social fatigue


With the recent launch of Google+, marketers are excited to have a shiny new social network. Even though brands aren’t technically allowed on Google+ yet, some (like Ford Motor) are setting up personal profiles to get started and the marketing world is buzzing with possibilities.

When thinking about opportunities, it’s important for brands to remember that the message is more important than the media. The quality of the conversation is more important than the quality of the platform.

A couple months ago, I shared Andrew Blakeley’s “Social Consumer” experiment where he “Liked” every brand that asked him.  His conclusion: “My week as a social consumer left me tired and confused. It left my Facebook newsfeed crammed with nonsense, to the point that I could scroll entire pages without seeing my friends.”

Even as marketers excitedly brainstorm how to reach consumers on a brand new social network, many consumers are tiring with how brands are reaching them on the current ones. An antisocial brand that uses social media is still an antisocial brand. A content strategy must come before a social network strategy.

The arrival of Google+ is a good time to revisit and reevaluate how our brands interact with consumers. It’s not enough for communication to be good for the brand. It has to be good for the consumer.

I’d love to hear examples of how you’re planning to use Google+ in ways that are meaningful to consumers. On a related note, I’m starting to experiment with my own Google+ profile and thinking about starting a weekly Google+ Hangout for 30 minutes the Monday after a cartoon post to have a live webcam conversation about the weekly topic. Let me know what you think and follow me on Google+ if you’re interested.

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15 Comments

  1. Mansi says:

    Joined Google+ a couple of weeks back and you were one of the first few profiles I started following. Was surprised to see no posts all this while. Thought at least you would integrate your Twitter, Facebook and G+.

    Weekly hangouts is a great idea.

    G+ is a great social network. It has the goodness of Twitter and solves Facebook’s problem of intrusion and privacy.

    Love the ‘circles’ and ‘streams’ concept. I can easily select who I want to hear from when I want to hear from then. It allows people to have dialogues.

    That’s what marketers should concentrate on while developing their content for G+.

    The consumer will come looking for you. Just have your information ready to engage him, don’t probe or disrupt his privacy.

    But yes, I would want to know if anything new is happening with you but no I don’t want to know what you think about politics or what is happening around the world. That’s my opinion and my choice.

    So, basically make your content worth my while or I’ll stop following you and cluttering my G+ stream.

  2. ADHD says:

    The starting point is identifying what your brand’s social story is. This is the hook and connecting piece to our consumers. If there isn’t something that resonates with her, there’s no way she cares about your brand. We are trying to tap into an existing conversation(between herself and her friends)so we need to respect that. Primarily, our role as a ‘brand friend’ is to listen and, thereafter, add to her understanding/ education/ awareness etc. The social media platform is not there to sell a brand but to communicate a brand philosophy/ idea/ lifestyle.

  3. Tara says:

    Although I do strongly agree with you with regards to brands needing to give consumers a reason to listen to them, I think that saying “the message is more important than the media” is rather a bold statement. The fact that Ford Motors are already on Google+ says quite a lot about the company without them making much use of their profile; they’re ahead of their competition in terms of technology, they’re not afraid to jump in first, they know where their consumers are heading… Marshall McLuhan pointed out ‘the media is the message’, and although this is going from one extreme to the other, I think there is an appropriate middle ground.

  4. Ruth says:

    I love this cartoon. Yes we are suffering from social media fatigue, well at least I know I am. I’m usually an early adopter but I’ve barely looked at Google+. We set up profiles just to automate from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn to… Few of us can really engage on multiple platforms and maintain quality conversations.

  5. Jerry Holtaway says:

    For some reason this reminded me of the statement, “If Impressionism was invented today, it would be on the side of milk cartons tomorrow”.

    Business is notorious for simply exploiting situations, rather than reaching out in a way that respects both the situation and the people involved in it.

    BTW I haven’t been invited to Google+ so I won’t be able to join your weekly hangout – though I think it’s a great idea!

  6. Rachel says:

    Love this post. I have been on Google+ for a few weeks and like that businesses are not allowed to be there yet. Hopefully they will go about this diligently and prevent the brand overload that has overtaken Facebook. As a business person, I find it exhausting to keep up with all the pieces of social media and I agree that it is the quality product that makes the difference (not the intensity and perseveration of the message). Look forward to finding you on G+.

  7. Paul (from Idea Sandbox) says:

    Great strip, once again.

    A few things.

    While it is okay to try to be “everywhere” that’s not where your customers are. It can be smart to have a diverse word of mouth marketing strategy with social media as a component and broadcast on every platform… But, more than likely your customers aren’t following you on EVERY channel.

    So… and brands DO do this. There is no need to funnel someone through six layers. Strategically, you should be sending everyone to a single place – most likely your website and have a home base of information that all these outposts send people to.

    Finally… and most importantly social media, and all word of mouth marketing are tactics are simply that… tactics.

