Marketing

Study shows 99% of organic social posts create almost no engagement

Image Credit: Pixabay

A new study that takes in data from 1.6 million organic (nonpaid) social posts from Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ has found that 99 percent of those updates create little to no engagement at all.

Social media optimization platform SocialFlow conducted the study between April 1 and July 31. In total, the organic social posts it analyzed reached more than 361 million unique users and generated nearly 1.5 billion social actions.

Of course, SocialFlow is an interested observer and the data used to create the study does only take into consideration tweets, status updates, and social output sent through their platform.

Businesses should not jump to the conclusion that social media marketing isn’t working, however. As with marketing to the “long tail,” businesses that do moderately well with social posts could get great results, and companies should not be put off by the findings, says SocialFlow CEO Jim Anderson.

“The massive scale of the most successful one percent of posts makes everything else look small by comparison,” Anderson told me. “To use a television analogy, most every show’s ratings look weak if you compare them to the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else should just give up on creating great programming. And the same is true with social.”

long-tail-socialIn Internet community analysis the “1 percent rule” is nothing new. That concept, however, is usually referred to when discussing content creation. The rule states that for any given community, 1 percent of the members actively create new content. You may have also heard of other variants, such as the “90–9–1 principle,” which comes up when you’re talking about wikis, forums, and other collaborative groups; 90 percent of community members read the content, 9 percent edit it, and 1 percent actively create it.


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SocialFlow‘s study enables us to apply the 1 percent rule in an alternate sense, in that only 1 percent of social content creators are seeing any kind of response or action from their output. This seems to fly in the face of the 90-9-1 principal, which suggests that 9 percent of the audience should be actively participating with the content.

This may be due to the sheer amount of social output being generated and the speed with which posts disappear from our feeds and streams. I wondered if that is why key Internet influencers, such as Guy Kawasaki, post the same content four times per day.

“Repeat posting can be quite effective, but you need very different strategies for Facebook and Twitter,” Anderson said. “That’s one reason why we have ‘content recycling’ as an area for future study; there are some really interesting insights to be gleaned here.”

The study also delves into the difference in engagement between real-time updates, scheduled posts, and data-driven output.

In the report, real-time updates performed well in the media and entertainment industries, where being up-to-date and reactive are of the highest importance. Real-time output didn’t fare well within the technology, retail, fashion, health care and nonprofit verticals, who see better results when using scheduled or data-driven posts.

Data-driven output — posts whose time of publication is determined by predictive algorithms — was shown to create 91 percent greater reach and 25 percent greater engagement than scheduled posts.

scheduled-postScheduled posts have been a topic of conversation since the dawn of social media marketing. With the advent of tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, Hubspot, Beatrix, and the recent pivot in Klout’s focus towards scheduling, a number of data scientists and commentators have attempted to determine the “best times” to post updates on various social platforms. Dozens of articles, infographics, presentations, and webinars are dedicated to the subject of social output timing.

Anderson believes these findings are creating their own new set of issues.

“Posting at the recommended time has a lot of problems,” Anderson said. “First, the recommendation is based on one data set, which is usually pretty small and may bear no resemblance to your specific audience. Second, if there was such a thing as an ‘ideal’ time, and everyone then adjusted their posts to go out at that time, it would no longer be ideal.”

The implications from the report, available to read in full from their website, do raise some interesting questions for the future of scheduled posts and whether the next wave of social media marketing solutions should be focusing more on truly predictive, data-driven algorithms.

Moreover, the study highlights a potential issue with the current state of B2C and B2B social posting; the sheer amount of one-way content being broadcast via company and organization feeds. If the 90-9-1 principle is to apply in the future to social platforms as it does to wikis and other Internet communities, businesses may get better results — within the still substantial long tail of social media — via output that promotes real conversations or creates opinion.


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96 comments
Alexis Clearwater
Alexis Clearwater

This is very enlightening. Thank you for posting this article. That said, I have implored the use of social media management tools like vWriter.com in the hopes of bettering my engagements on all my profiles. So far I have had got better responses and a significant increase with my Facebook likes and Twitter followers. I also find that pre-scheduling posts can truly help because I am able to edit them later on. Maybe I am doing something right? LOL

Viktor Nagornyy
Viktor Nagornyy

It does not surprise me. With so many users, all social media channels are way too crowded. Millions of updates are created every minute, and this shows that most of them never see any traction. What I'm curious about, how did they define engagement? Click on a link, retweet, like, share, etc.

