Email, Social Media Research, Social Media Tools, Email Marketing Advice, Facebook

Invitation Avalanches, Attention Infidelity, and the Science of the Social Break-Up

The Social Break Up Invitation Avalanches, Attention Infidelity, and the Science of the Social Break UpIs the golden goose poisoned before it’s even an adult?

The current relationship between companies and consumers via social media and email is unsustainable. The backlash has begun, and abuse of any one channel has a spillover effect on consumer attitudes toward other channels.

That’s one of my main takeaways from fascinating new research from ExactTarget and CoTweet (clients) called “The Social Break-Up” that studies why customers call it quits like Kim Kardashian and boyfriend du jour.

Part 8 of the Subscribers, Fans, and Followers research series, “The Social Break-Up” includes this data that frankly shocked me:

  • 41% of Twitter users have followed a brand, and subsequently unfollowed
  • 71% of Facebook members have become more selective about “liking” companies
  • 77% of email users have become more cautious about giving companies their email address – just in the past year

I don’t like that email stat. Not one bit. We know that Twitter follows and Facebook likes are essentially digital bumper stickering. Clicking a “like” button one time isn’t exactly a blood oath. But if consumers are growing wary of email, which is a proven method of fostering deeper company-to-customer relationships, we’ve got a big problem brewing.

Beware the Invitation Avalanche

As we strive to build more and more touch points and loose social ties between our companies and our customers, is it possible that we’re actually pushing them away?

As marketers, email, Facebook, and Twitter share a common problem in that there is very little net cost for additional iterations. It doesn’t cost your company anything (other than a bit of labor) to send 7 tweets a day instead of 3. Or to write 4 status updates instead of 2. Or to send 3 emails per week instead of 1.

Social media and email are inexpensive, and that allows marketers to make them cheap, untargeted, unfocused, irrelevant.

We are smothering our very best customers with an invitation avalanche, asking them to hang out with us in every digital clubhouse we can devise. And the reality is, they just aren’t that into us.

You might be thinking, “But it’s working! We have more and more followers and fans every day!” That may be true, but you may be burning out your best customers like a 15 year-old driving a stick shift on hilly terrain.

Attention Infidelity

SSF8 Chart3 300x252 Invitation Avalanches, Attention Infidelity, and the Science of the Social Break UpAnd that’s the other part of this research that really shook me up. It turns out that much of consumers’ frustrations with companies’ social and email tactics is undetectable.

They are cheating on us behind our backs, committing attention infidelity right under our noses.

  • When no longer interested, 25% of consumers just delete, ignore, or filter emails (undetectable by marketers)
  • When no longer interested, 57% of consumers just ignore or remove companies’ Facebook post from their News Feed (detectable by marketers only through Insights)
  • 47% of consumers who have created a Twitter account are no longer active on Twitter, creating ghost town accounts (undetectable by marketers)

You Don’t Have As Many Fans As You Think

These findings underscore my belief that we must focus on measuring passion in social media, not aggregation. The fact that you have 50,000 followers means very little in terms of how many people will see (much less respond) to any specific Tweet.

Using the 47% figure, your 50,000 followers might actually be only 26,500. How many of those are on Twitter at the point you send your tweet, or follow so few people or brands that they’ll see your Tweet when they do look at Twitter hours later?

In email marketing, we often measure click through rate. The number of people on your list, compared to the number of people that click a link in your message. A click through rate of 7% is typically pretty solid. An email list of 50,000 should generate clicks from 3,500 recipients (of course, your results may vary widely).

On Twitter and Facebook, a 7% conversion rate would be the stuff of legend (unless you’re Bieber or Gaga, in which case you probably don’t read this blog). How many clicks can you generate from your 50,000 Twitter followers? Again, your results may vary, but among my 33,000+ followers, 300 clicks is a pretty good showing. That’s a click through rate of less than 1%.

Most of your Facebook Insights stats around story feedback show engagement rates in that 1% range, give or take. That means that just 1% of your Facebook fans clicked “like” or commented on your status update.

