Social media expert Kasia Johnson from Merge Forward believes organic posting to social media still matters. Discover how your brand can leverage authenticity and behind-the-scenes video to boost your social media presence. Kasia also reveals how getting your team involved in content creation can expand reach and engagement.
Why Organic Social Media Still Matters Episode Summary
- The importance of social media for businesses and the challenges of organic reach on platforms like Facebook. Emphasis on the need for consistency and understanding the algorithms of different social channels, particularly LinkedIn, to effectively reach and engage with the target audience.
- The importance of getting the team involved in social media output for businesses. They emphasized the benefits of employee advocacy, creating guidelines for brand representation, and encouraging creativity while maintaining brand consistency.
- The importance of creating authentic social media content that tells a story and engages the audience. The value of videos, behind-the-scenes content, and humanizing the brand, while also highlighting the need to focus less on sales and more on providing educational and problem-solving content.
- The role of AI in social media content creation and planning. How to use AI tools to save time, generate ideas, and improve her content, ultimately helping to build your brand and connect with your audience.
Why Organic Social Media Still Matters Episode Transcript
Rich: My guest today is the founder and driving force behind Merge Forward, a full-service digital agency dedicated to boosting brands through smart marketing strategies. She’s also the creator of The Social Content Creation Made Easy Academy, a course designed for small businesses that helps entrepreneurs, brands, and individuals rock in social media by creating purposeful content quickly and turning followers into customers.
A Polish born Texan, she has an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoys traveling for creative inspiration. She also just did her first 360 on her surfboard, very excited for her on that. But today we’re going to be talking about the role of social media in your business and how to get it all done, with Kasia Johnson. Kasia, welcome to the show.
Kasia: Thanks for having me. What a beautiful introduction. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Rich: I’m proud to be the first person who got to talk about your 360 in your introduction, so I like to be first.
Kasia: That was definitely a goal of mine this year. You got to have those goals, right?
Rich: Got to have goals, otherwise you’re just standing in place. So I know you’ve been running your digital agency for quite some time now. It doesn’t look like that, based on what you look like. You look much younger than I do. But you’ve been running your agency for quite some time. Now, did you always focus on social media or was that something that you added to your services over time?
Kasia: No, we added that over time. So I’ve had my agency for 10 years. And when you first start out and you’re just willing to do anything and everything to build up that portfolio. But obviously after a while, we realized that was not really the best bet.
So we started more towards the digital route because print was going out. And then we were working with a huge telecom company, the one that has the blue logo that’s round. And we were doing a lot of different consulting around their social media, but also some other digital projects. And one of the execs came up to us and said, “Hey, can you teach me how to do a social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn?” And we’re like, yeah, absolutely. He said, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I got to put myself out there. I’ve got to be a thought leader in the industry.” And that’s when we started really focusing more on social media.
Rich: Awesome. I know that you are currently just doing organic social media, and that’s really your focus, although you may be adding additional things back in. But it feels like there’s a lot of pushback against organic social these days, that it just doesn’t deliver the results for businesses the way that it used to. What do you say to those naysayers, and why do you believe that it’s still valuable?
Kasia: Okay, so I think there’s two pieces to social media. There’s the one piece where you just have to put something out there on the social channels, especially where your audience is at, but you have to put something out there to verify that you are a legit business, especially these days.
I recently went to a website, and I bought something because it was cheaper than at Target, and it was a complete fraud. And if I would have gone to their social channels, I would have realized that’s not even a legit business. And so there’s that part of building just the architecture of who you are. What are the problems you’re solving? How are you serving your audience? How are you telling your story about your business?
And then there’s the other part of social media, which is continually putting content out there that speaks to your audience. It doesn’t have to be every single day, but that’s where the organic comes in. You got to stay consistent because consistency is key. And we keep hearing that over and over. But it’s not just in social media. It’s really in any kind of business because these days we have to hear you 15, 17, 18 times before it clicks that this is who you are and yeah, I think we could work together because you’re going to solve my problem.
