20 Sept 2011

Guaranteed Ways to Annoy Fans and Followers

When you work with brands using channels like Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis, you become very familiar with some of the pitfalls companies can fall into - and what results they seem to generate.

I've never been one of those people who likes to kick-up a stink when a brand makes a mistake but I like to keep a close eye on what trends seem to annoy customers most, if only to learn from them for the future.

As well as my own experience, I decided to do a bit of amateur research this week. I asked people to reveal what they find most annoying about brand behaviour on social media platforms, with a particular focus on Facebook and Twitter. Below is the culmination of that research.

1. Sell, Sell, Sell!

If you want to guarantee a fanbase of annoyed and frustrated customers, use your social media channels EXCLUSIVELY as a sales tool.
Just like in a real life brand/consumer situation, people hate to feel like they're being sold to (badly!), so avoid treating your social feeds as sales-spam territory. Naturally you're going to want to promote sales on a regular basis (unless you're advanced enough to be measuring your effectiveness through less obvious metrics - in which case, good work!) but you need to make sure this sales content is pushed in a respectful and intelligent way.
A number of recent studies have pointed to the desire for 'discounts and offers' as one of the key reasons people follow a brand, but overdoing it may stop people from following you, or at the very least stop engaging with you. It might look like a quick win now, but in the long term it will do more damage than it's worth.

2. Treat your social customers as a nuisance

If you want to drive people away from your brand, treat them like they're a real thorn in your side. Take a long time to reply to some, ignore others - make them feel like they should be grateful that you're even talking to them!
If a customer has taken the time to connect with you - whether it be through 'liking' your brand, following you on Twitter or even just coming to your website, you need to reward them by showing them some common courtesy. I've lost count of the number of times I've been disappointed by the response time I've experienced when talking to a brand. Even if you just tell me that you're "looking into it" and give me an estimate of when I can expect a reply, I'll be satisfied.
Worse still are the brands who completely ignore quesions from consumers. I don't know about anyone else, but if I visit a Facebook page and see a bunch of (older) unanswered enquiries, I'm not going to trust them with any ofmy hard-earned money. Even if you're taking your response 'offline', at least acknowledge this on your page to show other consumers that you're dealing with it.

3. "Facebook, Twitter - it's all the same isn't it?"

Want to make it look like you don't know what you're doing, and spending very little time getting to know your community? Then post exactly the same content to all the channels you have presences on!
This one is a bit of a personal bug bear of mine, but it relates just as easily to brands as it does to users. If you decide to use exactly the same content for your Facebook page and Twitter feed, chances are you're going to be annoying any of your fans who happen to have followed you on both channels. Not to mention the fact that sandblasting generic content to all channels makes it look like you've put very little thought in to your interactions.
By all means link the two together and occassionally cross-pollenate relevant content, but make sure you tailor content to the channel. Even at the most basic level, Facebook and Twitter have different character restrictions, so posting the same thing to both is missing a real opportunity to successfully engage your followers.

4. Act like a spammer

As all Facebook users will know, seeing too much content from one source in your feed (whether it be an annoying school friend or a brand you've followed) can be a real pain. It's a brilliant way to annoy fans and create a backlash from users!
Following on from point 3, one of the biggest differences between Facebook and Twitter is the way people use their feeds. Whilst posting five or six updates to Twitter is seen as the norm, doing the same on Facebook can produce very different results. Not to mention the fact that Facebook will often collapse multiple updates in to the same (hidden) box on a user's feed, spamming a feed can actually have the opposite effect, reducing the exposure you could be getting.
As a rule of thumb, I've found that around two posts a day from Facebook is acceptable to most users, while with Twitter you can be doing upwards of ten without anyone even batting an eyelid (providing they're not all being shot-out in a row of course).

5. Beg for more

If Oliver Twist has taught us one thing, it's that nobody likes people who beg for more before bursting in to song. Or something like that anyway. Why not make your existing customers feel like they don't matter by continually begging for MORE MORE MORE?
This one applies just as readily to celebrities as it does to brands: Asking your existing customers to help you find even more followers/fans (without rewarding them for doing so - which is significantly different) just gives the impression that you're taking your current fans for granted. 
Worse still are the brands who run promotions to find more followers, offering rewards to the new followers ("We'll give our 100,000th followers a free holiday!") without offering anything at all to the existing followers - a group of consumers who were both there from the start and loyal enough to continue following you while you grew and expanded. These are the people you need to think about rewarding first, not the fly-by-night, prize-loving gadabouts who will follow anybody who flashes a shiny object in front of their eyes...

