Social media fatigue: what’s your strategy?

Let’s say you go a day without posting anything to Google+. Or you miss a week of uploading images to Instagram. Maybe you fail to get a blog post up for over a week.  Do you suffer pangs of guilt? Or enjoy a sense of relief? Do you feel out of the loop? Or liberated?

Perhaps a more relevant question is whether or not your absence from one platform in particular is due to social media fatigue or simply the never-ending proliferation of social media gathering spots.

Clearly a lot of people and brands are reaching a saturation point.  How many new platforms can you try? It was easy when all you had was Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog. Now you’ve got Google+, Quora (maybe), Tumblr, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest, Percolate. And more is coming. I get pitched something new at least once a week. Last week it was the new video tagging and sharing site BlipSnips. It’s cool, but where’s the time?

Today the New York Times’ Stephanie Rosenbloom had a piece title “For the Plugged-In, Too Many Choices.” (It’s worth a read, though I’m not sure I’d emulate the behavior of some of the people featured.  For example, there’s one person whose social media routine consists of little more than capturing quotes from the books he reads on his Kindle then scheduling them to be posted over the course of several weeks via HootSuite.)

Ideally we need to separate social media platforms from the opportunities they afford.  The fact that we can connect, share, and benefit from the recommendations of friends new and old who can introduce us to new books, stories, and ideas is unlikely to get old or to make us tired. Having to learn a new platform every week might. More challenging, of course, is that it adds to an already fragmented media landscape that begs the question of where should we engage.

For those of us who are marketers, it raises additional questions. How many of these platforms do we encourage our clients to use and subsequently commit to?  Should they try everything for the sake of learning? Or wait until there’s scale enough to make their time worthwhile?

The trick, of course, is to make everything work for you, not the other way around. There’s no need to use it all.  It’s absurd to “broadcast” by posting the same thing to every platform. You don’t have to accept everyone’s request for a connection on multiple platforms.

I’m frequently asked how I do it. The truth is I’m incredibly disorganized. I’ll never have the discipline of Chris Brogan or the urge to post content as frequently as Maria Popova. Furthermore, while I sign up for everything – believing it’s my responsibility as a marketer to experiment with platforms on which clients and colleagues expect me to have an opinion – I only end up using those that add real value or pleasure to my life.

For me it’s simple. As an individual I have specific objectives.

  • To engage with and learn from the smartest people I can find
  • To more efficiently discover and filter content of interest and value
  • To stay current enough with new technologies to advise colleagues and clients
  • To share what I know with people who can benefit from the content I create and post
  • To have a little fun (more entertainment out here than on TV)

Here’s what I’m using right now and why:

Twitter is news, interesting links and a catalyst for conversation

Twitter remains my most valued social platform. It’s the easiest place to make connections. You can effortlessly filter people by profession, interest or the kind of content they share. And if you’ve taken the time to build and engage a true community, you have people who’ll answer your questions, find stuff for you, and help promote your own content. If you truly engage and offer value to your followers, you’ll even find that in return people bring you unsolicited ideas and links that they know you’ll be interested in.

Google+ is (maybe) the best of everything

I never was much of a Facebook user. Strikes me as being about going backwards rather than forwards. As digital strategist Farrah Bostic puts it, “Google+ is what everyone is saying – a social media do-over; it’s a network for people with a shared present/future (interests and passions) rather than a shared past (common schools or employers).” Add to that Hangouts for collaboration, Sparks for filtering content and finding stuff to share, and Circles for filtering and Google+ is not only incredibly efficient, it inspires many new ideas for how to guide client strategies in the social space.

Blogging (WordPress) helps me focus my thinking and share ideas

Despite all the new ways to post and share content, blogging will continue to be one of the four places where I spend time.  It’s a tool for organizing my thinking, content and presentations. It’s an opportunity to share, teach and support others who are interested in what I might be able to offer.  It invites deeper conversation. And it helps foster relationships with other content providers whose ideas and willingness to engage makes me smarter.  While Tumblr and Posterous make posting easier, I still prefer the discipline, features and SEO advantages of WordPress.  Plus, like anything else, once you’ve invested time and effort why change?