Of course, your objective for every Tweet and status update isn’t to generate clicks. But sometimes, it most definitely is. What we find in “The Social Break-Up” is that consumers are already growing tired of speed dating brands, and will be playing increasingly hard to get.

How can you rekindle the romance?

Related
  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    Wow. These are interesting stats. In my opinion, it comes down to the most creative content. We have to work that much harder on producing QUALITY experiences. Whether that is in email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, white papers, it has to provide value. The moment someone sees a half-ass piece of content, the game’s over (gut feeling). I think you just inspired me to focus my annual research project on consumer sentiment in relation to quality of content.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I love that research angle Nick. If I can help you in any way, let me know.

  • http://www.expensiccino.com Carl Natale

    I haven’t read the study yet. It’s sitting in my download folder waiting for me to load more paper in the printer. In a way, I like what I’m reading about it. Seriously. I’m agreeing with your analysis because it means there is more to this than liking, following and friending.

    And doesn’t that mean opportunity? I’m curious to get your take on what smart content producers need to do to take advantage of this behavior.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      yes, it’s a huge opportunity. Just like good email is a huge opportunity. With so many companies randomly batching and blasting, those that really understand their customers and focus on relevant messaging have a big leg up.

  • Kathy Sacks

    Good summary of the study Jay. You’ve piqued my interest to read the full study this week. What I like about the results is that, as Nick also notes below, it puts the responsibility squarely on the marketer to even further instill quality in everything they do when it comes to content–from a tweet, to a report, to a webinar, whatever.

    It really is like dating. The stronger your relationship with people (read: trust), the more forgiving they are on those rare occasions when you have spinach in your teeth. They won’t dump you for that litle indiscretion. Ah, but Ms. Marketer don’t ever get lazy and let it turn into long-term halitosis, because they will dump your ass–and you probably won’t even know it.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Sounds like you’re speaking from pre-marriage experience Kathy!

  • Kathy Sacks

    Good summary of the study Jay. You’ve piqued my interest to read the full study this week. What I like about the results is that, as Nick also notes below, it puts the responsibility squarely on the marketer to even further instill quality in everything they do when it comes to content–from a tweet, to a report, to a webinar, whatever.

    It really is like dating. The stronger your relationship with people (read: trust), the more forgiving they are on those rare occasions when you have spinach in your teeth. They won’t dump you for that litle indiscretion. Ah, but Ms. Marketer don’t ever get lazy and let it turn into long-term halitosis, because they will dump your ass–and you probably won’t even know it.

  • Bryan Runyan Leather Techs CEO

    I don’t think any of us business owner want to believe this but it is helpfully and we do need to be ever mindful of ourcustomers. The best strategy is treat them like you want to be treated.

    I hate spam but love a good deal.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Excellent quote. “I hate spam, but love a good deal” The line is fine.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for bringing this up, Jay. It’s been on my mind lately – fans taking a second look at their rosters and realizing maybe your company isn’t offering them what they need, so they pack up and move on, though all Facebook requires for such departure is the happy click of a mouse button. It’s so easy to leave…It’s like a relationship where things aren’t great, but they’re comfortable. And if one person realizes it’s a waste of time, the other just wants to scream from a mountaintop, “Please don’t go. I’ll be different. We’ll only do things you want to do. Why must you leave me on Valentine’s Day?!?!”

    To tye that back in to the Facebook/Twitter/Email (gasp), we maintain a roster of divergent tastes and individual preferences, and it is our job to relate to those many personalities how the page they chose to Like fits in to their personal agenda. At the end of the day, though, some relationships aren’t for everybody, and we have to let go. Even if it is on Valentine’s Day :)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Excellent analogy. And the ability to bail out on the relationship secretly is a big deal. I’ll be talking about that next week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lisa-Kruczynski/669343095 Lisa Kruczynski

