Organic social; these are the requirements for success

Just don’t rely on organic only. All combine organic with paid social to kick start, to amplify reach, or to retarget.

No need to convince you that the social media pay-to-play era started some time ago. Organic reach is low and decreasing. Yet some brands deliberately choose to focus on organic content. Why, how, and what can we learn from them? Below is an excerpt from the five Digiday content pieces. 

If you decide to focus on organic instead of paid – for whatever reason, this is what you need to know.


Why focus on organic social

There are a few reasons why the brands focus on organic and not on paid.

  • Create a two-way dialogue with the community.  Use organic to connect to your customers and facilitate two-way conversations with your fans and followers. Notice the requirements for value-centric content and social listening and webcare+ in place are indispensable and non-negotiable. 
  • Give your community a reason to come back (for more). Again, this is in line with the requirements for success on organic social: value-centric and ensuring the user gets something out of it.
  • Test and learn continuously; especially with organic, you have user feedback within a few hours. If it flows, it flows. Learn what works and move away from what doesn’t. Apply these learnings in your other communications, from paid to other channels. 
  • Advertising on social has become increasingly expensive and weighed down by data privacy regulations. ‘Because of all the iOS changes and privacy, a lot of companies can’t afford to compete in the paid space the way they used to’.
  • Regulations due to the sensitivity of your brand or product: these can be feminine hygiene products, as goes for Honey Pot Company, sexually explicit, gambling, or any other restrictions. For some brands, paid is just too regulated, complicated, or hardly possible. 
  • Some say they don’t feel like they can control paid in it the way they can control organic. With paid, once you have uploaded the ads and targeting, it's out of your hands.


How to nail organic social

As for all social content, the creative determines the success, not the media budget. What we can learn ... 

  • Use user-generated content by and for the community. UGC is here to stay and - year after year - named as one of the trends. 
  • Use memes, challenges, and trends as ‘POV’ or tap into cultural moments.
  • Work with creators. The creator economy is on the rise. So are micro-influencers and KOC (Key Opinion Consumers). 
  • Tap into existing communities like #BookTok.
  • Build community engagement with exclusive interviews and or comedic TikTok videos.
  • Use shopper feedback via Instagram polls, questions, and comments. You can use this to improve your products and also to improve your paid targeting strategy.
  • Look at what’s trending on a weekly basis to determine your content and a posting schedule. Be more nimble when it comes to adjusting strategy to play into timely social media trends.


Requirements for organic social

Lessons learned, organic social only works if you play it by the rules mentioned below. If you don't, your organic content is a one-way inside-out focussed communication. And that's the recipe for failure on social, organic, and paid. 

  • Have value-centric content; make sure you focus on the community and add value to them, and make sure the user gets something out of it. In my own words: entertain, inspire or educate in your content. Your content is not about you, it is about your customer and adding value to them. If you don't, they will not engage. If they don't engage, the algorithm pushes your content down the timeline, organic and paid.
  • Being recognizable, outspoken, and distinctive in your visuals and copy. If you blend in too much, nobody will notice you. Not even your biggest fans. 
  • Have a sticky product. Meaning that your product is likable, engaging by itself, or provoking something. E.g., a publishing platform such as Wattpad or music streaming Spotify.  If you are a not-really-distinctive commodity, it's tough to focus on preference, brand loyalty, or getting into that conversation with your audiences. 
  • Focus on social listening and engaging with your audiences. You can't publish social and don't listen or engage. Social is a two-way communication, and organic needs a lively community. Notice this engagement is the next level of webcare.  It's listening, starting the conversation, and keeping that conversation alive. 
  • Use the engagement with your community for learnings to apply in other brands’ communications and retention. 
  • Don’t rely on only organic. All examples combine organic with paid social for a kick start, to amplify reach, or to retarget. 

Last but not least, two more things.  

First, all social content you produce has to be part ‘of the bigger picture’. Meaning social never stands by itself and should always be part of an integrated campaign with some content on the other channels and touchpoints. If applicable, with a decent e-commerce landing page or follow-up page on your www. 

Second, social content needs a balance between brand-building and performance. That said, my gut feeling is that if you focus on organic, the balance shifts even more to brand-building content, and you save your paid for retargeting with performance social. 



A brilliant example is Starbucks. I don't know if they have a policy and training their baristas on intentionally misspelling the customer name… if it is, it is super smart. In-store creating organic content that seeds itself. And provokes high engagement as this misspelling is recognizable to everyone who ever has been at Starbucks.

And everyone is having fun along the way. Especially Marc-with-a-c. 

Starbucks Cark


Spotify wrapped

This brand deserves a special place. They are super smart. Humanizing and giving eye candy social savvy visual data ready to be used by micro-influencers.  

Why is this so smart? 

Spotify taps into the human need to share music and emotion. And they do it in such a way that many people are eager to share their  2022 overview on their social timelines. Next to this, the ‘wrapped’  is visually very appealing and super easy one-click to share. In this way, the Spotify user becomes a micro-influencer without realizing it

spotify wrapped 2023 

Honey Pot Company

The Honey Pot Company, a feminine wellness brand, remains bullish on its organic social media strategy. The Honey Pot Co’s community-driven approach with some paid investment makes sense. 

‘The organic channel has been a space where we can really let the brand voice come to life and give our community a reason to come back,’ said Laura Tedesco, The Honey Pot CMO, adding that doing so can ‘give our community the forum for that two-way dialogue.’

‘It’s a community-driven strategy’, Tedesco added, ‘one that focuses on social listening and engagement for learnings used in other parts of the brand’s marketing strategy and customer retention efforts’.

