On Social Media – Signal v Noise

Social media is an important part of our lives, both personal and professional, you can’t get away from it. How often do you hear people of all generations saying ‘I facebooked it’ or ‘tweeted them’ (never ‘twitted’ … please). Social media has to be a major element of your business marketing plan, whether your business is online or out there in the real world. For those of us who use it to it’s best advantage it enriches our lives.

That said, I despair at the behaviour on Twitter of some so-called Social media gurus and the amount of sheer noise they generate as opposed to useful information. The ratio of signal to noise is frighteningly small, abuse of their potential customers is rife and I question if they ever really look at the return on investment, concentrating instead on the amount of noise they make.

The difference between signal and noise seems to be beyond the wit of some supposedly intelligent people. Follow Friday was such a good idea, but it has been hijacked by the noisemakers. My understanding was that if you found someone who provided good signal, you shared that with your followers and the wider twitterverse. Now it seems to be a macho bragging contest of who can get the most into one tweet, and while you’re at it, send a dozen stuffing them full of all your followers, regardless of value. Then you get those blithering idiots retweeting it with a ‘thanks for the follow Friday’ which is compounded by the original sender retweeting their retweet! For goodness sake – what value is there in that – none, just noise. By all means send a private thank you, that’s polite, but the constant backwards and forwards is ridiculous, particularly when they do the same thing again the next Friday. What a waste of time and effort.

Most of the above seems to be generated by people automating their tweets. In the interest of openness and honesty, I automate some of my tweets too, but again there is a right way and a wrong way. Tools that just retweet everything that mentions your name offer no value whatsoever, they merely generate noise. I schedule some of my tweets so they go out at a time appropriate to my market but, and here’s the difference, I write every single one of them, there is no automatic creation of noise. I’m in the UK, a lot of my followers are in other countries so I schedule my tweets at a time appropriate to them, the automation is simply scheduling.

Wholesale automation leads to one of the worst crimes in my view – overtweeting. Why on earth do some of these ‘twitter experts’ think sending out a dozen promotional tweets in the space of five minutes is going to make me buy something. Trust me, it won’t, it will do exactly the opposite. They are like badly behaved children jumping up and down yelling ‘Me! Me! Me!’ In my world that would result in a pithy discussion on good manners followed by appropriate sanctions.

Signal is a different matter. I’m not saying that every single tweet should be a golden nugget, that’s not realistic, many of mine certainly don’t fall into that category, but equally they are not all marketing messages – in fact I doubt if one in twenty is. Some of them are personal but I try to provide useful information in the bulk of them.

Timing is critical, what on earth is the point is sending out dozens of tweets at a time your market isn’t even awake! One person local to me sends out a stream of tweets at around 11.00pm at night – why? He’s promoting services that no one is looking for at that time. Noise, not signal.

The thing that marketers need to look at is contacting their market and using Social media the way normal people use it – it’s very different from the way that netdwellers and marketers use it. Before I sat down to write this article I looked over the Twitter account of one of the worst of the follow Friday noisemakers. It made very interesting reading. He has a large number of followers, a hefty Klout Score, but less than 2% of his followers were people he could actively sell something to. All the others were in the same industry, competitors, watchers, industry commentators. A goodly number of those were obviously there to see what he did because ‘he must be successful, he has hundreds of followers, thousands of tweets’ but I will bet my last pound that he hasn’t made a single sale from all that noise. Where is the ROI on that? What is the point in that hefty Klout Score if it relates only to sycophants, not true market leadership. The time and effort wasted in creating all that noise would have been far better spent on creating just a little signal, even a small amount of value rather than being the noisy brat in the playground who does nothing but shout.

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