    Jay, I found your blog while researching for a social media class I am teaching and have been following you ever since. You do a great job of helping people understand SM and its trends and changes. I think this particular trend is only natural. Of course since SM is new and fun, people are trying it out en mass, but since in reality, 140 characters does not a relationship make, if they don’t immediately see the value to them, they are ‘on to the next’. Without getting overly philosophical, this is a mentality that we ‘as a society’ have been cultivating for years.
    SM is really just finding its way, and the general public is just beginning to realize how much information they have access to and the power that it gives them. But at the same time, that level of information is overwhelming and so we’ll need to find effective ways to filter…one of those ways is as the consumers you mention here do…be cautious about where & how often you share your email address.
    The answer is not, as many SM ‘experts’ suggest, to simply send more and more information out to followers, instead, be a reliable resource for your clients and fans. Let them know that sometimes you will provide entertainment and interactivity and sometimes you will just be available if needed. If you are going to make a relationship analogy, this is much closer to how effective relationships work.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Yep. More doesn’t equal more. Better equals more. Thanks for the kind words!

  • http://twitter.com/jkrohrs Jeffrey K. Rohrs

    Jay, as usual, a great analysis of our SFF data. In reading it, I’m reminded of something you said at MarketingProfs Digital Forum last week: “A ‘like’ is not a blood oath.” I couldn’t agree more. Marketers must be extremely careful to ascribe too much intent to a single “like” or they will push their relationships with consumers too fast & furious such that they run the other way, clicking “unlike” as fast as their device will allow.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      The reality is that an email opt-in is a much greater indication of loyalty than a “like” is it not?

      • http://twitter.com/jkrohrs Jeffrey K. Rohrs

        I’d say so. “Like” is about as indeterminate a word as there is in relationship/marketing language–and I think Facebook intended it that way.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Indeed. They got a lot of crap for changing “fan” to “like” but it’s much more apt.

  • Bob Wheatley

    Jay:

    Just sat in consumer focus groups yesterday where participants were asked about sharing their stories on the Facebook platform. No was pretty much the outcome. And these are engaged fans in this specific product category. Seems to me we over-estimate what “love” means in these areas, preferring to believe that consumers can’t get enough, when in reality they’ve probably had enough already. If we’re constantly pushing me deal-du-jour and attempting to make social media just another transaction platform, aren’t we just missing the boat. What about relevance? What about unselfish behavior? Instead why not become a channel of respected, trusted, and dare we say even useful ideas and advice in activities the consumer cares about? Or maybe providing content that is informative and entertaining and not intended simply to operate as bait for a sales pitch? Just a thought.

  • Bob Wheatley

    Jay:

    Just sat in consumer focus groups yesterday where participants were asked about sharing their stories on the Facebook platform. No was pretty much the outcome. And these are engaged fans in this specific product category. Seems to me we over-estimate what “love” means in these areas, preferring to believe that consumers can’t get enough, when in reality they’ve probably had enough already. If we’re constantly pushing me deal-du-jour and attempting to make social media just another transaction platform, aren’t we just missing the boat. What about relevance? What about unselfish behavior? Instead why not become a channel of respected, trusted, and dare we say even useful ideas and advice in activities the consumer cares about? Or maybe providing content that is informative and entertaining and not intended simply to operate as bait for a sales pitch? Just a thought.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Relevance is 100% the key, whether it’s rooted in information, offers, or entertainment. The trouble is it’s very hard to segment your communication in Facebook and Twitter.

  • http://michaeljbarber.com/ Michael Barber

    Thanks for sharing the ET/CT research, Jay. It is great stuff. That email stat you mentioned also worries me too, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. I think there are two reasons driving these results, abuse of tried and true email tactics & the changing nature of email consumption.

    Between the quality of content, lack of targeting and timing that I’m seeing from some of my favorite companies and the email-related conversations I’m having with clients lately, brands seem to be okay with abusing the privilege of an opt-in. Many companies seem to have forgot the that the simple act of opting-in doesn’t mean you can send me whatever you want, whenever you please. More and more, the spray and pray strategy seems to be in full effect. Let’s just send one message to 500,000 subscribers and pray they all love it. That simply isn’t a long-term strategy.

