Not getting the results you want from your organic social efforts? Looking for a social media marketing framework that converts casual followers into brand evangelists?
In this article, we’ll explore an organic social marketing strategy and share actionable tips tailored for achieving standout organic performance.
Why is an Organic Social Marketing Strategy so Important?
In today’s crowded digital landscape, simply having social media channels is not enough. To stand out, brands need an intentional organic strategy that fosters genuine engagement and loyalty.
Jenny Li Fowler, director of Social Media Strategy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and author of Organic Social Media: How to Build Flourishing Online Communities, explains that without strategic direction, social media marketers risk cluttered feeds and wasted efforts from chasing vanity metrics like reach over resonance.
Organic community-building is crucial in 2024 because it helps you find your true fans. People who follow your brand out of genuine interest or passion become your loyal community base. This core group provides valuable insights into what resonates with them and what they expect from you. Their organic engagement shapes smarter decisions and content. Focusing on organic community-building enables more meaningful connections in an era of excessive noise and inauthenticity.
MIT is a global brand. One of Jenny’s priorities is ensuring the school stays top-of-mind and shares its top science and technology innovations with everyone worldwide. So, cultivating authentic follower relationships is essential. Jenny says their fans interact to help each other, point to valuable resources, and create a feeling of community. They feel proud and excited to be part of MIT. This organic loyalty and engagement is invaluable.
Jenny outlines a repeatable process centered on dialing in mission, messaging, and responsive community management for strategic success on the right social media platforms. This process grounds you and your teams to organically nurture what she calls “base fans” rather than continually chasing new channels with no retention.
The framework builds continuity while allowing room for platforms to evolve. Ultimately, Jenny stresses that organic loyalty compounds' value in ways artificial boosting can rarely compete with. She shares invaluable insights on developing a successful social media strategy from the ground up.
A Repeatable Organic Social Media Strategy Framework
Through years of experience, Jenny developed a strategic framework called the “6 Ms of Social Media” that guides her work. She sees this as a repeatable process for developing a rock-solid, organic social media marketing strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Mission, Set Your Goals
The first step is to define your mission—your organic social media marketing goals. As Jenny explains, you must clearly articulate why you use social channels and what you aim to achieve. Some examples of potential missions include:
- Generate $50,000 in revenue in Q1 from a new product launch
- Create loyal brand evangelists
- Educate people on challenges facing women in technology
As a social media marketer, you want to outline how to leverage social tactics to support broader business objectives. For example, state the goal first. Then, explain your social media game plan to drive it. You could say: “Our goal is to generate $50,000 in revenue in Q1 from our new product launch. To support this on social media channels, we will:
- Post 1 Instagram story per week
- Conduct early product reviews with fans
- Record and post fan reactions weekly
- Launch a micro-influencer marketing campaign
- Reevaluate performance at the end of Q1
If your mission is to create loyal brand evangelists, your organic social media marketing strategy could be to lift up your customers so that they actively promote your products and services. Your tactics could be to do a weekly giveaway or amplify your customers' special activities—interact with your customers so that they develop a deep loyalty and love for your brand.
Similarly, if your business aims to solve a specific problem, like educating people on the challenges facing women in technology, your mission could be to lift up and feature women leaders in tech.
If your company has a broad goal like “change the world” or “make the world better”, get specific about how you’ll support that through your social media presence.
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First, go on a listening tour—talk to different internal teams and loyal external fans. Ask them what the company already does that has a positive community impact or isn't well known. This process surfaces hidden stories, Jenny says.
Next, set goals around amplifying those stories on social media. For example, you can support your company’s mission of making the world a better place by spreading the word about how it's offering a free breakfast program for children in need.
Then, list social tactics to achieve your goal:
- Profile the breakfast program in an Instagram series
- Spotlight student stories from the breakfast club
- Run a Facebook donation campaign to expand the program
Rather than vague aspirations, spotlight specific positive actions already happening. Then, use social media platforms to share those stories and impacts more widely.
Whatever your mission, it serves as your guiding “North Star” for evaluating future opportunities and requests. If someone asks you to promote some random event, you can easily say no if it doesn’t align with your stated mission. Over time, promoting disjointed content makes your overall social story messy. Simply posting whatever, whenever, dilutes your impact. So, anchor on your purpose before creating anything.
Step 2: Craft Compelling Messages
Next, carefully craft your brand’s messaging. Each piece of content on your social media platforms contributes to the broader story you tell followers about your brand. Jenny stresses the importance of occasionally viewing your feeds as a user would, not just posting content piecemeal.
For example, Jenny ensures that MIT’s social media followers see students, the culture, fun, labs, etc.—all of MIT, not just one portion. She assesses her feeds through a “3 scroll” lens. Jenny says people are going to scroll through your content three times before they decide whether they want to follow you or not. To assess your overall brand story, ask yourself these questions:
- What story am I telling potential new followers in my first three scrolls?
- Am I showcasing diverse facets of my brand?
- Is my content entertaining and engaging?
You don’t need an elaborate story with every social media post. The key is having an overarching unified story that aligns with your goals. Rather than getting fixated on single posts, look at your entire body of work and evaluate whether the collection clearly reaches your organic social media efforts.
For example, you may have goals like highlighting more women at your company or driving awareness of diversity scholarships. Assess whether your recent organic social media posts collectively paint a picture of those priorities engagingly.
Also, viewing your feed as a user helps you notice things to improve. For instance, Jenny accidentally posted three black-and-white images in a row. Stepping back revealed she needed more visual variety and color.
Jenny notes there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to posting frequency. What matters is quality over quantity.
