Guest Editorial: Social Media Burnout — Leave Me Alone

by MR Magazine Staff

Greg Shugar, co-founder of The Tie Bar, argues that consumers are tuning out social media marketing because too many brands and retailers try to use it as a sales tool.

Greg Shugar 2014-FEATUREDThis past Halloween, I hosted a costume party at my home for 120 of my closest friends. We all had a blast — we laughed, we drank a lot, some got sick, etc. You know how the story goes.

But in the middle of my party, a friend of mine came over and started telling me about his new start-up business. Was it a good business idea? I don’t know; I wasn’t listening. Would I buy whatever it was he was selling? Again, wasn’t listening, don’t care.

So why do I sound like such a jerk? Because I was at a party, that’s why. Let me drink, crack a few jokes and be obnoxious without you bothering me about your new business. Is that ok, buddy? Which brings me to the point of this editorial.

When social media marketing became a “thing” a few years back, companies got all excited. I know because I was one of them. It was a new way of reaching out to the customer. No longer did I have to wait to send my monthly email to my customers. No longer would I fear that reaching my customers would be costly and time-consuming.

I was now able to reach my audience daily — daily! — for free. That’s right, I did not have to pay a nickel to post a new Facebook status about our recent GQ placement, to tweet out a new sale or to post a picture of our new products on Instagram. I could now do it every single day and it was free. Marketing had never been easier or less expensive.

Fast forward to 2015. Because it’s (mostly) free, social media marketing is now everywhere. It’s in your Facebook feed. It’s on the side of your Facebook feed. It’s in your Twitter feed. It’s promoted in your Twitter feed. Your Instagram feed and now promoted Instagram photos. Sheesh, I’m exhausted just listing them all. Now imagine how the customers feel.

Here we are, at least five years into social media marketing, and the results are still inconclusive as to whether or not companies make any money off this stuff. With advertisers so heavily invested in social media marketing now — through hirings, promoted posts, endless time – they continue to try to break the code on maximizing their ROI for their social media efforts. To date, these efforts still aren’t working.

Why? Let’s go back to my Halloween party. I’m hanging out with my friends. A little buzzed. Having fun. And then someone came over to me and wanted to talk business. He didn’t give me a hard sell. It wasn’t even a lengthy conversation. But still, I wasn’t in the mood to be sold to. I was talking to friends.

And that’s how I feel when I am on Facebook or Instagram. And to a lesser extent, Twitter. I am hanging out online. Talking. Socializing. Not looking to be interrupted. Not looking to be sold to. And yet, that’s all these brands want to do. Interrupt my time with my friends. I’m tired of it.

Most brands, because of its low (or no) cost, market on social media daily. Which means we are not only bothered when we want to be left alone, but we are bothered multiple times a day. That’s why I conclude that we are about to face a social media burnout unless some industry-wide change is made.

Social media, at its best, is a brand enhancer. It is a new “two-way” communication tool between brand and customer. “Two-way” meaning the customer can initiate dialogue with the company (traditional customer service/engagement) or the company can initiate dialogue with the customer.

But that’s all it is. Social media is not a new sales channel. And it is time for companies to stop treating it like one.

I may not be a millennial but I sense a change in the air. The constant noise of advertising (yes, social media marketing is advertising despite its “marketing” name) is causing people to tune out to the marketing messages. Some do it consciously (i.e., unfollowing a company) and some do it subconsciously (scrolling quickly down past the message). Social media marketing, in my opinion, is becoming like print advertising in newspapers — we all just look right past it.

No, I am not calling for the death of social media marketing. It will be around for the near future, for sure. But I do think we are nearing an era of customer apathy and it’s time for some kind of a reinvention by the industry.

Doing it Right

Feedback and engagement should be one of your top uses for social media. Don’t force it; instead, peel back the curtain of your company and reveal what you’re doing now and ask the customers if they have any input. Ask them if your store or brand isn’t carrying or designing something it should.

Brand enhancement. Remember that whether you’re a store or a label, you are a brand. That means you have an identity to your customers, whether or not you realize it. So use social media to help bring home that message.

Don’t post every day. You know that friend of yours on Facebook who tells you what he had for breakfast and posts pictures of his kids on a daily basis? Don’t be that guy. Don’t worry – your customers will not forget about you if you don’t post something today. No matter how loyal and happy your customers are, they don’t need to hear from you every day. So pick your spots and go for quantity over quality.

Greg Shugar is the founder of The Tie Bar and Thread Experiment, a home bedding brand for men.