Why your social media followers don’t listen to you

An old song by Simon and Garfunkel has a lot to tell our connected universe -

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening…

You probably recognize those ominous lyrics from the often imitated and parodied Sound of Silence, but if you don’t think they have any relevance beyond fodder for emo bands, you may be proving its point.

Nowadays, everyone has a social media page: businesses, brands and individuals seeking to build a platform turn to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even Medium before anything else.

It’s not a bad strategy. On the contrary,

  • 4.2 billion people are using the top 8 social media platforms alone every month. That’s 57% of the world’s population, and doesn’t even count major social markets like those in China or India. (*)
  • 71% of consumers who have a good experience with a brand on social media will recommend it to their family and friends. (*)
  • For several years, the number of mobile devices connected to the Internet has exceeded the number of human beings living on this planet. (*)

So there’s a coin here, with two sides.

On one side of the coin, brands and individuals have an unprecedented opportunity to send messages that will be received by an absolutely massive number of people.

But on the other side of the coin…

Talking without speaking

The numbers speak for themselves: it’s a little excessive.

Before social media, the world was full of barriers for those who wanted to share a message — barriers like,

  • Language
  • Culture
  • Geographic area
  • Economic need

And for better or worse, social media is closing that gap. As Brian Solis points out in a recent thought piece,

We’ve always heard that it’s a small world. In its own way, social media made it even smaller. . .When we aren’t consuming and propagating the latest breaking or fake news or the firehose of events and updates shared by everyone and everything, we are engrossed in pushing everything we see, think and do.

In short, there’s an awful lot of talk going on.

People talk about themselves. Businesses talk about their products. Brands are obsessed with sending their “messages” to consumers, laden with company values and stories.

But for all this talk, there’s a lot less listening. And not listening comes with a steep price.

Hearing without listening

Humans adapt — they have to. And the way to deal with social overload is shutting messages out.

On an individual level, this means narrowing in on the things you really care about, cultivating a shorter attention span, and getting your news by just reading headlines.

On a professional level, it means corporate myopia; ignoring customer feedback, and misreading the public zeitgeist. Take the unforgettable gaffe which was Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial -

On the surface, Pepsi did everything right: they payed attention to current events, and tried to contribute. They had trendy music. They hired a star that was bound to be popular with millennials, and uploaded all that special sauce to The YouTube.

And they failed so spectacularly with the Internet that they publicly apologized, and purged the commercial from existence just days after it launched. Millions of dollars down the drain, not to mention public ire which will likely taint the brand’s image for months to come.

Building communities, not billboards

In the past, talking without listening was the way to build a platform. TV ads and billboards are one way streets that don’t provide much by way of interaction.

In the present, new technologies demand new approaches. YouTube is not television. Google is not the classifieds section in your local paper. Facebook is not a billboard for you, or your brand.

Trying to cash in on social media without honestly building and engaging with a community is both disingenuous and counterproductive, as the world struggles to build a global market of information that fairly balances the interest of public and private individuals, large corporations, and small businesses.

AdTech and MarTech solutions are continuously being developed to help marketers segment an audience and interact more effectively with smaller groups. Large social networks are constantly updating their algorithms to deliver relevant content to the people who want it most. Ad platforms are refining their methods to become a less intrusive and more constructive part of consumer’s daily lives.

It’s a colorful, messy, and exciting project, and to become truly successful at social media or online marketing means getting involved and playing a part.

OMI is dedicated to helping small businesses navigate new marketing technologies more effectively, with practical education from experts across digital marketing fields.

To learn more about balancing your advertising strategy and building effective social media communities, consider viewing our brand new courses. For ten days, access to our catalog is completely free.

-Brandon Shutt, Editor at OMI