Social Media is so noisy it’s quiet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot long ago, we wrote a post about a meeting we had with a client of ours. Our client wanted to know if they should start jumping into social media marketing. They fully expected us to say yes – they knew that we had been active in the online world for awhile and thought we, like so many other companies, would respond with a, “Yes of course!” We did not respond that way, however. For the most part, it was because of this client’s particular business model. But the world of social media has also undergone changes over the last couple of years in particular that in our opinion make it a little harder to successfully market a company online.

If you read blog posts about social media or social media marketing, you’re likely to run into the word “noise.” There’s so much “noise” in the online world, and you need to tear through it in order to be a success. There is then advice about how to break through the noise. It is advised that you create “awesome content.” It is advised that you focus on relationships. In my own personal experience, however, the “noise” is not really the issue in the online world. Rather, it’s the fact that the noise has changed. Despite all of the books and blog posts and YouTube videos and TedX talks about how important “engagement” is in the online world, my own online existence presents an environment where conversations, especially on Twitter, are far more rare than they used to be. It appears that social media has become more about ego massage. Platforms like Triberr allow you to share other peoples’ posts, but it is understood that if you share their posts they’ll share yours (often without reading what you have written first). “Influence measurement” platforms like Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex indicate that they can tell you how many people you are reaching via your online efforts, but in the case of Klout particularly, there is a suspicious link between how much you tweet and how high your score goes.

This is symbolic of what I am seeing in the online world. It’s no longer about the quality of your “conversations.” It’s about the quantity. Indeed, there are even ways to embed tweets so you can make it look like celebrities have mentioned you or your company.

Even more bizarre than this shift away from conversation and personal networking is that most of the content you see online is now automated. Triberr, mentioned above, allows you to tweet out posts all day long. You just have to sit down and schedule them and your tweets can go out like clockwork. There are many other apps that help you automate and schedule tweets and Facebook updates, too. So not only are people engaging less with each other on “social” media sites, they are perhaps not even signing in any longer. In the noise of all of these post promotions and automated tweets, networking, which is what social media was supposed to be all about, is becoming far less common. For companies just getting started with social media marketing now, it’s going to be far more difficult to engage with potential customers than it might have been three or four years ago.

Next week we’ll cover a different perspective on social media noise. It is a perspective brought to our attention by Frank Eliason, who was the brains behind the “Comcast Care” social media efforts a few years ago. His own views on social media have changed over the last two years, and his perspective is not too far different from what we have presented here.

17 comments on “Social Media is so noisy it’s quiet

  1. I can’t agree more focusing on relationships and what you are bringing to the table to the online world is the best approach to benefit greatly from any online interactions. until you figure that out making any efforts would probably send them on the wrong path.

    • Isn’t it strange? So many people, even still, talk about engaging and the importance of the conversation, but their emphasis seems to be evolving more to just blog promotion. Very weird.

  2. Social media can be, in many ways, white noise. It’s easy to tune out what people are saying. I think a key to overcoming that noise is focusing on the people or groups who do want to have that conversation. They’re out there; it just takes effort to find and talk with them.

    • That’s part of the concern though. If you aren’t even signing into twitter most of the time because your “presence” is automated, how can you be looking for the best possible networking opportunities? It all seems backwards.

  3. I wonder if this is a growth pattern all platforms experience. I remember hearing, probably about two years ago, how quite a few of my friends, who were on the early adopter side for Twitter, talked about this very issue, and a reason as to why they weren’t that enamored of Twitter any more. But then, a year or so before then, the REALLY early adopters had said the same thing. So I wonder if we all get to a point of diminishing returns for the platforms we use, except the returns don’t diminish to the extent we disengage completely… and for the group that is just coming to know and understand the platforms, they are exhilarating… just as they used to be for us.