Rich: I completely agree with that. And yet at the same time it does feel that, and maybe this is more Facebook than other social channels so feel free to answer it that way, but Facebook is really punishing businesses when it comes to organic reach compared to where we were eight, 10 years ago, and I know we can’t go back in time.
So are when you’re doing social media, when you’re thinking about social media, are you doing it like, I’m thinking that this post that I’m doing, this organic post, is going to be seen by my ideal prospects? Or are you thinking that if they’ve heard about me, or if they see me and then they come to my page, that then is the social proof – no pun intended – that I’m a viable business, that I’m trustworthy?
Kasia: The latter. Especially with Facebook. Because let’s be honest, those algorithms are just hard. You got to pay to play on Facebook. And Facebook owns Instagram, so then you got to do the same there. Yeah, absolutely. Because only 2% or 3% of your audience is going to see that post, unfortunately.
Now LinkedIn, it’s got some pretty nice algorithms. So it just depends on which social channel. Definitely on LinkedIn, being more of a thought leader, being more of a business owner there. I think people are going to see me. I think that I’ve definitely seen podcast opportunities, sales opportunities, but it’s more towards LinkedIn. So I think you really have to understand the social channels too, but it’s hard, it is.
Because especially if you’re a small business, you’re sitting there trying so hard on Facebook and Instagram, and there’s a lot of people out there telling you, “No, you’ve got to create a Reel.” No, you’ve got to create this content. And if you don’t understand those algorithms you’re not going to get that traction. And so you’re going to have to put some money and some spend behind that, boost your posts.
Rich: Absolutely. So social media may not be the biggest driver of traffic these days, but it does show that you exist. It can show that you’re connected to your community. If you’re more in B2B where you’re using LinkedIn and the company formerly known as Twitter, there’s other opportunities there.
Kasia, you do your own social media, and then you also do social media for other companies. Through either perspective, there’s the individual, like you, and then there’s also the company, say Merge Forward. Do you find that you need to be active on social media both as Merge and as Kasha, or is it one of these things where you just let one basically take the lead?
Kasia: For me personally, I take the lead because people want to do business with people. I’ve got a personality. They want to hear my story. And I just get a lot more traction on my own personal brand, for sure. Merge gets a little bit. This is where we showcase our portfolio and things like that.
Now, when we work with our customers, they’re somewhat big companies, manufacturing companies, technology companies. They can’t always put just that one person in front. But they do get a lot of traction because there’s a lot of people in that industry. And it’s a very niche, so they do get a lot of traction on their social media. But it definitely tends to be a lot on LinkedIn.
Rich: I feel the same way running my business. ‘Rich Brooks’ always gets more engagement than ‘flyte new media’ or ‘Agents of Change’ does. But at the same time, I feel like there’s got to be at least that pulse. People have to be able to see that your business, or your podcast, or your event, has a social media presence and is putting out some content on a regular basis.
Kasia: And it’s thriving. And especially since that’s what we do, we do social media and digital marketing. So absolutely.
Rich: So you talked about the fact that social media is really a lot about the people and the personalities, even sometimes more than the brands. How important do you feel it is to get your team involved with your social media output?
Do you request that they do? Do you require involvement? Or do you just let people do what they want to do when it comes to your team on your social media? And this would be true for you, but it would also be true for any other business as well.
Kasia: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. This is such a great opportunity for so many businesses, whether you’re small or you’re a big company. Employee advocacy is huge.
So I’m going to go back to my first story about the telecom company and the exec that asked us to work with him. What ended up happening out of that is we ended up training 2,500 employees and creating these advocates for the brand. And this is a very large brand, and so we had to build a lot of parameters.
But what was interesting out of that is number one, we found that there’s always a few people on the team that want to do social media. Like they just want to add that to their portfolio. They like it. It’s fun. Secondly, it allowed people to have a little bit more creativity. Especially in the corporate world. So they were able to give their opinion and tell their story and humanize the brand a little bit more. And third, they felt like they were just part of this big culture, and it became really fun for them.
