The power of organic social media to drive brand success

Sarah McGowan

  • Head of social, Alpha Digital
Sarah McGowan is head of organic social media at Alpha Digital. She specialises in collaborating with brands to produce awesome organic strategies and thumb-stopping content.

Welcome to the era of better creative, not better budgets. Over the last few years, some of marketing's most viral moments have involved nothing more than a wisely worded tweet, a trend-led TikTok or a crowdsourced user-generated (UGC) Instagram post.

As organic social democratises content like never before, bigger may no longer be better. Low-fi and grassroots content continues to pack a punch as platforms reward brands for playing by their rules. The world of organic social media platforms lets brands lean on low-budget marketing strategies to reap major success.  

By adopting authenticity, levity and vulnerability on organic social –  the core values most social platforms were originally designed around- brands continue to thrive. For the post-Covid landscape, simplified, fit-for-format and humanised marketing through organic social builds a brand affinity and brand awareness that rivals – or even surpasses – high-budget projects. Here’s our top 3 tips for using organic social whilst on a low budget.  

Unafraid to Entertain  

Early social media guides always pushed brands to educate and engage audiences, rather than unabashedly sell themselves or their product. By 2022, with the explosion of shortform content such as TikTok, audiences have now evolved to crave escapist entertainment as well, accelerated by global unrest and extended lockdowns.  

With shortform video thriving, audience behaviours are responding. As early as 2019, Sprout Social determined 48 per cent of respondents follow brands on social media to be entertained. More recently, an international study found people’s primary reason for using social media was entertainment.  

Study after study continues to reveal consumers are valuing experiences over things, and naturally, this has extended to how they navigate digital. Entertaining experiences build strong and unique connections amidst an oversaturated market to enhance a brand’s memorability. For brands on a budget, this phenomenon doesn’t demand blockbuster entertainment, but rather, mastering the instinctual and low-fi styles that are native to the platform.   

Duo Lingo, the poster child of brands on TikTok, has risen to fame over the last year with viral content. These videos rely on comedy and self-awareness to create memorable and celebrated content that has let a language learning app stay relevant. By reclaiming the ‘annoying owl’ persona, TikTok allows Duo Lingo to imbue its brand with personality, without the mega-budget of a new campaign or endorsement. Its TikTok feed is a scroll of hilarious content.  

In today's digital landscape, going from selling to entertaining demands creativity not cash. While digital marketing has been led by the science of numbers for decades, this new TikTok era relies on creative-led and innovative moments to steer a brand marketing’s direction.  

Community crowns content king  

Amidst these rapid changes within digital platforms, brands must rethink their customer base as their community rather than their audience. The open forum of social media platforms naturally lends itself to communities and subcultures; the backbone of viral or cult brands. Direct-to-consumer champions such as Glossier and The Nugget, and the mania they incited both confirm the power of a digital cult to bolster a brand’s success.  

Community building requires brands to prompt their consumers to be active participants rather than passive onlookers. Good content can foster connection and interaction, drawing from shared experiences and those more humanised moments.    

If we think of any real-life community, the sense of belonging comes from a shared language, experience, or goal. Simple yet effective content offers brands the opportunity to speak the language of a collective culture and spark that ‘you get me’ moment between brands and individuals.  

Today, UGC is a prominent pillar of the majority of brands online, relying on crowd-sourced content to show their product in action: styled, personalised and lived-in. Amart Furniture is one brand that’s opted for UGC content over the last year, initiating the hashtag #athomewithamart to capture content. The hashtag serves to provide audiences a sense of belonging, making the purchase part of a community experience.  

UGC offers insight into what a product looks like in a real life and lets to-be customers project themselves into these authentic moments.  

With organic social as your mouthpiece, content should talk to your community as they talk amongst themselves - resonate first, rivet second. A smaller budget doesn’t mean a smaller impact, as brands now can be a mirror to their community by utilising UGC content to fill their feed. We have long known that content is king, but in today’s digital scape, it's the committed brand community’s demand for low-fi content that lets brands royally succeed.  

To Meme or not to meme  

As TikTok’s sense of humour only darkens and studies continue to forecast the death of professionalism, meme culture seems to be heading for world domination. See it on the social schedules of brands like Dominos to institutions like Queensland Health. Across industries, a tweet screenshot, TikTok audio reference or reworked meme format is emerging as the latest content pillar.  

Meme culture has become the native tongue of social media and if brands want to sustain a conversation with their customers, they have to speak their language.   

This trend is under the influence of these first two tips: It’s usually entertaining and connects with your brand community.  More importantly, it offers you the opportunity to rework existing content rather than reinvent the wheel with every content plan.  

By keeping your finger on the cultural pulse, brands’ organic social can lead with responsive content that taps immediately into the heart of their community at that moment. With fast moving times, capitalising on cultural moments is best done with low-fi assets that don’t require extensive creation or approval times.  

For August 2022, we saw the meme trends including the “She’s a 10 but…”, sourced from a creator original TikTok as well as remixed Little Miss children’s characters, explode across social media as brands and users alike shared this inside meme-ified joke. Queensland Health reaped above average results with its “She’s a 10 but goes to work sick” Facebook post. With just a sentence, the government institution reached over 10,000 in likes, 3000 comments and more than 600 shares.  

In the past, these unorthodox approaches may have been warned as surefire ways to degrade your brand. But in today’s content economy, memes let brands discreetly market on platforms to audiences uninterested in overt sales tactics and build personality and connection.  

As organic social media continues to rewrite the marketing playbook with every new update, this is the time to tap into low budget content, experiment and play. As we continue to witness, small content doesn't necessarily mean small impact. Low-fi content has the power to build a brand community over an audience, and most importantly, sustain it.

Tags: social media marketing, user generated content, TikTok

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