Jewel Marketing
Taiwan Content Marketing

Why Nobody's Engaging Your Brand's Social Media

By Jason Patterson

Founder of Jewel Content Marketing Agency
When I first started doing branded social media (circa "dunk in the dark"), brands had high hopes. We really thought people wanted to "have a conversation" with brands and that we could build engaged communities through what we now consider table-stakes effort.

We Were So Naive

These pie-in-the-sky notions were easy to believe back then. Tech was viewed much more positively. And organic social media reach was so much better. But then it started declining. And declining. And declining.

Other things happened along the way. Bot activity and fraud became increasingly salient. OG influencers found themselves competing with hustlebros and content creators.

Extremism and fake news replaced online discourse. "Doomscrolling" entered the lexicon. And social media generally went to shit.

Today, those of us who believed that earlier stuff now seem downright quaint, like those Depression-era people Orson Welles supposedly fooled into thinking aliens were attacking the United States.

Winning Social Media Engagement is Harder Now

These days, social media can feel like a video game set on "very hard." For brands and for people. But especially for brands (since people still have personal appeal). I don't envy newcomers to this game.

If followers aren't engaging, the reasons usually fall into at least one of three buckets.

Please note: I'm not talking about individual posts failing (I've covered that already here). I'm talking about general social media failure. The reasons why your brand posts and posts and posts and nothing happens.

1. Followers Aren't Following for Your Social Media Content

This is a bigger problem than I think is generally acknowledged. A big chunk of your brand's followers may not be following you for your content. And this chunk could be big, potentially half your followers or more.

Don't believe me? At the time of this writing, Jewel has a little over 900 LinkedIn followers, but only 38% of them have agreed to subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter. And it's not because it isn't wanted. Our current view rate is 44% (which is pretty good for a branded newsletter).

So how do things like this happen? Oh, lots of reasons. And they vary somewhat by channel.

Some of your social media followers may have bought something of yours and were prompted to follow you in the instructions. Or maybe they were incentivized to follow you when visiting one of your outlets.

Maybe they're following you for your coupons instead of your content. Maybe they were once jobseekers or are current or former employees.

If you're a newcomer brand on social media, many of your followers may be connections of your early employees who followed the brand largely as a personal favor.

Or maybe when someone first followed your brand, they thought they were going to be a regular consumer of your content, but you lost them at some point (though they never unfollowed you).

This can happen due to insufficiently frequent engagement. If someone doesn't engage semi-regularly with your content, they'll rarely see it.

2. Followers Aren't Seeing Your Social Media Content

As already stated, it is simply getting harder for brands to get seen on social media. Competition is increasing, both with other brands and with individuals. And the algorithm isn't your friend, either.

Your Post Reach Is Poor

In the past, social media channels had incentive to ratchet down organic reach simply because they preferred paid ads. But now they have another reason.

AI-generated content is flooding their channels, both from brands and from people. This makes it easier for brands to play the volume game, and to try and engage in SEO heists and other gaming of the system, creating incentive for search engines and social media sites to make getting noticed harder.

And there's another reason for poor reach, inactive followers.

Brands can have millions of followers on Facebook. But how many of you are still active on Facebook? How many of you still have an account solely because your parents and Aunt Gladys are still active there?

How many of you have an Instagram account that you simply never post to anymore because, well, you're just not pretty enough to be Instagram material? How many of you are only active on LinkedIn between jobs?

Social media use just isn't constant or consistent. And this can have considerable influence over who you reach there.

Your Post Timing Is Poor

Timing matters when it comes to social media. You want to post when your followers are online (and inclined to engage). Granted, as organic reach declines, post timing (and frequency) will matter less (since the odds go down of you gaining any algorithmic benefit from the engagement), but timing still matters, especially if you have an employee advocacy program in place.

3. Followers Aren't Into Your Content

Social media as a content channel is not new anymore, but there's still a surprising amount of branded social media content still being published that simply doesn't work, and will never work, even if algorithmic conditions were more favorable, with the mistakes I see tending to fall into three categories.

Your Social Content Is Too Promotional or Salesy

This is a bigger mistake for some types of brands than others. If you're a movie theater, there's nothing wrong with offering an online coupon. Or McDonald's announcing the McRib is back. But there are two types of brands that should generally avoid this sort of thing.