Instagram offers me a window on my friends’ daily lives

Instagram is just too easy and too much fun not to use. And it’s relatively effortless.  Sure you can become a bit obsessed filtering images with 100 Cameras or taking images with Pro HDR. But that’s not really necessary unless you’re trying to win an imaginary photo contest.  If you want to use Instagram to leverage your own visibility – following all the right people, liking their photos so they’ll like yours, managing your network with the objective of getting onto the popular page – that’s great.  I might employ those tactics for a client who is actually marketing on Instagram, but personally that’s way too much effort.

All the rest

I obviously use YouTube, more as a search tool than for posting, and Vimeo for my video interviews. I rarely show up at Facebook or Linked In, but maintain a profile on both. I get around to Foursquare once in a while. And I’m playing with Percolate, though I haven’t really had enough time.

The fact is I’ll never be one of those people to schedule time each day to “do” social. Nor would I ever pre-load my tweets. That just doesn’t feel authentic.  I tend to agree with Farrah who simply says, “Try not to worry too much. Use the tools for their appropriate purposes,” to which I would add, “And remember that they’re supposed to serve you; you’re not supposed to serve them.”

What’s your strategy?  Do you have one?  Are you fatigued?

Coming soon: More thoughts on this from Farrah Bostic (most recently a group planning director at Digitas) and BBH’s innovation chief Saneel Radia, both of whom were kind enough to answer some questions on the topic.

10 comments
ArnoldWaldstein
ArnoldWaldstein

First time on your blog. Nice to find someone thinking and blogging and working to solve similar items as myself.

To me, choices are about doing what lets you lead not follow. That's what I tell my clients...and myself.

The noise is loud. The drive to participate almost a mania. And the temptation (or fear) to miss or not be there numbing at times.

Most people follow. Only 1% or less actually comment. If you are a brand, insofar as you are a company and selling something, you need to lead in intent at least the conversation around your area of passion. Choose what matters, what offers expression and you've made the right choice.

Simple...but this seems to work,

liane.siebenhaar
liane.siebenhaar

There is so much amazing stuff out there, but unfortunately not enough time to do all of them. Do I feel fatigued, distressed or bad about it?

Not really. I think less is more! Otherwise you don’t do one thing great at all.

This here brings it to the point: “The trick (…) is to make everything work for you, not the other way around.“

That is, how easy it is. For me personally this means:

1. Facebook: The platform for everything. I have most of the people I know in here. I get work-related news, but can scroll through random pics and conversations. Call me a stalker, but I like that.

2. Google Reader: It’s a simple but powerful tool to aggregate work related news. It is impossible to read all, but you can filter the most interesting news yourself. No circles necessary.

3. Blogs: I admire people who regularly release valuable content on their blogs. Like this one here! But after my several failed planning, travel, cooking and knitting blogs I know how time consuming it can get….

That’s why these day’s I focus on my much simpler Photo-Poetry and Dog-Carnivalism blogs. They are not work related at all, but I am happy for every “note” I get!

4. The Rest: Twitter never got to me. I don’t know why. There are so many people considering this as THE tool. But I just don’t get the benefit of it. With foursquare I wonder: Who needs that?! I see a lot of potential in Google+, I get a lot of interesting work-related news on there. And regarding new platforms: I try out a lot of them. But most of them don’t have an important enough benefit for replacing another one.

And for companies I think:

Well it definitely doesn’t make much sense to try out everything. It’s like with traditional media. Media depends on the business purpose, goals and the target group. And also the creative communication idea itself determines a fair bit.

For a camera brand it makes sense to use flickr, for a toilet paper brand maybe not so much. And does it really make sense for an insurance company to go social at all? Anyone knows good examples? I am really curious about that one!

But in general I think, if one has the budget to experiment and ROI is not all that matters, they should. Like innovation management does. 90% selected. 10% by chance.

“You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take” (Wayne Gretzky).