And what they ended up doing is they ended up using a lot of this employee advocacy around conferences. And this is pre-COVID, but still a lot of people weren’t able to travel. And what they did is they trained a lot of their teams, and they brought us in. So we created a whole blueprint. And this company had a lot of different departments, anywhere from not only cellular, but health and security and all this other stuff. And so every time there was a speaker that went on, the team of 20 people would retweet, would post their opinion, put a lot of messaging out there. We were also doing it on our side.
And what ended up happening, not only did we get tons and tons of impressions, but that conference’s messaging lasted up to three weeks long. And people were like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I missed it. I want to be there next year.” So first year they got 500 million impressions, next year, 2.5 billion impressions. And it was really cool. And we had to build out the blueprint. Everybody knew what they were doing. But everybody was really happy to do it. And it really built the teams together, build cultures. It was a lot of fun.
So then we started doing it for bigger brands. Now, here’s the thing. If you’re a small business, this is a great idea for you is to bring in your team. Imagine a business like a local brewery of beer, right? Imagine if each person serving the beer there brought in their friends and said, “I’ll give you a free sampling Friday afternoon. I just want you to post it on your social media and share it.” It’s going to go out to everybody in that location. And that’s pretty much free advertising right there. Those people get buzzed on the beer, you get social media buzz, and everybody’s really happy, right?
Rich: Also, you’re subverting the Facebook algorithm because you’ve got all of these people connected to their communities who are just out there as themselves posting about another company. That’s going to get a lot more visibility and reach than if you had posted it on your own, for sure.
Kasia: Oh, absolutely. And they’re all going to be close by in location. They’re not going to be living in another state because they’re visiting that brewery. And it works for all kinds of businesses.
Let’s say that you’re a retail company, a small retail company that sells clothing. Have those girls in the store put on the clothes, give them a free outfit once a month, and have them continue to put those clothes on there and put it on their social. Those girls love doing that anyway because they get to try on all these different outfits, and it doesn’t cost you a lot of money. All you’re really paying them in is clothing.
Or even if you’re a bakery. People love watching how those cookies are being made. I do. I’m always watching everybody icing the cakes and everything else. And they come up with really funny slogans. And these bakeries have huge followings. And maybe they have seven, eight employees, but there’s always two or three that just want to set up a camera and show their personality.
And the crazy thing is, right now people are trusting people more than ever with so much content being put out there, all this craziness that’s going out there. AI is churning all this content, but none of it’s really that authentic So this is a wonderful opportunity to really put people in front of the camera and represent your business.
Rich: And I would say as somebody who lives in a city or town, depending on your perspective, that is both famous for its breweries and famous for its tourism, even we get a lot of people from out of state and out of country. I’m looking at a giant cruise ship right outside my window right now who come in and go to these breweries. Well even if they’re sharing that content, it’s going to go back to their friends. They’re going to see them having a great time in Portland, Maine. They’re going to see them going to brewery X, brewery Y, brewery Z, and that’s going to end up on their agenda, too.
So even if it’s not a local play, it still helps with your local visibility it’s still great for all those people they’re connected to, too. So definitely finding ways to get people to share that on social.
Kasia: And here’s the thing, the magic part about it, it’s user generated content. So you take it and you replay it on yours and put it in your highlights, put it on your Reel, that’s going to stay on there forever. Perfect.
Rich: So we talked a little bit about getting your team involved. Do you have any tips or recommendations on how do we keep them on task and on brand? If they’re the barista or the bartender or the front line of customer service, you mentioned that you had created some very specific things for the social media output of that big corporation. Smaller businesses don’t have that kind of regulations, but at the same point, what should we be telling our internal teams as they’re out there almost as ambassadors on social media for a brand, how we expect them to behave? Or is that something we just let them do what they want to do?
