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Brand Marketers: Listen When the Consumer Says, "Enough is Enough!"

By Kim Hennig
Principal at Kim Hennig Marketing

New research from ExactTarget has proven what we already suspected: too much of a good thing is, well, too much. The study concluded that if marketers use social media to barrage customers with self-serving, non-engaging messages, they're likely to be "unliked" faster than you can say buh-bye.

The conclusions may not be surprising, but what is surprising is the number of brands choosing to simply ignore the data, forging ahead with the great barrage. Sayeth the consumer, "We're talking about YOU!"

According to the study, when a consumer quits following a brand on Facebook, for example, it's because the company posts too much (44 percent), its pages are cluttered with marketing messages (43 percent), the messages are repetitive and uninteresting (38 percent), the messages are overly promotional (24 percent), and the content is irrelevant (19 percent).

Let's talk about frequency of messaging. While I've seen only anecdotal information about the optimum number of posts from a brand—and relevancy will always impact that optimal number anyway—I'm fairly confident that most consumers do not wish to receive brand messages every day. Yet the vast majority of brands that I personally/professionally follow are compelled to post messages five or six days per week.

None of the brands I follow ever posts on Sunday. While I will allow that social media usage is comparatively lower on Sunday—see Mashable's excellent article on Facebook usage—I could argue that the less-cluttered environment might be a good trade for the slightly lower usage. And if a broader audience was the goal, why would brands post on weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., knowing that 65 percent of users access the site when they're not at work or school, typically early morning or evening? According to Mashable's Adam Ostrow, "That means that if you're making social media only a part of a 9-to-5 workday, you might be missing out on connecting with consumers during the times they're likely to be online."

I'm going to pick on Best Buy for a moment, a brand that often uses social media very well, but sometimes makes me crazy. Today, I received nothing fewer than four messages from Best Buy. Message number two was a repost of message number one. I have additionally received six messages from Best Buy over the past two weeks about their buy-back program. This is precisely why I have hidden posts from Best Buy and go to its Facebook page only when I'm seeking specific information.

What is unfortunate about that is that buried in the clutter are some genuinely interesting posts. For instance, while most brands seem compelled to post their latest commercials—what may be the best example of the overt marketing message that survey respondents said they did not want to see—Best Buy has done it right. To create additional interest in its Super Bowl commercial, Best Buy invited Facebook friends to vote between four different endings for the spot. In the second part of its one-two punch, Best Buy auctioned off the autographed costumes worn by Justin Beiber and Ozzy Osbourne in the spot, donating proceeds to charity. Great stuff. But Best Buy, please lighten up!

Many brands still fight the urge to use friend and follower counts as a measure of success. What brands would do well to consider, though, would be the number of friends and followers who decide that enough is enough. Optimum frequency and the value of the posts' content will become clear.

Kim Hennig

Kim Hennig is a 20-year marketing veteran who has delivered record sales, award-winning advertising, and profitable marketing plans for some of the nation's best-known consumer brands, including McDonald's, 1-800Flowers.com, and Subway. Her experience covers both the client and agency sides of the business. Kim is a classic marketer, with significant expertise in new media as well. Her key strengths are in strategic leadership, multimillion-dollar budget management, innovation, consensus-building, and most importantly, driving sales and profits. Kim also conducts social media seminars and facilitates social media workshops for corporations and ad agencies.