Posted October 6, 2010 10:43 pm by with 4 comments

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Imagine you’re at party with 800 people and you need to tell one specific person that you found her cell phone on the bar. Everyone is talking, music is playing, people keep moving around and so even if you spot the girl you’re looking for, by the time you make your way through the crowd, she’s already moved on. You could try shouting at her from across the room, but you’re not likely to get through. Maybe pass her a note by handing it off to someone six degrees style and hoping it will get to her eventually? Or you could just stand there and maybe she’ll come looking for you.

This is social media marketing in the new millennium and it’s only getting worse. Forrester Research has a new report out called Defeating Social Clutter. It takes a look at the numbers that make up the clutter then gives suggestions for how to work around it.

According to their findings, the average Gen Y user has nearly 500 friends combined on his social networks. Granted many of those are the same people appearing in multiple channels but that doesn’t reduce the clutter. Not when my Facebook is set to update my Twitter which updates my MySpace.

The interesting twist is that most people reported they only check their social networks once every few days. Facebook was listed as the site checked least often. The problem is, of course, the push-down nature of social media. Today’s Tweets push yesterday’s Tweets off the front page and though they didn’t quote the statistics, I imagine the number of people who page back more than twice is very low. As we discussed last month, the timing of your Tweets and posts is important for this very reason. It might be more convenient to update your Facebook at midnight, but by noon the next day, what are the chances that your post will still be showing on your follower’s front page.

Forrester says that all of this clutter makes it even more important that you hitch your wagon to movers and shakers in your niche. When a consumer has 500 social media updates in 24 hours, chances are good that they’ll skim to read those from close friends and family before devoting any time to a brand name they friended in order to get a coupon.

A more novel approach is the work around. Forrester suggests seeking out less cluttered environments such as less popular networks, blogs and forums where you can present your ideas to a smaller but more focused audience. It may seem like it, but Twitter and Facebook aren’t the only gigs in town. Poke around on Google and you’ll find social networks devoted specifically to moms, seniors, writers, gamers, musicians, and book lovers. As with the big boys, be sure to approach these niche groups with honesty and a minimal amount of spam. Trying to get book lovers to review your latest work is one case where asking permission is better than asking forgiveness.

Do you have any thoughts on cutting through the clutter? We’d like to hear them.

  • Of course with #newtwitter it’s all just one big front page 😉

    There’s no way of knowing what effect that feature will have on user behavior, but people might scroll back farther than before. Your point about the push-down nature of social media still stands though, of course.

  • One already existing and a little bit old solution is discussion forums. They are relatively focused in terms of content, often very specific audience segments and usually clutter-free.

    At least I’ve noticed that a good and active discussion forum can have heaps of positive impact when setting up an online marketing campaign, and trying to figure out how to target advertisements.

  • Looks like we need to be seeking the long tail of social media.

  • amanda

    I just posted about the clutter on my Facebook news feed. So my solution is to put my friends in lists so I can be updated on them all at once without having to see the article links I like to read. That way when I’m ready to read articles I can find them easier too.