Kasia: I would build parameters. I would sit down and put in, what is your tone? What is your voice? What are the things that are just not okay to say? And there may not be a lot, but just the way that you want to represent your brand. And I think most people are willing to follow that. And then also give them just the creativity and say, hey, here’s some ideas, here’s some things that we can do.
Then run a contest every single month and whoever gets the most views, maybe on their reel. Or on their post, most engagement, go ahead and say, hey, you win something. The other part of it too, is the engagement part is you can always also post from the main brand. And then have the employees repost, reshare, or even say something below it in order to get all this together.
You have to sit down, and you have to talk about it. Most companies have Monday morning meetings or somewhat once a week meetings, they also have monthly meetings. So the main person needs to sit down and say, okay, what is my vision? What are the problems we’re trying to solve? What are the things that we’re trying to put out there? Look at your competitors. See what they’re doing, grab those ideas. Don’t need to mimic them, but now you’re making all these lists.
And then you put together this protocol for your employees and then meet once a month at first and say, “Hey, this is what we’re going to be doing. November is coming. We’re going to do something around Thanksgiving. Here’s the sale and everything. This is how you can help.” And then start out slow. And at first, maybe the first two months have everybody take a, show you what they’re going to be doing and say, okay, this is great. This is how we change it. And then within three months, you should be able to finally say, okay, go for it.
Here’s the thing about social media, too. If it really sucks, you can always take it down. It’s not like you printed hundreds of thousands of postcards and they’re being mailed out. Most people have the good in them and the sense in them, and if they’ve been working for you for a while, they understand your brand and they know what needs to be put out there. And they actually probably bring a lot more ideas.
And so on those monthly meetings, look at it as more of a brainstorming session, less of, “I’m going to be telling you what to do.” Because even my team, we’ve been together for 10 years, we still have our weekly brainstorming sessions around some of our client’s content. We put a lot out there for it, but it’s manufacturing technology. Sometimes, it can get a little bit boring. How can we spice it up? And it really takes a few brains to come up with some awesome ideas.
Rich: That leads into my next question. Because as you’re working both on social media for your own company, but also social media for your clients, and we’ve talked about the challenges of reach and visibility for organic. What type of posts you find traditionally outperform other types of posts? Are there certain types of posts that you do for yourself or your clients that just tend to get more engagement than the typical post?
Kasia: That’s a great question. I do think it depends on the industry, but I’m going to say videos,. Those videos that you’re being authentic and you’re telling a story in the behind the scenes.
Like I said, everybody’s got their little quirk. I love watching cakes being made and icing and everything. Who would have thought that thousands and thousands of people want to see that. Or maybe something around manufacturing. Just coming out and the behind the scenes. And that I’m noticing even now, usually we used to have a big commercial, like there was a big Bud Light commercial this year around the Super Bowl and it was the two famous people, that actor from Top Gun. Usually they would hide everything. It was so secretive and it’s going to come out.
What I noticed this last year is they’re actually showing how the commercial is going to be made. It was totally behind the scenes of who was there, where it was, the camera crew and everything. And they were doing it backwards. They were like, “Ooh, it’s coming out on Super Bowl. Make sure and watch the full thing.” But they’re dropping a lot of hints about it. And so it’s a little bit different now. People want to see what’s going behind the scenes of your business, what’s going on even with you, whether you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner.
And that’s where I’ll also get into if you are the business owner, you have to put yourself out on LinkedIn. You have to have a nice profile. We are all researching each other. Nobody is really handing each other business cards anymore. Your business card is LinkedIn and Google and the digital space.
Rich: So as we’re putting out our social media content, how do you recommend we balance creating authentic social media content, which I think has been the bulk of what we’re talking about so far versus promotional or sales focused content? Do you have, is there an 80/20 principle at work here, or how do you approach that?
Kasia: I would even say less. I would take away the sales and make it more even 10%. And I would take it more into that educational, helping, solving problems, values you’re bringing them. And then you can say, “Hey, if you’re interested, there’s more.”