Having diverse posts that map back to your goals and resonate visually creates a memorable, high-impact social narrative. Curating an engaging social profile requires understanding what makes your target audience tick. Your messaging should be about delivering the value your followers crave—remember, it’s not about you. Your followers want to know what you can offer them and how they can learn from you.
Step 3: The Power of Process Management
The third step is to document your processes. To consistently execute an organic social strategy, outline your steps from idea creation to post-publishing that work for your team.
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Detailing your processes enables smooth handoffs if you're unavailable. If the proverbial bus hits you, your backups can step in seamlessly because you already have a written playbook. Everyone understands roles, responsibilities, tools, and workflows.
Documentation also sets expectations with internal partners. If someone requests you “quickly post this”, you can point them to the process guide detailing when and how to submit content ideas.
An official playbook lends credibility and structure, too. You can educate partners on ideal timelines for pitches and content needs. It also scales your operation by allowing others to follow the blueprint easily.
Step 4: Evaluate Each Medium
Next, carefully evaluate which social media platforms best fit your organic content and target audience. Jenny notes that the audiences and norms around content consumption differ on each social media channel. So, reimagine and optimize your content for each platform rather than just repurposing the same posts everywhere.
Resist the temptation to create accounts just because others exist, Jenny says. As she discovered, inactive accounts usually won’t be missed—stop doing the things that aren't working. If you have a social media platform with years of content on it, don’t delete it. Instead, make a social media post saying you are now active on “platform y” and follow you over there.
The key is to focus on quality over quantity. Before creating new accounts, audit each platform's value and your capacity to sustain interactions.
For example, Instagram mainly features visuals. Before launching an Instagram account, determine whether you have a steady supply of vibrant, original images to share. If your best assets are blogs and research reports, a text-heavy platform like X/Twitter may better serve your content strategy. Unique messages won't matter if you can't consistently create the required social media package for your chosen channels.
If your content resonates, it has a way of jumping platforms anyway, Jenny says. How many times have you seen TikTok videos on Instagram Reels? Has anyone DM'd you a YouTube short? If your content is engaging, it will not stay on the channel you created it on. Your target audience is going to share it for you on their channels. They'll share it on Facebook even though they saw it on LinkedIn, or they'll email 10 people and share.
Step 5: Track and Revise Metrics
The next step is to select key performance indicators for tracking your social success. Before posting, determine what metrics align with your goals: followers, engagements, impressions, etc. But don’t just set it and forget it. Keep assessing whether your selected metrics are providing actionable insights. If not, switch them up.
Focus on public engagement metrics like comments, shares, and likes—interactions everyone can see— to gauge what resonates with your target audience. These actions signal engaging content that actually compels social media users enough to react.
Jenny likens these actions to votes for whether you’re delivering expected value. Lots of likes show an appetite for that format. Comments indicate it provoked thoughts or feelings. Shares mean it really hit home. Set engagement baselines by tallying interaction rates over time. Track how many likes, comments, and shares posts typically receive. This reveals your target audience's temperature.
You've likely created something very sticky when a post vastly outperforms your baselines. If it underperforms, that suggests a miss. Let high action rates guide you in serving more of what your target audience craves. And don't just count interactions—evaluate their sentiment. Many comments could mean you touched a nerve or passion point. Pay attention to what people say as much as raw volumes. Sentiment and feedback help iterate to ever more resonant content.
Reach metrics can take a backseat to engagement, depending on what you are tracking for your success. High reach means content passed through more feeds—not that it was actually seen or resonated, Jenny says.
The one advantage of reach is brand awareness. Even if people don't engage, simply passing by your posts plants seeds and sparks recognition. So it has some branding halo effect. However, broad reach could also expose your content to the wrong audiences. For example, an Instagram Reel could be widely distributed to irrelevant viewers. Such high view counts may incorrectly signal you've reached your target market.
Stick to weighting engagement over passive reach to determine what truly hits home with your community—reactions separate signal from noise so you can consistently serve your tribe. If you drive meaningful engagement, reach and impressions will follow over time.
Step 6: Monitor Mentions, Comments, and Conversations
The final step is to monitor relevant conversations happening on your social channels about your brand, products, or services. The work doesn’t end once you hit “post.” Continual monitoring builds on your metrics by directly surveying social conversations, comments, and mentions.
This real-time feedback lets you keep a pulse on your fans’ needs and evolving perceptions.
For monitoring, Jenny analyzes comments and quote posts (what people say about your brand or products). While using social listening tools to supplement manual monitoring, simply carving out time for spot checks provides invaluable perspectives.
Carefully review comments on your content and notice who replies to each one. Visit those profiles. For example, Jenny looks at whether they’re students or community members and prioritizes their feedback accordingly. Also, analyze quote tweets or reshares, scanning responses. Follow the rabbit hole wherever it goes through threads and sub-discussions.
Your target audience will tell you so much about what they're going through and their pain points. For example, after noticing Mother’s Day celebrations sparked mixed reactions at MIT, Jenny opted to forgo posting about Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Jenny also suggests checking broader discussions on Reddit and Google searches. For example, if you’re creating a new hashtag, Google it first to ensure no unintended meanings exist.
Between platforms’ analytics and public discussions, the insights are there for the taking.
Above all, Jenny’s framework curates the authentic human connections that the organic social media landscape was fundamentally designed for. By applying her process, any brand can nurture flourishing communities that fuel loyalty for the long term.
Jenny Li Fowler is director of Social Media Strategy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Organic Social Media: How to Build Flourishing Online Communities. She’s also host of Confessions of a Higher Ed Social Media Manager podcast. You can find her on LinkedIn and X/Twitter.
Other Notes From This Episode
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