Apryl Steadman Beverly
Apryl Steadman Beverly

The thing people tend to forget is that social media is and should not be used like TV ad marketing or radio ads. It's more like networking - only you don't see the person behind the screen. It's about initiating dialogue and conversing. I have no desire to ever speak to "everyone in a room" at networking events and that's how I view social media. If I can reach and and engage even a small group of loyal listeners - then I have achieved my goal. It's not always about the number of people who engage ... it's more about the quality of the engagement.

Elaine Spitz
Elaine Spitz

If more businesses would actively have conversations with their followers rather than just Tweeting (or Pinning or whatever platform) what they think we should know, they may find more engagement. Zappos, I feel, is a good example. Still, all it takes sometimes is a single interaction to forge a new relationship. It happens, and when it does, it feels like success.

Sherree Mongrain
Sherree Mongrain

I thought this quote was the best and is definitely how I view social media marketing and engagement. 


“The massive scale of the most successful one percent of posts makes everything else look small by comparison,” Anderson told me. “To use a television analogy, most every show’s ratings look weak if you compare them to the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else should just give up on creating great programming. And the same is true with social.” 


When someone likes something I share I try to remember there is a real person behind that Like or Share or Re-tweet who stopped in the midst of what they were doing and read what I had to say. I'm thankful for each one of them!

Noble Crawford
Noble Crawford

I agree with Gary Lee's approach by Gary Vaynerchuk below... "Social media has amazing ROI potential by the people who know how to use it effectively. For most of us (including me), we're just plain bad at it."

cooljeanius
cooljeanius

@JuddLegum Contrast that w/the portrayal of social media in other media (e.g. movies such as Chef) where everything "goes viral" immediately

Gary Lee
Gary Lee

I love how Gary Vaynerchuck approaches this issue:  The ROI of social media.  He makes the analogy like this – what's the ROI of a piano?  For me it's absolutely ZERO.  But what about for Elton John???  Millions.  Social media has amazing ROI potential by the people who know how to use it effectively.  For most of us (including me), we're just plain bad at it.  

mike ntto
mike ntto

this is no surprising ..  just ask yourself if you yourself are treating  those posts, tweets, status updates same as email marketing nowadays .. bet most even set filter in their mail accounts to autodelete those stuff

tomnatt
tomnatt

@rossferg I read it and have now replied. Your reverse psychology worked!

Leen Torenvliet
Leen Torenvliet

Wasn't there something about scientists writing papers with a similar flavor recently? It seems to be a rule indeed.

Jabber Vaan Al-Bihani
Jabber Vaan Al-Bihani

SO much for freedom of information. You have to pay to generate engagement and expand your reach.

jace_henry
jace_henry

@vargasl great article Lauren. Thanks for sharing, the points were spot on. Brings home the value of in the moment real-time marketing!

Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker

thats close. you have to pay to get the post seen by 1-2% of your total audience. if you dont your post is seen by virtually nobody.

Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker

If you run a facebook business page this is not news. Its just about a complete pay to play game now.

Brian_Fey
Brian_Fey

@JessBerlin higher than i’d have guessed, but not surprised most get no response. Many people just post random thoughts, fun to read though

Elaine Spitz
Elaine Spitz

@Noble Crawford I love this Gary Vee quote, but I don't take it that I should give up because I'm bad at it. Keep on learning and working at it....

AntoineServais
AntoineServais

@robinpletsier Ce ne sont que des chiffres. Si contenu intéressant + cible touchée = engagement. Les clients y sont dc cela vaut la peine.

Kantrowitz
Kantrowitz

@gaviwolf @klausphotos Also, is engagement the goal? Let's say people just see the post... is that enough? Probably in many cases. </rant>

Kantrowitz
Kantrowitz

@klausphotos @gaviwolf Gavi, i assume you did this, but just making sure you put a hashtag in front of your baby's legal name? Good for SMO.