Now, product-wise is a little bit different. But again, you can have that product in your hand, talk about that product, but always say, “This is how it’s going to solve your problem.”
“This is how it’s going to make your life easier.” As opposed to, “Please buy this.” Because we’re sold to every single day. We are spammed every single day, whether that’s through email or text or wherever. And so I just really, really want to see a person behind that brand. I want to humanize it.
Rich: Do you think that there’s a different approach that companies should take, whether they’re in the B2B or B2C space? And if so, what is that different approach?
Kasia: I think they should get more employees involved. For sure. I just saw a post that said that Cisco is going to be hiring or training 84,000 employees to be LinkedIn influencers. And I think they’re realizing that with AI, yeah, AI can help you create a lot of content. But it’s not human content. And we all know that when it comes from a human, a person, it’s five times, six times more likely to get that sale.
For me, at least, social media is great, obviously. But anytime that I’m at a conference and it’s in person and people see me, we have conversations, and we build relationships. So again, it’s about building those relationships. But now you’re building it online on your social channels. So going back to having your social media so people know who you are what your story is. How are you unique? And everybody is unique because nobody else can tell your story like you can tell your story.
That’s the one thing that you own that nobody else can take from you. And then it’s continuing to serve your audience with problem solving, helping them out, tips, maybe even give them something for free here and there, some kind of maybe a download, toolkit or something like that. And then they appreciate you. They’re starting to build that relationship with you.
Rich: A lot of people are very interested in the ROI of social media. So I don’t know how involved with that side you get, but is you’re thinking about – whether it’s yours or your clients, social media output – are there certain metrics? Are there certain KPIs that you’re paying attention to, or is it more just about general brand awareness?
Kasia: No, we’re definitely paying attention to our clients on those metrics for sure. We just launched a YouTube Shorts campaign. Our client wanted metrics in two days. We’re like, we got to wait a little bit. We can give you impressions and all that. Those metrics are really important. They’re going to tell you how your campaign is doing. And the nice thing about the campaigns is you can run A, B, C, D testing. So looking at those metrics, you’re going to know exactly what is working and what’s not.
We did a campaign for a spa wax company, and it was a franchise. And what was interesting was we picked out a lot of different images for it. And one of the images was just a little bit more of a bigger girl. Super fun. She had the summer look with her, an inner tube and everything, and she looked like Lizzo. It was awesome. And we just did all kinds, we wanted to represent all kinds of everyone, right? And then we did the ones where it was at the spa, and the girls were standing together as a team and everything, and more rigid. And then we just all did all kinds of different ones. That one performed 14 times more than anything else, and that was all from the metrics. And it got the most engagement. And it was really surprising, we threw that one in last minute, we just thought it was fun and colorful, and it represented all women. And if we didn’t know that, we would have kept running with the other ads, and we would have not had the same results.
Same with anything we’re running on Twitter, anything we’re running on YouTube Shorts right now. We’re just testing certain platforms. We have a publishing company that we’re working with. That’s the one that’s on Twitter that works really well because it’s very news oriented. We’re like, what is YouTube Shorts going to look like? What is TikTok going to look like? And unfortunately and fortunately, we have to test. So sometimes it’s a little bit tougher for the small businesses because they have to put some of the money up front. The bigger companies have a little bit of a budget, and you give it a runway of three to six months. You throw out a bunch of creative, that’s unique, different, or maybe static.
The same the competitors and see which one works. The beautiful part about social media, though, is you can test it or the digital marketing space. You can test all this, and you can pull back real quick knowing it’s not going in the right direction by looking at your metrics.
Rich: Now, most of today, we’ve talked about this authenticity and the transparency and just like pulling back the curtain, so to speak. But you and I first met at America’s SBDC conference when I saw you speaking on AI and social media. So what role does AI play in your social media content creation, planning, what have you?