One is B2C luxury brands. Social media is tricky for them, because social media best practices commonly encourage eagerness or asking for things. And luxury brands should never be common or eager.

Luxury brands should never ask and never sell. They should attract.

They can display the goods, but they shouldn't sell them. The goods should be selling themselves, or inspiring others to sell them for you (like celebrities or influencers).

Luxury brands, in other words, should display the goods on social, then sit back and let a crowd gather.

B2B brands should also attract and never seem eager. The problem is you can't "display the goods" with B2B and expect a crowd to gather. B2B stuff isn't sexy and most of your prospects aren't ready to buy now. Instead, most of your content must appeal to out-of-market buyers, so they'll be orbiting you already when they're in market.

Your Social Content Is Not Relevant or Interesting

Whenever I've seen social media content that is well made and well done fail miserably, usually it offered something the audience just didn't want, or was on a topic the audience just wasn't interested in.

This happens quite a bit, and brands may not notice it because activity from their own employees can mask the indifference.

Even when someone follows you and greatly appreciates the content you publish on certain topics, the odds of them being interested in everything you want them to be interested in are low.

Is your spouse interested in all the same things you are? Your parents? Your children? Probably not and they spend a lot of time around you. So what are the odds of some Internet randos, who you've never met, being interested in all the same stuff you are, whether you're a brand or a person?

And you can't make followers interested in stuff unless they're already interested. Believe me, I've tried.

I'm pretty good at this content marketing thing. And I was once young and dumb enough to think I really could make a brand's followers interested in a topic they weren't previously interested in through my sheer content awesomeness.

But I don't think that anymore. Brands just don't have that kind of power. Not through social media alone, anyway.

Social media managers must meet their followers where they are. They won't just come to you.

Your Content Doesn't Suit Your Followers' Intent

Social media content people tend to get insular and view different channels solely in terms of copy length, media format, or tone. But there's another big channel-related factor I don't see discussed nearly as much, user intent.

What do your followers on a particular channel normally do there? Do they scroll (X)? Do they do research (YouTube)? Do they shop (Pinterest)?

If the content you offer doesn't match their baseline activity on a particular channel, you'll have a hard time luring people away from it, even if they follow you.

So again, you have to meet followers where they are.

How Can Brands Address Social Media Engagement?

Marketers have been pronouncing organic social media dead since the Obama administration. But we've entered a whole other level of deadness now. And brands must rethink what they're doing with social media.

Because even though we still call them channels, branded social media accounts are not publishing channels anymore.

They're not channels because nobody is watching.

Brands that sell directly through social media have a reason to keep doing what they've been doing. But those that don't should make a choice.

They have three options.

1. The Minimal Option

This is just what it sounds like. Do as little as possible. Answer DMs. Post links to web content as needed. Post a video if you happen to make it.

But forget creating dedicated zero-click stuff. Forget curating third-party content. Forget polls. Forget celebrating obscure holidays.

Stop armwaving. Automate everything if you can. Have no social media KPIs. Save your money and brain power for other efforts.

In the AI era, this might sound insane, since AI makes it a lot easier to create social content. But even if creating content is easy, it won't help you if no one sees it. And if AI devalues it.

All you'll have is an endless timeline of posts with zero likes, comments, or shares. Ask yourself if that'll make your brand look better or worse than not publishing at all.

2. The Maximal Option

This must be a two-pronged effort. Because publishing content, even when you're doing it a lot (like you will be here), isn't enough anymore. You also need to get aggressive with person-to-person connections. Employee advocacy. Influencers. Tight-knit community groups.

Total commitment. Social media that's actually social.

3. The Diagonal Option

This is what Jewel is doing on LinkedIn and I recommend it for brands that still want to publish social media content but just aren't inclined, don't need, or don't have the bandwidth for option #2.

Basically, this is where you publish social media content. Some native. Some not.

And you want followers, but followers or social media engagement aren't the endgame. What you really want is for them to become subscribers to either your blog or newsletter.

To something you own, or at least as close as you can be to owning anything online.

Choose or Lose

Brands that don't commit to one of these paths will find the next few years very frustrating, as reach keeps decreasing and they increasingly have to buy followers and eyeballs in order to hit their targets.

All for metrics that just don't matter like they did before. Not like when we wanted to dunk in the dark.

So grab some milk and cookies, marketers and social media folk. Dim the lights. Think it over.

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