    Yes, the pools have grown, in some cases, vastly. But I do think it’s possible for businesses to still engage… they still have to put in the legwork to find those conversations, talk to people, etc. The thing is, with all the tools around, more and more of them believe they can leave it all to automation, and they can’t. Not if they want to have a hope in heck of succeeding.

    • Shonali, I agree, it is part of the evolution of platforms, or more pointedly, a symptom of their success. Case in point, I am seeing people say they love Google+ because of the conversations, the more manageable volume, the ability to get noticed, etc. But Google+ (and Twitter 5 years ago) are these things only because they haven’t reached a certain level of adoption (success) yet.

      Or to put it a different way: we, as marketers, will eventually ruin all of the platforms our audiences learned to love before we showed up.

      (ok, I guess I took the cynic pill this morning…)

    • You could be right, but I would argue against that hypothesis for just one reason. Buffer and Triberr and other platforms like that weren’t around. You could do some scheduling with HootSuite and TweetDeck but the emphasis wasn’t necessarily as much on sharing posts (or at least I don’t remember it that way). My main recollection from two years ago (when I was pretty new myself) is that people were complaining that there were too many people, or too many conversations. I think things are a little different now.

  4. Reality sets in for many businesses. I agree it is not the conversation fest as in the early years. I will also state that the conversational behavior alone did not cut the mustard either. For a business to be online it needs to be – ready for it – drum roll – ( I have said it before) BOTH!

    Being able to share content AND have conversations has been a nice mix that have delivered better results.

    Allowing people to read and check out how you engage, what you share, who you share and how you then reply, is far more telling than talking live all the time.

    • Agreed. There’s always that fine line of balance. If you do nothing but tweet all day people are going to wonder how you ever get work done for your customers. If all you do is tweet about kitties and clothing, you’re also probably not going to have much luck. But I think the same is true for just blasting out blog post after blog post. I just don’t see how it ultimately does much good if you aren’t there to talk about the posts you are sharing.

  5. Hi, Margie – nothing worthwhile and life-changing happens on the social web without deeper relationships.

    This activity requires that you invest yourself emotionally into your social activities and the people who make up your community. That is real work. And rewarding work, too.

    You have to get into the hearts and minds of the community you desire to serve. This is where quality conversations can lead to doing the meaningful work you were born to do.

    The rest is just the noise you speak of.

    • I agree Mark, especially regarding your point that making social media work for you requires *work.* To me, it seems like a lot of people are sort of abusing platforms like Triberr. They go through, do not read any of the posts, click approve, schedule their 100 posts, and then they’re off the network. To me, that doesn’t do much more than simply not signing in to anything. *shrug*

  6. I am so glad you pointed that out to your client. Many people that I talk to are so focused on social media. Each time I need to remind them that social media is just a way of talking and have conversations about the content you are bringing to them.

    When you talk about social media, they are very much focused on the tools, but not on why they should be doing this, what it takes to do it successful, and how it should be done as an organization.

    I believe that you cannot do this successful without involving other departments than the just the marketing departments. Customer services, sales, Pre-sales, etc… all are key to success.

    Thanks for this post.

    warm regards,


  7. Very well said, Tom. I couldn’t agree with you more!

  8. I still read what I share – especially your stuff, Margie. However, I do think that we are all contributing to the noise with a lot of our content curation. I still like those brilliant moments of engagement we have on Twitter and Facebook…and on our Hecklers’ Hangouts (along with the Fan Page and G+ Community).

    So, we’ve got social proof…we’ve made friends in our industries…does it equate to “business won”? Time will tell.

  9. […] the article at claymanmarketingcommunications.wordpress.com and Follow Margie on Twitter […]

  10. Thanks for the mention Margie. For marketers thinking about approaching social media from a networking aspect rather than a marketing aspect can be difficult. Relationships focus on getting to know your consumer and giving them reasons to stay engaged… not just getting them to react.

  11. […] the article at claymanmarketingcommunications.wordpress.com and Follow Margie on Twitter […]

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