BTW: I do have feeling of guilt when I am using social media… Don’t we all spend too much time in front of our computers??

tim_leake
tim_leake

You always say what I'm thinking, only better. For my 2¢... Clients don't need to use the platforms until they become mature. But agencies need to experiment with and understand them, so we're ahead of the game when they're ready for clients. And so we're able to recognize the opportunity.

Yes, I'm feeling social media fatigue. Much as I like Google+, I think that's what did me in. The headaches, poor attention-span and lack of productivity all increased since it's launch.

Or maybe I just need a vacation. It's probably that.

bradnoble
bradnoble

The emphasis on real-time and the maniacal race to follow-fast leaves a ton of value lost in every interface and on every platform. Unnecessarily.

My strategy is to elevate that value (instead of pursue new networks). I'm mostly a Twitter guy. There, tactically, I follow fewer people, not more. And I cull relentlessly. I also use tools that bring value out from below the fold: PostPo.st and Instapaper.

I'm moving onto Google+ and Instagram, slowly, and with the same approach that I've brought to Twitter.

My thoughts about FB are similar to yours. I'm an infrequent user, and usually only when I have something specific to do. Same with LinkedIn. Both, for me, run tirelessly in the background, maintaining a connection to where I've been.

It's interesting to me that I'd rather elevate the value of the stuff I've missed on Twitter than participate actively on FB (a self-described place of my past). I think the reason comes down to content: the stuff I miss on Twitter is content (stuff of more than just ephemeral value) whereas the stuff I miss on FB is not.

lenkendall
lenkendall

Syndication is really important as well. Obviously it's not always valuable to your audience to blast the same exact update to all your feeds (especially when your audience is composed of people like you who use all the major networks) but the reality is that many like to engage more on a specific network. Maybe it's G+, Facebook, posterous, etc. If you want to maximize your opportunities to elicit feedback, and not spend your time copying and pasting, tools that let share across numerous networks instantly can be extremely valuable.

That said, while we have great tools for syndication that let you post from one place, we still don't have a lot of options (dashboards) that also let us respond to our communities from one place. The nature of APIs being one-way makes building something like that super hard, but I hope someone accepts the challenge. Radian6, to some degree has been pioneering it with their engagement platform, but the fast pace of iteration among social networks is going to continue to be a roadblock for efficient two way communication for us "fatigued" folks.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@tim_leake Well, I can tell you that vacation always helps. Challenge is that you feel compelled to support those who support you, share their content and engage, and avoid being a content pusher. And you have to be on Google+ if for no other reason than there are 36,000 brands signed up to try it out, and inevitable some of those are your clients.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@bradnoble Agree. And the potential value of your platform PostPo.st is huge. If I want to access past links about "trends" shared only by my friends labeled "innovators" and can filter them accordingly I can so much more easily make social platforms work for me. Circles may offer that benefit as well, once or if they become searchable that way. Are you working on factoring Google+ into PostPo.st?

ChrisCampTN
ChrisCampTN

@lenkendall I think we are also beginning to see a movement where platforms are trying to merge listening and tracking of engagement with the engagement tools so that people and brands can be efficient with their time and maybe not be so overwhelmed with all the conversations. I think there will still need to be an evolution where all the tracking of data is turned into actionable knowledge.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@lenkendall Len, as always, great comment. And dead on with the dashboard challenge. I think one of the issues with the syndication (post everywhere) is that it is still rooted in a "broadcast" kind of mindset. Ways to push stuff out. Engagement platforms are useful and effective for brands tracking and following conversations and knowing where to respond or even initiate conversation. But there's still a lot of onus on us as individuals to make things work for our own objectives. And, frankly, that's OK. Otherwise we are just buying into a pre-packaged solution.

bradnoble
bradnoble

@edwardboches No. (Well, not yet.) We are betting on Twitter for now. We think Twitter is about to mature again and we want to be there as the right product at the right time. We learned early on that including multiple networks—each with their own nuances, peccadillos and user preferences—got in the way of our progress internally and more importantly, the product/market fit.

As for the benefits of focusing on just Twitter... we learned (with you to a certain extent) that getting the product to work as promised even with Twitter alone was enough to make us sleepless.

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