One of the most common questions as marketers we receive is how often to communicate with our prospects and consumers. Regardless if it is door-to-door, telemarketing, direct mail, email and now social media, the question has always been the same, how often is too much? Before I continue, let’s establish that frequency of any communication strategy should be based upon relevance of information and consumer interest. Specifically, make sure you have something relevant to say to the consumer based upon what they are interested in hearing from you. Don’t reach out to them just because it’s on your calendar to do so.
For many years with door-to-door and direct mail marketing, frequency was directly tethered to costs. It was expensive to mail regularly and many direct mail companies pioneered the ability to segment and identify consumer patterns to know who they could contact more frequently to inspire a response. In the mid-late 90’s e-mail volume took off and marketers felt they had discovered the golden key to marketing bliss; a free or near free vehicle to communicate directly to their customers. More importantly, at that time, email was new for many users and as a result open rates were astronomical.
By 2002, open rates had dropped and consumers were back to becoming selective about what they wanted to open and read. Marketers were heeding the advice from various reports that 75% of users felt that emailing too frequently was the main reason they would opt-out from future mailings. Many marketers perceive the quantity of their email database is the most important marketing tool and do not want to risk reducing the overall numbers. Personally, I argue segmentation and quality of the email database combined with quantity is more important but that is a subject for another discussion. Somewhere along the lines, many companies settled on email frequency as once every 30-60 days. It seems that many marketers felt comfortable with this approach without any supporting evidence to contradict. Of course, there are many examples of companies and campaigns that challenged this notion and experimented, fine-tuned and succeeded with a broader range of email frequency.
In the dawn of social media, it seems many marketers carried this same philosophy about frequency and not knowing how often to interact with their consumer base. It seems I often hear that marketers are still using preset intervals such as monthly, bi-weekly and weekly within their communication strategy for social marketing. Is this because they have proven data to show their frequency inspires engagement or they are comfortable with established time intervals based upon their experience with email marketing? I challenge that for most, it is the latter.
With email, determining the optimal frequency can be effectively tested and monitored through segmentation, delivery frequency, delivery times, open rates, click thru and transaction rates and finally, opt-out ratios. Arguably, if your consumers are not opening emails, increasing the frequency along with A/B testing subject lines until they do open (and then back off the frequency) can help determine this frequency. For this, the relevance of information and interest of the consumer help determine overall frequency. For those mathematicians, an equation of r * I = f or relevance multiplied by interest equals frequency.
However, with social marketing, this is a little more challenging. Given the various social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, Linkedin and others where the content is streamed to users; frequency can also be impacted by the overall volume of their individual social network. With Facebook, it is the number of their friends and brands they follow which determines the volume of posts they see within their personal wall. The same applies to twitter and their number of followers along with LinkedIn and their number of connections. Now, the factors in our previous equation are relevance, consumer interest and individual volume. Imagine your consumer’s Facebook wall if the average consumer has 120 friends and they follow 7 brands or Fan pages. If each of these is posting updates on an average of 3 per day this can be almost 400 posts per day on their wall. This is similar to receiving 400 emails per day but without an effective SPAM filter. This is more compounded by Facebook’s internal algorithm used to determine the “Most Recent” wall filter. This filter is Facebook’s method of determining who they feel is most relevant to you based upon your previous interactions with them. With this algorithm it becomes more difficult to appear on the consumer’s wall in the event they do not visit your Fan page, comment or Like your posts frequently. Now our equation is more complicated and based upon (((r * i)V) * x) / t = f or relevance multiplied by consumer interest, compounded by volume of messages all multiplied by the social network’s X factor of determining personal relevance and previous interaction and finally divided by the time of the day the consumer checks their Facebook wall.
Now for all those who are not mathematically inclined, what does this mean? Ultimately, the once per week or once per month rules used throughout the last several years no longer apply. If you are posting only once per week on Facebook or other social networks and receiving only a handful or less likes and comments, it is especially likely that your messages may not be seen at all depending upon how often the consumers check their wall and twitter stream posts. As long as you have relevant information to share with your followers once per day or even multiple times per day may be appropriate and necessary.
Marketers must begin to rethink their frequency and get through the noise on social networks. It’s time to experiment with increasing frequencies, time of day posting and varying messaging among user segments to inspire engagement with consumers.