Kasia: Oh, I love AI. But it is my assistant, it is a toolbox. It is something that helps me get to where I need to be. But it also helps me in certain stages, stage one and stage two. I love technology. I’m a busy mom. I’m just going to get vulnerable and be me. Look, I’m a single mom. Here’s the thing, technology in my house is everything. My dog has an automatic doggie door, he still needs to be walked though. My cats have those automatic feeders, my light bulbs go up and down at certain times. But eventually, obviously they need to be checked and changed and all that. This is the same with AI. We can use these tools to help us out, but at the end of the day, we still have to get the work done in a way that’s more us, more authentic, and put our perspective in it.
The way I use it, English is my third language. I am an immigrant from Poland, so I love it. My kids are like, stop using that excuse, mom. It’s been 40 years. I’m like, no, ChatGPT is my friend. I use it for sales emails. Whenever I reach out to people, I’m like, hey, make it funnier. Hey, make it shorter. Hey, make it direct to the point. And then I take that, and I make it my own. But it saves me so much time for social media. You can throw out so many ideas.
So whenever you’re putting together a strategy, you can say, “Hey, this is the kind of business I have. This is what I want to do. Can you give me some ideas now? Can you put it into content tiers on Monday?” I want to educate my audience on Wednesday. I want to entertain on Friday. Maybe I want to do a little sales or maybe something else, and ChatGPT and other AI tools will put that all together.
This is a time in businesses that we don’t need a brick and mortar. You can create a website on Durably for 30 seconds or less. If you want to start a business, this is your time. Because all of these things would cost us so much money. Chat GPT is really great, but there’s so many other tools that make it really fast.
Like for instance, even this podcast, there’s tools out there that can now put that together so quickly for you and save you a lot of time. Will you have to look over it? Absolutely. Does it take the place of a really awesome editor? No. But it’ll create a blueprint.
Here’s the other thing that we use it for, is anytime that we’re putting together a strategy, a case study, any kind of PowerPoints or anything, I go in and I ask AI, “Hey, this is what I’m trying to do. How would you outline this? What are the points that I should use? “And then I say, “Hey, what other things am I missing here? What are some of the things that the competitors are doing?”
I created a case study last week. It took me maybe an hour and a half. That sucker would usually take me eight hours. I created a strategy around ads that we’re going to start running that also went into Canva and found the presentation already done. Then went in and to ChatGPT, had an outline, went into Google Bard and said, “Hey, give me some of the stats from this last year because that’s the one that, is the most recent. Give me some research.” Boom! I got it done in two hours. That usually would take me eight or nine.
Plus, here’s the thing, too. When we’re running a business, we’re tired. Let’s be honest. Our brains hurt. And so we’ve got to think, this is just one way to where you bring in a little bit of brainstorming, and you can have a nice outline, and then you can get going on it in stage two and three. So we’re skipping stage one and two.
Rich: Excellent. Kasia, this has been really helpful. And if people want to learn more about Merge Forward, they want to connect with you, where can we send them online?
Kasia: Oh, absolutely. MergeForward.com is the website. Then I also do small business training around social media, that’s at ForwardMastery.com. And then please connect with me on LinkedIn, @kasia-m-johnson on all my social channels. I am on Instagram. I am on Twitter. I am on Facebook, TikTok, and on LinkedIn.
Rich: Awesome. We’ll find you in all those places, and all those links will be in the show notes. Kasia, thank you so much for stopping by today.
Kasia: Thanks for having me.
Kasia Johnson is the creative founder of Merge Forward, with 14+ years of experience helping her clients form real connections with their audience and bring fresh ideas to life. Catch her on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. And don’t miss her social media training course.
As President of flyte new media and founder of the Agents of Change, Rich Brooks brings over 25 years of expertise to the table. A web design and digital marketing agency based in Portland, Maine, flyte helps small businesses grow online. His passion for helping these small businesses led him to write The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing, a comprehensive guide on digital marketing strategies.