09 September 2011

5 Reasons Not to Fear Social Media Burnout

Have you experienced Social Media Burnout?

If so, you’re in good company. Three social media masterminds recently admitted it was all getting to be a bit much. Steve Rubel blogged that social media might be getting tiresome – and then deleted several years worth of blog posts to start anew on Tumblr. Edward Boches went on vacation, literally and figuratively – and enjoyed getting off the grid. Bob Garfield confessed over the weekend that he’s talked a good game but hardly ever posts, tweets or tumbles. “I follow people who ovulate more than I tweet,” Garfield wrote, adding in some of the creep factor we’ve come to expect from social media.

All of these industry notables – each of whom I respect deeply – feel the pressure to post, tweet and blog on a constant basis. Maybe you’ve had the same feeling, even if it isn’t full-blown Social Media Burnout.

There is a cure.

“Hi, I’m Steve and I’m a…..”

I’ve felt the same pressure myself. Recently I’ve gone through some light periods on Twitter, and regular readers of Ad Majorem know this is my first post in a while. My Klout score has declined to around 50. Should I kvetch, worry, or otherwise vex myself? I’ve been pretty busy this year with important business, and the balance of the year doesn’t look much better. Would it be so bad if lightened up?

5 Reasons Not to fear Social Media Burnout

Stay committed, I tell myself. Here’s why.

1. Social Media is far from mature. Not only is Social Media not going away, it hasn’t even gotten started. Facebook of course has the most users, but usage penetration for Twitter and other platforms is still low, with many of the users coming from the opinion leader, creative class, leading edge crowd. Google+ may or may not reach a billion users, but it has certainly changed the game with its new features. The future growth will come not from signing up more users, but from inspiring even more innovative and useful features across the social web.

2. New features and platforms will continue to facilitate human interaction. What we now call “social media” is really just the digitally fueled accelerant of what we used to call “word of mouth.” Word of mouth is not a medium, it is something that happens among people. Advertising has always sought to influence it. Social Media can only facilitate it – and allow us to monitor and measure what people are saying, which we couldn’t do when those conversations took place over the backyard fence.

3. Learning is constant. I grew tired long ago of hearing that “change is the only constant” because it’s so obvious and really not that new of an idea. Change happens faster than it used to, however, which means that learning opportunities have multiplied exponentially. Social Media is the hottest hot-bed of learning because it is the literal intersection of psychology and technology. If I drop off the grid, I lose chances to learn and stay sharp.

4. Authenticity trumps ubiquity. The important thing about anyone’s participation in social media is that we contribute to the discussion. Large numbers of likes, followers or fans will always impress us, but they’re not as relevant in social media. You and I must be ourselves and add our perspective. Our networks – our friends, colleagues, whatever – will respond to authenticity, not ubiquity.

5. Corporations are still betting on Social Media. In an era when budgets are tight and results are hard to measure, no one is giving up on social media. Quite the opposite. A Duke University survey of 249 CMOs finds that social media budgets are expected to increase their share of marketing budgets over the next five years.

So, fear not. Stay social, be yourself, and keep an open mind.


  1. Fabulous post Steve, and of great value to those of us newer to the social media world. A comment and a thought for you:

    Comment - I think your (very nicely worded) point 4 is the key to it all. I also believe that authentic content trumps all other variables, although of course it's not the only one.

    Thought - I find that the key to avoiding burnout is to have a clearly defined sense of what you hope to get out of it. Figure out if it's for self expression, fun, networking, job hunting, etc., and then chase that, react to that, focus on that. Because social media takes time.

    If you don't, you get distracted, which can lead to the question "why am I even bothering?", which leads to dissatisfaction and burnout. (a classical distraction is becoming absorbed by metrics such as page views, as if you're going to get a prize when you reach a certain number...you're not).

  2. I love your insights here, especially the fourth item: Authenticity trumps ubiquity. I believe that what people are missing these days is why they're online in the first place. Gone were the days when you can have fun getting to know someone in a genuine conversation. I guess, we forget that social networking is just a tool and that no matter how we want to automate things, you can't simply automate human relationships over the Web... overnight. In my case, I'm blending Pareto's 80/20 rule to my own social media marketing mix: 80% conversation and 20% automation. And... I'd say, it worked!

  3. Nice work, Steve. I found your blog via a reply you left on one of Ann Meany's articles (business2community.com) entitled "Information Overload: Are You Facing Social Media Fatigue?"