About two weeks ago I received an invite to meet the new kid in school: Google+. First impressions: Love it! Now every morning I have four tabs open which I check: email, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. During the day I also check LinkedIn, upload videos to YouTube, pictures to Flickr, blog posts to WordPress and see where friends have checked in to with Foursquare.
Wait a sec: are you tired just reading that list? And it’s only a partial list!
When discussing this with my friend David, a full time community manager, here’s what he said: “With the unveiling of Google+, I get the sense that we have come to a point where we have too much. I see ‘Social Media (SM) Burnout’ as a mixture of two different factors: over-saturation of the SM Market and people just having too much of it.
Over-saturation works like any market: people see a profitable item, they copy it and the more that flows into that market the less valuable they all become. So either in this scenario they all dissolve because people feel they have no value (there are too many) or Facebook/Google win a monopoly and get their little men with top hats, nice car and thimble.
The other option is people just get sick of it all. Users might simply get tired and frustrated of having to be on 10 different outlets at any given moment. Eventually they move on and find different ways to make a splash on the Internet.”
Google+ sure does throw a big wrench into our daily SM forays, “forcing” us to interact on another platform. The more outlets there are, the more potential for work productivity to suffer and time constraints may cause people to leave certain SM platforms.
Are we entering ‘Apocolypse Now’ territory with Social Media?
The question is not only ‘How much time daily do I spend engaging with people’ but has now become, ‘On how many platforms do I engage?’ Remember that Social Media is in its infancy; will it become like Cable TV with hundreds of channels, so that each fan base niche has its own “show” to cheer for? At some point, the average viewer doesn’t know where to turn because they have a plethora of viewing opportunities.
The counter argument is the ability to engage on multiple platforms at once: Foursquare check-ins updated on Twitter, Twitter posts automatically posted to Facebook and more. But at the end of the day, you WILL have to engage on each outlet individually- and that requires time and energy many of us do not have.
To figure this all out, I refer you to this quote: ”Not too long ago, many marketers shouted about the wonders of social media because it is FREE. Pretty soon everyone realized that social media is not really free. Often the accounts and tools are free, but the time required to make it work is not.”
I’d like to posit that Social Media Burnout, or what I like to call SM Overload, really depends on who you are and how you look at ROI.
If you’re a big company, odds are you have a full time community manager and may even employ a team. Since you have an interest to engage as many customers as possible no matter where they are, your SM team will have to be on every outlet there is. Burnout? Overload? Not an option.
Small business owners/nonprofits face a major dilemma: In order to compete they HAVE to dive into the deep waters of the SM ocean. However, they lack the finances, manpower and time necessary to engage along all/most outlets. Each time they join the latest popular SM platform, a new one springs up. Will THAT cause burnout
My friend Zan has a solution: One thing that I think leads to burnout is never being clear on why you are using SM in the first place. If we set up clear goals ahead of time and then evaluate them to see if they are working, then we are less likely to get burned out. If we are just posting for posting’s sake, then it’s hard to remember why you are doing it and easy to get burned out.
Small businesses need to examine what fits best with their business structure/strategy, plan eventual ROI and then engage as much as possible on those channels. If they don’t, SM Overload will lead to SM Burnout.
Individuals are where SM may see major shifts and changes. I totally agree with David that people may get tired and frustrated from having to be on too many outlets. Will they completely leave SM? I think not- peer pressure will play a major role. People will wait and see where their friends are hanging out and then migrate to those outlets.
Which outlets will they choose? The billion dollar question. I know a few people who are heavy Twitter/Facebook users who are considering leaving one or the other for Google+. Remember that eventually Google+ has the potential to include many tools on one platform (see my post about Google+ advantages for nonprofits).
Yes, too many outlets will become a nightmare for the average user. There isn’t enough time in the day to engage everyone, everywhere. The other option is to decide that some of our friends/customers are here and some are there and we DON’T have to know what they’re up to at all times.
Revolutionary? Maybe. But it wouldn’t be much fun, would it?!
In the end, I do not subscribe to the Armageddon approach that Social Media will crumble because there are too many outlets. I also don’t think that it will cause burnout and people will stop using SM altogether.
However, I do think that SM Overload and over-saturation will lead to a Darwinian scenario: Only the strongest outlets will survive. Or, as Noland Hoshino put it: ‘The easy-to-use SM tool with the convenience of saving time and has greater range will survive.’ And only those that can differentiate themselves from previous platforms will thrive.
Users will learn to navigate only these platforms effectively: rather than draining energy and sucking up time, they’ll learn to engage efficiently, in a way that adds ROI to their product and gives them time to manage and grow their core business.
And that, my friends, is how Social Media will thrive.
Author: Ephraim Gopin has been engaging with people for the last ten years through his work with various nonprofits.