A few years ago I undertook a project that involved one of my deepest dives ever into social analytics on behalf of a client. We were seeing engagement on Facebook in particular was dropping and that people were unliking pages or hiding posts. So not only were they not Liking, they were taking action to avoid further posts being published. After looking at the data I found the answer was simple: We were over-publishing to some of the pages we managed and people didn’t like it. Basically, we had been asked to share *all* the news on Facebook because there was no sense of priority. But as the data showed, we were doing long-term damage to the fan network in the name of satisfying the demands of people who didn’t understand the network’s limitations.

The result of this research was that we had numbers to say priorities needed to be better established. The data showed a clear line where we tripped into over-publishing. If we published more than X number of posts – the exact volume was different for each of the pages being managed – we crossed over into unlike territory. So we needed to decide what the two most important stories for that day were on this page, what the five most important stories for the day were on that other page and so on. When requests came in to share news someone felt was a priority, the tradeoff was henceforth explained and I showed that in order to do this, we needed to move that. There were exceptions made, of course, for important topics but we had a line in the sand.

That comes to mind because of this new research from SproutSocial that’s focused on what annoys and irritates the audience on social networks. The study dives into a number of important topics, ranging from how often brand publishers share promotions and sales compared to how often the audience actually wants to see those promotions, how the use of tone and voice can be a big factor in inducing groans in your audience and more.


There are lots of important numbers in the study, but the key section is devoted to actually showing why people unfollow a brand on social channels. Chief among those reasons is “too many promotional messages,” meaning the audience is being inundated with “Buy Now!” messages. Volume of posts is high among the annoyance factors, as is the complaint that the information being shared just isn’t relevant.

Most interesting to me, largely because of the work I’ve done on this front in the past, is that the voice not being appropriate for the brand is in the top four reasons for disconnecting with that brand. Maybe they’re trying to be too informal than the audience feels is appropriate, maybe it’s that they’re not having *enough* fun and the updates that should be amusing and engaging are bland and lifeless.

Of all the numbers shared in the report, that resonates with me the most because it’s the hardest to adjust for. Most everything else can be altered and is easily quantifiable with the data that’s available. But there’s no metric showing “Be funnier” as a clear action item.

Instead that’s an inferred conclusion to pull from other numbers. Likes or other reactions on social platforms. can show you where your content just isn’t resonating with the audience, but that can be because they didn’t see it, because it wasn’t interesting to them or any other of a number of reasons.

That’s why testing one change at a time is so important. Going back to the client example I mentioned above, we had already made adjustments to post frequency when it was felt engagement was still lower than ideal, even though it had risen in response to our changes. So “voice/tone” was identified as the next area to address. When we did make that change to be more informal and fan-centric with the tone of our updates we saw engagement jump dramatically and never come down. Fans loved it. It was working. There were some tweaks that were made, but because we’d made a single change and measured its impact we were able to definitively say “This worked.”

There’s so much crap floating out there in the way of advice regarding content marketing programs. Even now a lot of would-be TED talkers want to sell you on connecting with customers and creating authentic moments and other pablum. In reality creating those connections doesn’t come from lofty ideals or wishy-washy inspirational quotes. It comes from looking at data and seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you’re annoying your customers you’re damaging not only the communications channels they could connect or have connected with your brand on but also the overall perception of the brand in the mind of the audience. Don’t do that.