My So-Called (Social) Life

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Every day, marketers and analysts fight the unyielding battle between Big Data and relevancy. With an abundance of customer information constantly flowing into any given organization, it's increasingly difficult to parse the important from the unnecessary. Yet, despite this struggle, companies continue to disseminate their own messages into the void, often spamming the consumer with information that annoys more than it educates.
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Every day, marketers and analysts fight the unyielding battle between Big Data and relevancy. With an abundance of customer information constantly flowing into any given organization, it's increasingly difficult to parse the important from the unnecessary. Yet, despite this struggle, companies continue to disseminate their own messages into the void, often spamming the consumer with information that annoys more than it educates. Thus, when bombarded with posts and tweets galore, I decided to take drastic action. I took to my main social media accounts--Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram--and embarked upon my "social purge" (as I've come to call it). You see, after amassing an overabundance of "friends" and "follows" over the years, I began to realize that my fear of missing out (FOMO) no longer applied to social media, but my social life itself. I found myself skimming through said feeds, only stopping to read posts from those names I deemed most interesting so I could quickly move on to more engaging activities. That's when it hit me: why not eliminate the excess altogether?

Ultimately, I unfriended 90 Facebook friends, most of which were dormant accounts and people I barely knew in the first place, unliked 70 fan pages, and unfollowed 80 Twitter, 20 Tumblr, and 10 Instagram accounts. I felt liberated! Coincidentally, I'm not alone. According to one report published by YouGov, 55 percent of social media users stop using such services entirely because they lose interest, while another study, conducted by 140 Proof and IPG Media Lab, notes that 61 percent of multi-platform social users have unliked or unfollowed a brand due to decreased relevance.

Of course, many marketers may simply write-off such behavior as just another side effect of the millennial condition. But, as the aforementioned studies highlight, demographics don't define lagging engagement. Plus, if we "digital natives" have begun to actively demonstrate our disinterest, how will the supposedly less inclined react? Social media occupies an important role in the future of customer engagement, but cultivating the relationships of tomorrow requires care and attention today.

So, what can companies do to boost their social strategy and rebuild engagement? Here are some tips:

Don't be BuzzFeed--While most brands work to provide valuable content, the tendency to buy into clickbait runs rampant across industries. From "Top 20" lists to "You'll Never Believe What She Did Next!" articles, there's simply too much junk cluttering the social sphere. Sure, these pieces were designed to drive clicks and encourage shares, but the proliferation of sensationalist headlines may soon have the opposite impact. Personally, I've taken to rolling my eyes and scrolling past such posts, as have many of my peers. Honestly, such headlines rarely do said content justice, as companies resort to "surefire" tactics instead of allowing the work to speak for itself. I mean, do we really need another "13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing Tatum" or "11 Feet That Look Like Robert Pattinson's Face" list? No, I didn't think so.

Stop telling me to share or RT--There's nothing I detest more than brands that beg for shares and retweets. No matter the social platform, I'm not a fan of being preemptively coerced into endorsing something I may inevitably refuse to circulate. Once again, I believe the content should speak for itself. Each network makes it intrinsically simple for users to share content, while most companies provide the necessary social share buttons directly on their brand site, as well. But, when I see deliberate calls to action within the tweet or post itself, that tells me that the brand in question has little faith in the content's quality. I also feel that said companies care less about providing valuable content and more about driving clicks to increase visibility. Give me something educational or entertaining--that's the stuff that's worth sharing!

Remember that social isn't just an online concept--When it comes to social engagement, companies tend to forget that, once upon a time, "being social" meant talking to an actual human. Believe it or not, some millennials were born before all the Mom and Pop stores were run out of town by the big box chains. We recall what it's like to encounter friendly salespeople who know the ins and outs of the products and services they offer. Now, however, scowls are more plentiful than smiles, and information's more rare than monkeys riding unicorns. (Yes, that rare.) Just as I wouldn't share content that doesn't seem useful, I won't recommend any company that provides faulty service. Let's just say, if customers gravitate toward self-service, it may just mean your associates failed to deliver. Make sure that desire to "socially engage" with the consumer transfers from site-to-store, as I do believe most have lost sight of the word's original meaning.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION