Social media marketing 101 dictates that every social media manager shouldn’t talk at their followers, but talk to them; we should try and build two-way relationships, rather than indulgent one way sell-a-thons. Marketing, we’re persistently told, has changed and our customers expect regular love and attention. In return, we get their loyalty (and their money).
Gaining this love and attention in the first place is arguably the simple part – you provide a customer with a good one-off experience or catch their eye with some great content and they like and follow your brand across social media. The relationship has begun.
Things go great at first: you notice the same person commenting and sharing a lot of your content, retweeting and frequently interacting with your brand. Brilliant, you think. A customer for life. And there are many more like them, too.
Then, a couple of months down the line, things go quiet. You don’t see that one customer much anymore. Your engagement metrics hit the floor. People are even unliking your page. Where did it all go wrong?
The nature of social media relationships
As a relative newcomer to social media marketing, I’ve been as guilty as anyone of misunderstanding the nature of the relationship between a brand and a customer on social media. While it’s a given that we want our relationships with our customers to be affable and friendly, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us overlook the implications of such a relationship.
The ideal relationship between a brand and a customer on social media is that of two adults, rather than a brand and a customer. We want them to like us, to become our advocates, to talk about us to their friends and be loyal to us over our competitors.
Take a look at some brands on social media, however, and you’ll see something more akin to a relationship between an adult and a child. Brands provide a piece of banal content and provide precise instructions on how to react; LIKE this, SHARE this and so on. It’s the equivalent of giving a child a toy to play with while you go and do other important business stuff.
While this method of social media marketing does work in some instances, it can lead to brand fatigue and the relationship between a brand and a customer eventually breaking down. Excitement gives way to boredom. Boredom generates a festering resentment. Resentment leads to abandonment.
The seven month itch
The best way I can think of to describe this process is the ‘seven month itch’, based on the concept of the seven year itch which dictates that romantic partners start to grow bored of each other after seven years. In the fast moving world of social media, where content flows like cheap wine at an office Christmas party, this boredom process is sped up; hence a seven month itch.
Of course, not all marriages or relationships end after seven years and the same is true of social media relationships. With the right amount of effort, a brand can keep a relationship alive with their customers for years – perhaps even a lifetime. To understand how we can maintain a relationship, though, we first need to understand what generates relationship stagnation.
Why do followers get bored?
The most obvious reason a follower might get bored of your brand’s social media presence is a lack of diversity in your content. As in a real relationship, it’s incredibly easy to ‘let yourself go’ and go into auto-pilot once you’ve established the relationship. This might mean publishing blog posts on a very similar theme at the same time every week, posting the same kind of ‘like or share’ posts every day or even something as miniscule as scheduling your tweets for the same time every day.
While there is a lot to be said for having a regular slot for posting content (it can give followers something to look forward to), doing the same thing over and over is bound to lead to stagnation and a mass exodus of fans.
It could also be that your audience aren’t exactly who you thought they were. Customer profiling and target audiences are fantastic for targeting initially, but sticking to rigidly to your idea of what an audience feels, enjoys and so on over actually assessing what they like is a quick route to a relationship breakdown.
What can you do to keep things fresh?
The solution to stagnation is simple: don’t let yourself go. Don’t settle on a content formula or stick to rigidly to a six month plan; reassess what you’re doing based on performance metrics like engagement, shares, click-through rates and so on. Be adaptable and willing to change your behaviour to suit the expectations of your followers.
In practical terms, this could mean changing the themes within the content you produce. Take a step back and consider what your business does from a different angle.
The seven month mark is also a good time to reassess the formats you’re using to present your content. If you rely heavily on blog posts, why not try producing a podcast? A podcast can then easily become a video podcast, and from there you can produce behind-the-scenes videos, which can lead into interviews with interesting people within your business. Relying too heavily on one form of content means taking a one-way road towards stagnation; instead, think about how your content can be spread out across multiple formats and how these formats can complement each other.
Even changing up the little things can ward off stagnation. If you publish a Facebook post at 8pm every day, switch to a different publishing time. You could even try not posting for a day, what with absence apparently making the heart grow fonder. Changing your profile picture is another small change that can make an eye-catching difference, drawing the attention of customers who might have subconsciously learnt to ignore your posts on their timeline.
Stagnation is an unfortunate consequence of every relationship, but it can be defeated with just a little effort. If your engagement metrics have dropped and things just ain’t what they used to be, try changing things up a little bit. It might just be the best move you ever make.
This post was written by the team at Fluid Creativity, a digital agency in Manchester. They launch their brand new website on Friday 14th February – please come by and take a look, we’ll be offering prizes to the most creative Twitter reviews!