Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Often Should Your Brand Post? Don't Misinterpret the Data

Ask the wrong question and you will get the wrong answer. That is the problem with so many of the studies we see in the digital and social space, particularly those done by vendors with a stake in the outcome.

A classic example of this was the announcement earlier this year that 70% of consumers "said mobile advertising is a welcomed personal invitation from brands, rather than an invasion." Of course, whether people think mobile advertising is a "personal invitation" or a "personal invasion" isn't the pertinent question; the appropriate question is whether people trust mobile ads and whether those ads convert mobile surfers into mobile shoppers and buyers. On those more vital questions, other studies tell a different story--Millward Brown recently found that consumer favorability toward mobile ads was so poor that it ranks with non-opt-in email, and Nielsen found that trust in mobile ads was lower than every other ad medium. Ask the wrong question and you will get the wrong answer.

Source: eMarketer
I had this same reaction today to reading eMarketer's review of SocialVibe's research into brand social media connections. The study found that the number one reason people unfollow a brand is "Too many updates." The second reason is "Brand's values and/or content differed from original perception." 

I would suggest that these two answers are one in the same. If people received what they expected to receive from the brands they follow, it would be difficult for the number of brands' posts to rise to the level of "too much." Follow Mashable on Facebook, for example, and you will get a couple dozen posts a day, but Mashable has a million fans and almost 50,000 people "talking about this," so clearly they are getting something right even though they break every "rule of thumb" for frequency of posts. They offer valuable content people welcome, and so long as they do that, it is hard for Mashable to fall on the wrong side of the "too much" perception barrier. And this isn't just the case for media brands, either--how often could Disney or Harley-Davidson post before people would cry "too much"?

Ask the wrong question and you will get the wrong answer. If you ask people whether they unfollow brands for posting too much, they will answer in the affirmative. But the psychology behind the decision to unfollow is not really about quantity of posts but their value. If consumers saw more value, they would welcome more posts.

This isn't to suggest your brand has carte blanche to post as often as it wishes but to advise you ignore studies that ask the wrong question and instead focus on the needs and expectations of your own audience. If you bring laser focus to how your brand can truly and selflessly serve those needs and expectations, you can pretty much ignore all those studies and "best practices."

No study can tell you how often your audience will accept your brand posting in social media, but your audience can. And that is the right question to ask!


Ian Greenleigh said...

Great post. This is why I'm starting to advocate for separating social brand accounts by interest, topic, desired outcome, audience, etc. For example, if I follow an airline for discounts, I don't want to see a bunch of customer service tweets in their stream. You can't please everyone with one account--it's not possible or scalable.

Augie Ray said...

Ian--how crazy. Focus on the audience and its needs. You are truly a radical. :)

Jay Baer said...

this is exactly why case studies are the single most overrated aspect of social media "thought leadership." What company A is doing has very little impact on what company B can or should do.

Augie Ray said...

Could not agree with you more, Jay. That was one of the challenges I had at Forrester--everyone wanted the "best practices" and case studies, but I think most people misinterpret them.

For example, when I was at Forrester, the whole Old Spice/YouTube thing happened. I would talk to clients about it, focusing on how YouTube was agile, moved to exploit an opportunity, shortened approval processes, and engaged with people. Too often, people would hear me talk about it and come to the conclusion, "Funny works" and "Posting lots of YouTube video works."

I think case studies can hold value, but they need to inspire change in strategy and culture, not tactics.

Thanks for the great comment!

Augie Ray said...

Sorry, I meant how "Old Spice was agile," not YouTube in that comment. (But you probably got the point.)

Mrs. M. said...

"Focus on the needs and expectations of your own audience. If you bring laser focus to how your brand can truly and selflessly serve those needs and expectations, you can pretty much ignore all those studies and "best practices."

Yes! Augie, please say this as often and as loud as you can when you speak at conferences, events or in classrooms. I've had enough of case studies (especially since most focus on the same big brands).

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Julia. I feel the same way. if companies worried more about experimenting to find their own success stories rather than rely on others' success stories (that may or may not be relevant) (or even true), they'd do much better.

Thanks for the comment!

Stephen Johnson said...

The right message to the right audience at the right time (s) is what you are stating correctly. Knowing your audience will allow you to share content 5 times per year or 5 times per hour. Thanks for the insightful content.