    On top of brand’s crappy email tactics, subscribers are consuming email in totally different ways compared to a couple of years ago. comScore just released data that showed a 36% increase in mobile email usage from Nov 09-Nov 10 and 40% increase in daily usage. Those are crazy shifts, and mean that companies crappy emails are bothering consumers not only on their computers, but when they are on the go. If consumers were annoyed by pointless emails at their desktop, they are probably cursing brands when they receive these emails sitting in traffic. All the more reason for them to filter or unsubscribe from campaigns and be hesitant to give their email to other companies.

    Email, social or otherwise, marketers must get better at understanding who their customers are and reach them with targeted, relevant and interesting content. If we don’t, we simply won’t be able to rekindle or even start the romance.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Yep. The holidays were ridiculous. SO much email being blasted out. There are consequences to that approach.

      Excellent point on mobile too.

  • http://twitter.com/neicolec Neicole Crepeau

    Great post, Jay. This is so important for businesses to understand. Personally, I think it’s in large part a result of the problem of companies not having a strategy. They put up a Facebook page and open a Twitter account and do everything they can to get fans/followers, without ever having a plan. The plan has to be focused on the consumer and providing REAL VALUE. That’s what people want. I just blogged about Razorfish’s Liminal study, which I think is one of the most important studies so far. (http://bit.ly/fdZQiI) Why? Because it asked consumers what they want from companies with regards to engagement. It suggests the same things you and the Social Breakup study do.

    I think the good news is that users do value companies that deliver what they want in an ethical way. So, users will opt in to regular communication with companies that are transparent, do provide value, and don’t abuse the relationship. It’s just that all the abuse makes it that much harder to get users to give a company a chance in the first place.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Exactly Neicole. What are you planning to do with all of these “fans”? I liked the Liminal study a lot, especially the part that shows we just are not satisfying customer needs.

      As I’ll talk about next week, the problem is that the abuse by other companies impacts OUR results…

  • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

    Reach, reach, reach…I keep talking about this. Corps are not reaching as many people as they think they are and they have no idea why. They suck at this social thing, thats why.

    I love these numbers btw…thank you for sharing it with us….its good to have figures and charts so we can pacify the rational brain.

  • http://www.trendlineinteractive.com Morgan Stewart

    Nice write up Jay. As always, you find a way of highlighting the most salient points of the research. I especially like that you highlighted the 77% (email) and 71% (Facebook) of consumers that have grown more cautious about initiating relationships. The key here is not about email or Facebook specifically, it is about marketing in general–consumers seem to be growing more skeptical about starting “relationships” with brands across the board. They are simply overwhelmed and tired of the onslaught of messages. It might help to point out that the people who participated in our focus groups and interviews used a lot of war analogies to describe how they feel about marketing in general (bombarded, barraged, flooded, onslaught, overwhelmed, harassed, berated, or “my inbox has been decimated”). Like Brian said, “I hate spam, but love a good deal.” That theme was recurring across focus groups.

    Content and relevance are definitely the keys to success. Interestingly, “relevance” is also seen by consumers are being channel specific. Brands that don’t abide by the accepted norms of each channel are seen as irrelevant, or worse, clueless. So, for example, someone that loves getting daily deal emails might say, “That would be annoying, it’s just not the place,” when asked about similar tactics on Facebook.

    Last, one stat I *thought* you would pull out is the one about 51% of Facebook Fans saying they rarely or never go back to the brands Facebook page after liking them. Personally, that was the biggest shocker.

  • http://twitter.com/C_Pappas Christina Pappas

    You absolutely have to live up to your promises in order to sustain a healthy relationship. So when someone follows you, likes your stuff or subscribes via email, set the expectations and then deliver on those expectations. I have seen suggestions that you should not track how many followers you have (although I think we can all agree that have 50K followers would be cool!), but to track the engagement with the followers which is to your point. How many people see your tweet? Retweet it or react and respond to it? Does anyone notice you changed your status or posted a new blog? Do they care anymore or have you turned that off?