6. "New customers only"

Anyone who can remember those annoying Nationwide Building Society adverts from the late 90s will know how annoying it is to be told a promotion is 'open to new customers only'. But social media is completely different, isn't it? Those customers won't mind, will they? No, surely not...
I suppose this is a lesser of two evils point compared to some of the others, but it's still worth mentioning. The fact that you're running promotions on your social channels is a great start, and should be applauded. So don't go and ruin it all by only opening the promotion to new customers, or people in a certain demographic, while happily broadcasting it widely to everyone. Social networks are brilliant for targeting content, so do this wisely.
Worse still are those brands that broadcast messages to irrelevant consumers, simply in the hope that those consumers will tell their friends who might be relevant. Don't be that brand! I got quite grumpy with a promotion I tried to take part in on Klout a few months back - the brand in question essentially told me: "You're not really our type, sorry. But maybe tell all your friends about us, as we might like one of them more maybe? Thanks!". Left a bad taste. 

7. Use an RSS feed from your blog - nobody will mind!

Until recently I thought this had all but died out, but a few examples I've seen this month have shown that the auto-post RSS-feed spammers are alive and well. So why not join them? It's much easier than writing real content!
Whilst I appreciate that this can be a really easy way to populate a Twitter feed in particular, nobody wants to follow a brand that uses an RSS feed of its blog or news page content in place of real content. It's lazy, it's rude and quite frankly, I wish Twitter would ban it. Harumph! 
At the end of the day, if you can't be bothered to spend a small amount of time writing original content for Twitter, why do you even want to use Twitter in the first place? If you're not going to monitor your feed for replies, messages or mentions of your name, you might as well not bother.

8. Promote one channel on the other, over and over again

"We love all our children the same... though Toby is our favourite!" - you know the drill. You might well have decided that Twitter is the best channel for your business, and are only keeping your Facebook page because "you've got to, haven't you?". So what's the harm in just telling your Facebook fans that they can find you on Twitter, on a daily basis? Right?
Going to back to one of the earlier points, nobody minds if you use both Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. That said, there are a number of caveats, some of which we've already highlighted. But if you are going to use both, make sure you don't target content on one channel which is heavily promoting another. If people have chosen to follow you on Facebook, they're not going to like being continually reminded that you're running muchbetter promotions on Twitter.
Another obvious benefit of running distinct promotions on each different channel is the tracking you can do. Above and beyond direct traffic you may or may not gain, how do you know which channel drove the consumer to your website from your competition? Distinct entry methods, codes and little differences can be a great way to track where the user came from in the long run.

9. Don't repeat yourself. Don't repeat yourself. Don't...

We all know it can be a bit tiring to think up engaging content EVERY SINGLE DAY, right? So why not just post the same thing over and over? Nobody would mind that, right? After all, people don't visit your page every day, so they'll never notice...
I should add a caveat before I begin: recent studies have highlighted that posting the same piece of content a couple of times can give you positive results, particularly if it allows you to catch a completely different audience or timezone. But the examples used are people who post one bit of content a couple of times over 24 hours, hidden amongst a lot of other engaging content. Not the same tweet, posted several times a week at exactly the same time.
Frankly, this should be obvious: nobody wants to be spammed with the same thing over and over, so just don't do it, okay? Simple.

10. Brush the nasty bits under the carpet

Every brand gets negative feedback from time to time - so who's going to care if you hide these, delete them or just pretend they don't happen? Nobody, right?
Deleting negative (but valid) feedback from customers is still very much alive and well on a lot of Facebook pages, sadly. You can see why people might think it's a smart idea - after all, all that ugly feedback can really put a downer on all your lovely questions and posts. But it'll only snowball in to something worse if you ignore it, or worse still, delete it. Deal with it quickly and fairly. You'll probably end up looking better because of this than if you'd just deleted it in the first place.
Most people aren't stupid. A Facebook page with millions of happy customers and not a single piece of even slightly-negative feedback is going to stand out like a sore thumb - people will lose trust in you, which is bound to end up in tears. So avoid getting in to this situation in the first place. It'll work out better in the long run.
So there we have it - 10 examples but hopefully some helpful advice too. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

This article was written by Henry Ellis for Econsultancy