook has always been Southwest’s “bread and butter,” saying that the right types of content can still deliver positive results. “Content that is engaging well takes on a life of its own and grows exponentially,” he explained.

Repurposing user-generated content has also worked well for the company. This video has been viewed more than 9,300 times:

Dodge throttles back

Dodge falls somewhere in the middle, still averaging about one organic post per day on Facebook, but saying that its posting frequency on the social network is down year-over-year.

As for content that works for the automaker, a spokesperson said that many of Dodge’s Facebook fans are auto enthusiasts and fans of the brand, coming to Facebook for a variety of content (imagery, video, news, etc.) that highlights its muscle cars. “Consistently, the strongest content includes vehicle reveal coverage, fast-paced vehicle footage and custom-modified vehicles,” the spokesperson added,

The photo below drew more than 9,200 reactions and was shared over 900 times.

Measuring performance

Not surprisingly, the brands we spoke with all have different KPIs and other methods of gauging the success and effectiveness of their Facebook organic posts.

Hernandez said KPIs for Southwest vary from post to post, as the social team works with different stakeholders in the company, but for the most part, there is “no set measurement on general posts—just trying to get our messaging in front of eyes.”

Dodge says it measures organic posts against a set of KPIs that provide a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures, identifying targets for each KPI based on historical performance and assumptions for future platform activity.

“Continuously measuring against these targets allows us to identify our strongest (and weakest) content so that we can optimize toward content that drives the strongest engagement,” a Dodge rep said. “We also use those targets to qualify posts for paid promotion, ensuring that promoted content meets the highest standard for performance.”

The bottom line: It’s easy to feel like it’s the death of organic reach as we know it, but brands adapt in the way that works for them. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.