    No magic bullet.

    They are the choices you select AFTER you’ve figured out the who, what, where, when, how and why of your target customer.

    If after that you determine your potential customers / existing customers are reachable on Twitter, you add Twitter to your mix.

    Remember some years ago when they said EVERY brand must have a blog. If you don’t have a blog, you’re a dinosaur… or not engaging in discussion? Well, we’ve realized now a blog is a tactic, not the ultimate solution. Not every brand has a blog – and that’s good – and they don’t need it.

    Again, Nice work Tom!

  8. Vicki says:

    I find it so interesting how we are now using these words as verbs! We need to remember that this isn’t about push marketing, but instead about building relationships. Thanks for the great laughs and good perspective.

  9. Dave says:

    There’s a distinction between using multiple channels to reach a consumer and providing crummy content in multiple channels. Consumers are going to self-select which space they want to follow their brands in, and I think the brand then has to do an effective job of an engaging message within that channel. When the message is like the update in your cartoon, it’s worthless because it’s about the medium used to communicate, not the actual message. But if the same brand tweets, facebooks, G+’s, blogs and emails a link to the same thing, the focus stays on the message not the medium.

    To my mind, it’s like other ad campaigns: if I see Harry Potter movie ads on the websites I go to, on the side of my bus, on the papers I read, the magazines I leaf through, the TV shows I watch — there’s some serious fatigue. Ok, Harry Potter, you’re a fun movie, I’m going to watch you anyways. But they’re using many channels with the expectation that any individual will only see a couple of them.

    My own experience is all about internal marketing inside a big company, and we are exploring multiple social channels to get messages out. The idea isn’t to get everyone on every platform, but to reach the different groups of people who are listening to different channels. I’m not interested in emailing someone a tweet that links to a blog post where they download a pdf. I’d rather email the pdf to some people, tweet the link to others, and blog the link to others still.

  10. Ian says:

    For the love of all things good … Google+, I beg of you – do you Google thing and crush all of the current, fragmented platforms. As a marketer and more importantly as a person, I cannot keep up with FB, Yelp, Foursquare, Twitter or whatever new-new medium that will invariably launch next week. Tom calls it Social Fatigue … I call it Hashtag-lash.

  11. tomfishburne says:

    Great to see how this one struck a chord. This was one of my most widely shared first day cartoons. A lot of good banter all around.

    I agree with everyone on the potential of Google+. This cartoon wasn’t intended to be a slight on Google+. As Ian so colorfully pointed out, Google+ may actually help alleviate the social network fatigue so many of us are facing. On that note, Jerry, I just sent you a Google+ invite. I hope you enjoy it.

    I’m still very much a novice, and, as Mansi pointed out, I haven’t personally rushed in to integrate Google+ into everything I do (yet). It has felt like one more thing to do (but I am excited about the potential it offers). I do plan to experiment with a weekly hangout. Stay tuned.

    I hear Tara’s point and agree that Ford Motor is getting a lot of benefit by being first. That said, I stand by my argument that the message is more important than the media. That doesn’t mean that brands should ignore all of the available social networks. If their consumers are there, I think they should embrace them. But they should remember that social networks are a means to an end. Rather than a Facebook strategy or a Google+ strategy, draft a consumer engagement strategy. As Kathy Sierra once said, “Please, businesses, don’t DO ‘Social Media.’ Do ‘user happiness’, which may, or may not, require use of social media tools”. I loved Paul and ADHD’s comment on this.

    This week’s signed print goes to Dave. I think he offers a balanced rule of thumb: “The idea isn’t to get everyone on every platform, but to reach the different groups of people who are listening to different channels”.

  12. Jerry Walden says:

    This is not what Social Media was ever intended for, and soon, I think that there will be backlash. If people keep finding what is supposed to be an arena for interpersonal contact being ‘taken over’ by brands, they will identify negatively with those brands seen to be responsible, and having a facebook page will do the opposite of what is intended.

  13. Jesse says:

    How do we (a specialty bakery) plan on using Google + in a meaningful way?

    1) Post our best cake of the week to Google+ along with video and photos.

    Our specialty cakes are interesting enough that the typically generate conversation and also appeal to hobbyists as well as potential customers.

    2) Look at starting up a spark around cakes/cupcakes and/or cookies

    We’ve had relatively good engagement on our Facebook Fan page using this approach (20,000+ fans) so I would hope the same model could apply here…(at least I hope so)

  14. tomfishburne says:

    Hi Jesse,

    Thanks for sharing that specific example. I love those ideas and enjoyed seeing your Facebook page just now. The sushi platter cake looks awesome! There’s great story potential there. It reminds me of the weekly launch from Betabrand.com…

    -Tom

  15. [...] to them via social channels. As Tom Fishburne poignantly said in his recent blog about social fatigue, “It’s not enough for communication to be good for the brand. It has to be good for the [...]

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