We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Social Media professionals are tasked with the challenge of increasing demand for their services and for online community management while systematically asked for evidence or proof of the efficacy of social media engagement. That dreaded Return On Investment (ROI) conversation where professionals are asked to quantify in real tangible terms (typically sales conversion statistics) the value of qualitative digital outreach and customer service.
It can be difficult to valuate public relations or laying the foundation to create brand ambassadors. One of the things we are constantly reminding clients is that participation in social media has a number of intangible benefits which present as value impressions. In other words, much that you will do as a social media manager will be creating good will for your brand which tends to have a less measurable but centrifugal effect that can generate conversation around your product.
It seems that for some social mavens, justifying the expense to the client has created another unpleasant side effect. In order to legitimize activity some Community Managers will update through multiple streams quantitatively, providing excessive amounts of posts and communications out through their channels. In some way that is providing a measurable to satisfy the client. You can export analytics from Hootsuite or from Facebook to indicate the number of posts made, which shows some irrefutable activity on the account, but ultimately are we posting far more than we should?
A recent Lab 42 Survey "Frequency of Posts, Unwanted Contact Discourage Brand Likes On Facebook" revealed that in almost all cases the audience would actually prefer fewer posts. The article discusses the response of consumers to the perception of "too much" clutter in their social feeds with some less than surprising results:
- 47% of responders did not want to be contacted by Brands on Facebook at all
- 73% of responders stated they had unliked or unfollowed brands for posting too frequently on Facebook
- 1% of users who 'Like' a major brand actually engage with the Brand or purchase the product
With most users providing feedback that they find too much noise in their social streams to be distracting, stressful and even a deterrent to using the Brand, it is worth evaluating how frequency of posts can negatively impact the product perception. If posts are excessive, are you creating a negative impression with your customers? That would appear to be the case and with most recent surveys released in 2012 which imply that not only are excessive posts ineffective at growing online community but they can actually be a serious detriment to the reputation of your business.
It won't help your business, it might actually hurt it.
But according to a great report by Exact Target titled "The Social Media Breakup" consumers are more discerning when it comes to deriving value from their social networks. For example if they become disinterested in a product or Brand and are unable to receive any kind of bonus benefit or incentive from being socially networked with the organization, the consumer will "Unlike" and unsubscribe from the feed.
But perhaps it is not just the volume of social media shares that can negatively impact brand perception. Email marketing remains a favourite promotional tool among digital marketers, and sending an e-blast of information is still standard protocol for product launches or press release information. The report by ExactTarget reveals that 54% of individuals removed themselves from subscribed email newsletters or groups due to being flooded by excessive content and information. Another 49% reported that over time the content became too repetitive and disinteresting. Inundated with too many emails from a variety of sources respondents also indicated that 47% received too many emails of a business and personal nature, and removed themselves from subscribed email lists to reduce the amount of volume to their inbox on a daily basis.
So are social media managers killing their clients with too much kindness? In our effort to legitimize the value of the service we are providing, do we post too much in too many channels? Is this really beneficial for the client or is it simply something we as marketing professionals do to warrant the service fees we charge?
The important message behind all these reports is that quality engagement is a qualitative measurement. It is important to advise a client that a quantitative approach will be counterproductive and may even create reputation damage to brand perception. Create a new content plan that reflects a more qualitative engaged approach which includes:
- Fewer posts but more relevant content
- Increased offers, bonus and incentives in communications. Give them a reason and benefit to remain connected to you
- Enable customer service interaction, product support and conflict response to be transparent in social sharing. Other customers like to see issues being dealt with through social channels and a prompt response to issues.
- Identify names of posters (or initials) to put a human face on the representative who is engaging. This helps to personalize the communication and make it feel less automated.
- Refrain from using automated posts as much as possible. If you think your customers can't tell the difference between a scheduled post and a live one, you are wrong.
- Engage your audience with opportunities to express themselves with photo submission contests, opinion polls and other gamification models to interact with your Brand in a fun (and memorable) way.
The best form of defensible ROI when it comes to social media services is to review the level of engagement through the network. Happy customers are more apt to "Like" a post or reshare it on their own timelines or social streams. Displeased customers are likely to "Unlike" and unsubscribe from social feeds if they feel that they are being inundated with too much information that serves no other purpose than blatant promotion of your brand. Lastly educate your clients on the value of developing Brand Ambassadors through social sharing, and the positive benefit of their centrifugal discussion through all networks. After all, word of mouth (WOM) is still the best form of advertising.