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Facebook and Twitter: The trick is not being hated

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the “art” of posting to Facebook and Twitter, from the perspective of an organization that is trying to reach out and share information with readers, users or consumers.

At The Daily Record, we blast out breaking news posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as other news we hope readers will find interesting enough to click on and engage with.

But every once in a while, we also use our social media sites to send out a marketing message or two, such as:

“Purchase tickets for the 2011 Health Care Heroes Breakfast on March 23 at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor. More info: http://bit.ly/dEZ7ef

This is necessary, because we have to promote our events and our paid subscription options through different media in order to reach as much of our audience as possible. But at the same time, we know that most of our Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers did not sign up for promotions. They signed up to receive semi-frequent news updates.

The downside to this double-edged sword is the ease with which a user can “unlike” or “unfollow” your page.

On Jay Baer’s “Convince & Convert” social media blog, he recently wrote a post called “Why You’re Pissing Off Half Your Facebook Fans.” He reports the findings of new research on why consumers “turn their backs on social and e-mail connections with brands.”

What do consumers expect when they “like” a brand?

  • 51 percent of consumers expect the company to send them marketing messages after “liking” the brand on Facebook
  • 40 percent of consumers do not expect the company to send them marketing messages after “liking” the brand on Facebook
  • 9 percent aren’t sure what to expect

We don’t know exactly what The Daily Record’s social media subscribers expect when they decide to sign up, but if these findings can be carried over, then we’re looking at more than 400 Facebookers (out of our current 1,024 likes) that are occasionally getting the types of messages they didn’t expect.

This can lead to people unliking your page or “hiding” your updates, which means that they still have full access to your page, but no longer like seeing your updates in their news feed.

In Baer’s blog, he suggests that page admins use Facebook’s tabs to present users with information first, rather than your stream of posts. This way, he says, people will know what they’re getting when they sign up. This is a good idea, so long as the description is kept brief. Facebook and Twitter are effective in that their updates are short — typically only a few lines — which doesn’t allow much time for someone to get bored in reading what you present.

I view the business of social media as a delicate balance. If you consistently give your “likers” a series of interesting updates, it’s OK to throw them a marketing message every so often. If your social media efforts are good enough, they might even be inspired to click on your marketing message, too.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Italian mob-themed movies, A Bronx Tale, with Robert DeNiro and Chazz Palminteri. One of the most memorable and profound discussions is when the boss, Sonny (played by Palminteri), gives advice to the teen protagonist, Calogero, about the delicate balance between being feared and being loved.

“Is it better to be feared or loved?” Calogero asks.

Sonny responds:

That’s a good question. It’s nice to be both, but it’s difficult. But if I had my choice… I would rather be feared. Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I’m funny, but not that funny.

Fear keeps them loyal to me. The trick is not being hated. I treat my men good. But if I give too much, I’m not needed. I give just enough where they need me but don’t hate me. Don’t forget what I’m telling you.

“The trick is not being hated” — as an administrator of a brand Facebook page (or Twitter page), you want to give your readers just enough that they remain loyal (meaning they click on and engage with your posts), but not too much that they “hate” (or “unlike”, or hide) your page.

What seems to be effective is not posting to your Facebook page more than about once every hour. That provides enough space in between posts so that your readers won’t see several updates from you on their screen at the same time when logging in and browsing their Facebook news feed.

Since things move a little bit faster on Twitter, I shorten that to about every half hour. People are less likely to go back and search through their Twitter feeds for past updates than they are a Facebook feed, so you want to be there more often.

And as for marketing messages, you definitely don’t want to blast out two in a row. Send them sparingly, but not so much so that nobody ever sees them. Remember, you are a business, too.

Lastly, if you have several administrators that consistently update your social media pages, coordinate with them. Don’t step on each others’ toes and have two people post the same thing at the same time. Pay attention to the last time something was posted and plan accordingly.

Or, as Sonny says: Don’t forget what I’m telling you.