    How do you rekindle the romance? Interesting question because this not only questions how to keep the romance alive but to rekindle it after its died out. On Twitter I am going to claim ignorance and let someone else share their insight. How do you re-engage with 50K people that are following you? How do you make them pay attention to your tweets? You cannot possibly @ them all.

    If you have emails in your system you could plan and structure and re-engagement campaign that starts out like ‘we miss you’ or ‘hope we didnt piss you off before’ or ‘should we leave you alone’ and then work from there to re-engage and re-introduce yourself, your value to them and then once they have fallen back in love with you, dont let them down.

  • http://www.marybiever.com Mary Biever

    Excellent blog, Jay. 21st century consumers have great crud detectors. If we offer them good content and add value, we will build a relationship. If instead, we offer them the online essential of a manure pile, after they step in it once, they don’t return.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patmcgraw Pat McGraw

    Jay, great post. I especially loved this line – “Social media and email are inexpensive, and that allows marketers to make them cheap, untargeted, unfocused, irrelevant.”

    Marketers need to realize that burying potential buyers with crap just because you can is chasing away customers and their money.

    Stop. Think. Think some more. Then do it only if you have something your audience will find valuable. If you aren’t sure the audience will find it valuable, return to ‘Stop’.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      In email, I used to employ the Mom test: if she doesn’t think it’s awesome, nobody will.

  • http://ianmrountree.com Ian M Rountree

    This is somewhat unsurprising. “Are you cool? What? No? Ok, bye now.”

    What really amazes me is that bounce rate for fans and followers hasn’t occurred to brands as being as natural on profiles as it is on web pages. we may not yet have the analytics tools to measure Twitter Follower Bounce Rate, for example, but it’s there – and I agree, we should accept it. It’s a metric with meaning.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Really hope those metrics get launched – and soon. Thanks for the great comment.

  • http://www.davidcoupercoach.com David Couper

    Great stuff! I love your take on social networking especially the click through rate. As you say this is all a little scary. But the question is – what’s next?
    David

  • Kim

    very interesting read, I certainly can relate to the whole twitter thing! It was fun for a while but after not being able to interact with other twitter peeps, i’ve lost interest and only use it as a news feed…

  • http://twitter.com/PracticalCafe TPC Online Marketing

    Jay, great post. Written about this several times myself and only expect to see more of a retraction in consumer engagement with privacy issues, over reaching SM “strategies” and sheer volume of grabs for consumer attention. What I find ironic is that we see even seasoned marketers telling clients that there’s a symbiotic relationship happening on social media, and this is why they need to be involved. Sorry, but I just don’t see that, consumers don’t need brands in order to socialize. Thoughts?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Great comment, thanks. To me, the key is to treat the brand like a person. If you can do that, it becomes part of the conversation naturally, not artificially. Easier said than done, but that’s how I see the best social media programs unfolding.

  • http://www.eatwithaspork.com Michael Beck

    This is good stuff Jay. I got caught up in the race for Twitter followers and all I ever had to show for it was a home feed full of garbage.

    I’d tweet a message out to 4,000 followers and would be lucky if 2 would click by the end of the day. So much for fans.

    It’s about building relationships and winning attention, not jumping on the spammer’s hamster wheel. Thanks for showing me I’m not lost in crazytown Jay! lol

  • letstalkandchat

    If you’re looking for webinar software, then check out Evergreen Business System. Its perfect for marketers and let’s you automate the scheduling of your webinars, build your list, and even follow up with your webinar registrants. If you’re going to buy Evergreen Business System, then you might as well get a free bonus! So check out http://www.mikelmurphy.com/evergreen-business-system-bonus-webinar-software/ and you’ll get a great bonus that tells you how to create a webinar, what is a webinar, and a blueprint for making a successful one. None of the other people offering bonuses are offering this. Hurry in case the guy (some dude that worked on Lord of the RIngs) offering the bonus decides to pull it down.

  • snouraini

    Don’t think these comments are very surprising, this was bound to happen given the overload of information and the degree by which most brands just don’t do a good job on their social media marketing as far as engagement is concerned. I so agree with you that brands need to “treat the brand like a person”, that is key.