More isn’t always better—and that theory applies to social media advertising.
Recent research findings suggest that the volume of social media posts will drive consumers to unfollow the accounts of even their favorite companies and brands. This was especially true within cities of greater per-capita population density, and when social posts are sent during traffic peak hours of 5-8 p.m., according to researchers from the Fox School.
The researchers found both a short-term benefit and a long-term loss with regard to this form of social media marketing: While posts led to 5% sales increases, the posts often “fatigued and frustrated” consumers and increased the likelihood that they would unfollow these accounts by more than 300%.
“Companies may be inclined to intensify their advertising on social media once they see the immediate benefits,” said Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, the Fox School’s Senior Associate Dean of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives. “The volume and timing of these posts, however, may drive consumers to unfollow these accounts and be less likely to purchase from these companies in the future.”
Fox School PhD student Shuting Wang led the study, “Tempting Fate: Social Media Posts by Firms, Customer Purchases, and the Loss of Followers,” along with Pavlou and University of Minnesota associate professor Dr. Brad Greenwood.
The team worked with data from a Chinese fashion company that conducted its social media marketing through WeChat, China’s Facebook equivalent. The company, which has retail locations in 99 Chinese cities, sent identical messaging to its followers, regardless of their city of origin and their city’s population density. The company would post to WeChat four times per month and only during the 5-7 p.m. timeframe. While this method produced temporary jolts in sales, it ultimately cannibalized the company’s long-term sales, the researchers found.
“Our recommendations included a complete change of strategy, with a reduction in arbitrary posts that could create annoyance or interruption, and a plan to send messages only during non-peak traffic density hours,” Pavlou said.