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3 ways to maximize organic social media engagement on a shoestring (or $0) budget

By Dan Beckley, Social Media Specialist, STRS Ohio

Everyone knows the benefits of organic. It’s transparent, controlled naturally and free from outside influences. Plus, it costs you nothing! Wait, we’re talking about social media, right?

Since 2016, STRS Ohio has been establishing a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The challenge: build awareness, generate inbound traffic, engage our community AND spend $0 on social media advertising.

I know what you’re thinking. How’d that turn out? What’s it like tweeting to the wind? If you post to Facebook in the forest and no one sees it, then what the heck is the point?

During the past four months, our Facebook business page’s organic average engagement rate per post has been stellar: 9.7% in July, 8% in August, 8% in September and 9.1% in October. All of these percentages are well above the Facebook average engagement rate per post for nonprofits (0.13% 1).

Our team has been building up to this crescendo of success for a while now, because we had a strategy in place that was built on three main pillars of success.

  1. Follow your social media mission.
    Your social media mission is very important because it defines your content and refines your audience. It will guide not only you, but also your organization in making decisions about what you want your channels to look like.

    Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach? What specific information will you be sharing? All of the answers to these questions will factor into your social media mission. Once your mission is in place, your unique brand voice will begin to emerge, and you can start to get more creative with your content and imagery.

  2. Create engaging content about your audience.
    The first and most important rule when creating social media content is that it’s not about you—it’s about your audience. How can your audience get the most out of your product or service? How can you inspire them today? If you see your audience members winning awards or doing amazing things in their communities, feature them on your channels. Your posts should not only provide your audience with useful information, but also highlight your followers’ day-to-day journeys and engaging stories.

  3. Test new times and different types of posts.
    Many social media management platforms offer features that suggest optimal posting times for all of your channels. However, don’t be afraid to try different times or rely on other sources for guidance. One of the reasons that our engagement has been so stout for the past couple of months is because we’ve been following a comprehensive report2 containing detailed graphs about the best times to post. This is just one of the many reasons that you need to set up Google Alerts to stay up on all the latest social media trends.

    Also, experiment with different types of images. Our in-house communications team pairs inspirational quotes with images, designs infographics with interesting info from our publications and highlights audience members in a creative way. We’ve found that the more unique your image and content, the better your reach and engagement.

    The great news for PR professionals is that “pay to play” is not your only option for making an impact on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can generate great social media organic engagement with a sound strategy and a flexible, creative mindset.


Dan Beckley is the social media specialist for STRS Ohio. He is passionate about creating content that educates, entertains and inspires. Connect with him on LinkedIn: danbeckley

1 Feehan, Blair, Rival IQ 2019 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, https://www.rivaliq.com/blog/2019-social-media-benchmark-report/ (Feb. 15, 2019).
2 Arens, Elizabeth, Best times to post on social media for 2019, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/best-times-to-post-on-social-media/ (July 31, 2019).

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