The eight-year-old brand leverages user-generated content as well as content creators to boost reach across social media platforms, which helps reduce its advertising costs, according to Tedesco.

That’s not to say the brand’s entire social media presence is organic. Within the last year, The Honey Pot started ramping up efforts in its paid performance marketing. There are also investments in communications, connected television, search, and retail media networks, per Tedesco.

‘Organic social is also a great way to take your customers and turn them into advocates,' Jantsch said in an email to Digiday. 'The bottom line is this: organic social can help you attract and educate new customers, and also help you build your relationship with your existing customers at the same time.’

For The Honey Pot Co, it’s all about testing and learning, and that’s what an organic strategy allowed the company to do, Tedesco said. 'Having that ability to test and learn, and learn from what's working, and move away from what's not'.




‘It has to be value-centric’: How a regional food brand leverages organic social strategy to boost brand awareness. 'It’s not that we don’t use paid [social media ads] — we don’t rely on it'. Read more on Digiday. 

While most brands have ramped up their social media ad spend, food and spice brand Zatarain’s remains bullish on leveraging an organic strategy. (…) is relying on organic content by way of memes, user-generated content, or tapping into cultural moments.

‘We really have had to be scrappy and utilize digital as our first point of contact and way of connecting with consumers,’ said Alia Kemet, Sr VP of global creative and digital transformation at McCormick. 

‘We look at what’s trending on a weekly basis to determine content and a posting schedule. often puts paid ad spend behind organic content that does well on those platforms.’

Zatarain’s organic social strategy allows the brand to facilitate two-way conversations with account followers and be more nimble when it comes to adjusting strategy to play into timely social media trends.

Still, Biancalani says for organic to be a winning strategy, brands need to ensure there’s community-based value in the content.

‘It has to be value-centric. If brands ignore that, that’s how they’re going to not be successful with these strategies,’ Biancalani said. ‘They still have to make sure the user gets something out of it.’

Going forward, Zatarain’s plans to continue its predominantly organic social strategy, tapping into memes and cultural moments across the internet to connect with its audience inexpensively. 

‘When you’re not relying on paid media, and you’re really relying on the storytelling and the truth of the brand coming through, that’s really important,’ Kemet said.



Wattpad is keying its organic digital strategy on TikTok videos. bullish on organic marketing and building up its owned channels, per Yew. Read all insights on Digiday. 

‘Wattpad is an online literature platform, founded in 2006, on which users can create and publish written content. They are holding onto their ad dollars, leveraging organic growth on social media and prioritizing its owned channels to build up community engagement by way of exclusive interviews and comedic TikTok videos.’

'Wattpad leverages a mostly organic social media strategy, tapping into existing communities like #BookTok on TikTok to boost engagement and build its online community. we’re really utilizing and leveraging our own channels,'

‘Any paid media is reserved for retargeting purposes, but it’s really very low, lower funnel, focus versus anything awareness and engagement. It’s all organic.’

‘While brands should look for ways to enhance their organic social presence to authentically build community, “social media fickleness demands a level of paid delivery to ensure the user sees your message, let alone engages with it'.

‘We’re so fortunate that the product is so sticky in itself and that we’re able to then just focus on preference, brand loyalty and getting into that conversation with our audiences’. 

wattpad organic social


Ring Concierge

‘The startup is doing ’everything we can to not be heavily reliant on paid because we just don’t feel like we can control it the way we can control organic. Building a more authentic rapport with followers and shoppers'. Read more on Digiday.

‘And as advertising on social media becomes increasingly expensive and weighed down by data privacy regulations, the direct-to-consumer brand says it’ll remain bullish on Instagram Stories and Reels to build brand awareness and boost sales.’

‘Because of all the iOS changes and privacy, a lot of companies can’t afford to compete in the paid space the way they used to,’ said Ring Concierge founder and CEO Nicole Wegman. ‘I don’t think there’s going to be much of a choice but to lean in on the organic aspects of the social media platforms.’

‘The brand uses shopper feedback via Instagram polls, questions and comments to influence not just products, but also its paid targeting strategy'.

‘That’s not to say there isn’t a paid strategy, it’s just not the dominant strategy’.


Last but not least, and good to know…

Communities are on the rise and they thrive on organic content

Good to know, for 2023, the communities are even further on the rise.  ‘People want to belong and connect, creating an opportunity for brands to deepen their relationships with their customers; smart brands have a strong presence where their customers are. 2022 saw some hype with new apps like BeReal or Gas, indicating that people hunger for something new.’

‘Communities and niche platforms can deliver this experience. 47% of consumers say they would become loyal to a brand if they were part of a community with like-minded people.’

Tips for marketers 

  1. Niche content for a dedicated audience. Put in some research before you build your audience to find out what your audience wants. 
  2. Nurture relationships. The core of a community is the relationships that members build with each other. While your main goal is to get people to love your brand, you should focus on something other than brand promotion but on delivering a close ‘gathering’ experience where people can share and gain information about the topic they love. 
  3. Encourage user-generated content (UGC). Once successfully set up, your community will have a pool of highly-dedicated consumers. Motivate them to post their experiences and knowledge in the community. Hearing product recommendations from other customers is seen as much more trustworthy than promotions from brands.

Source credits and read more in the Brandwatch Marketing Trends 2023 report.


Fleur Willemijn van Beinum

There is no such thing as ‘only organic’ or ‘only paid’. It's the combination. They both need each other. 

Fleur Willemijn van Beinum