Shouting is Not Dialogue


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It seems that some marketers are treating conversations with consumers via social media like the stereotyped tourists in a foreign country. If the locals don’t understand the tourists’ language, the tourists amp up the volume, as if repeating “I don’t understand why you don’t understand me!” with additional decibels! will simplify the translation. These marketers who aren’t fully understanding the new language of social media can tend to get overly loud – or overly chummy.

That’s the finding of a recent study by Relevation Research, which surveyed 1,500 U.S. online consumers age 16 and older. The results show that 52% of respondents have Facebook-liked, Twitter-followed or otherwise “subscribed to” a company or brand. But of the group that expressed their “devotion,” 32% had subsequently spurned the relationship. “After distancing themselves from the brand on social media, many report they then view the brand more negatively, shop/visit it less often and wind up spending less,” notes Relevation Research. The biggest reason for the estrangement is “the brand coming on too strong. That is, the brand pushed too hard and got clingy with excessive posts, tweets or other communications. Failure to deliver on a promise of deals and failure to engage or offer value via communications are other leading brand break-up catalysts.”

Some thoughts here:

* Obviously, friends aren’t always forever, and they may not be friends in the first place. “Liking” a brand is as simple as a click, not much of an investment, which means that a brand’s list of social-network pals will have its share of the mildly interested, the merely curious, or the quick-to-click crowd. Depend on activity in addition to Likes and Friends and so on to indicate a larger interest; base communications on patterns and customer information beyond a simple sign-up.

* For those consumers who are genuinely interested and engaged, temper and tailor communications to their preferences. “Coming on strong” and “pushing too hard” can take two forms. The first, of course, is frequency. Message upon message upon message . . . I myself receive a daily email from a company I’ve transacted with twice in the previous three years. That’s clingy. The other form is irrelevance. Even less-frequent off-base we-don’t-know-you communications can be as off-putting as too-frequent relevant touches. And combine the two problems – too-frequent irrelevance – and you are certain to quickly drive customers away grumbling to their friends. The daily email that I just mentioned? The company has never demonstrated any relevance specific to my previous purchases. And how could it, considering that two purchases does not a pattern make?

* In any case, treat your friends well. Yes, your best customers and advocates might be quicker to forgive indiscretions and dissatisfactions than others less engaged. But they are also far more likely to curtail engagement and fire up enragement should they feel slighted, disappointed or mistreated. These now-enraged former advocates are what COLLOQUY calls “Madvocates,” whose behavior we studied in the 2011 COLLOQUY Word-of-Mouth Study (for details, see our white paper “Urban Legends: Word-of-Mouth Myths, Madvocates and Champions – Debunking Myths About Brand Conversations and Word-of-Mouth in Social Media”

And because I don’t want to become too clingy. I promise not to write another blog post for the next hour or so.

Bill Brohaugh
As managing editor, Bill Brohaugh is responsible for the day-to-day management and editorial for the COLLOQUY magazine and, the most comprehensive loyalty marketing web site in the world. In addition to writing many of the feature articles, Bill develops the editorial calendar, hires and manages outside writers and researchers and oversees print and online production. He also contributes to COLLOQUY's weekly email Market Alert and the COLLOQUYTalk series of white papers.


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