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What makes social-media followers flee?

This post is written by Mirna Bard, a blogger, speaker and consultant. She serves as the social-media chairwoman of the Orange County (Calif.) chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and she teaches social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: What causes you to unfollow an individual or a business on social networks?

  • Their over-communication gets overwhelming — 44.81%
  • The don’t add value to my day with their irrelevant postings — 36.79%
  • They only talk about themselves or act irresponsibly toward their audience — 9.91%
  • They are not open to feedback, two-way dialogue or user-generated content — 5.19%
  • They under-communicate or may not be active for weeks/months at a time — 3.30%

We all can see how popular Facebook business pages have become and how quickly businesses on Twitter find followers. Nonetheless, it does it take huge effort and dedication to grow an online community with real staying power. Similar to anything else in business, it is difficult for you to get to the top with social networking, but it is even harder to say there. Thus, the main challenge is not growing followers, but to keep your followers loyal on social networks.

There is no arguing that social networking has turned out to be a high-performance loyalty tool because it builds a community around a brand. However, can overdoing a good thing cause your brand-loyalty efforts to flop? Too much of anything can backfire, as the above poll stats show, but the results were also a little shocking.

I must admit that, like 82% of our poll respondents, I have either hid or unfollowed a person or a business because they were over-communicating and posting irrelevant information that had absolutely no value to me. But I’ve also unfollowed or left Facebook pages because the owners were under-communicating and showed lack of dialogue — no real engagement or commitment to me as a follower. How can you provide value or build stronger relationships if you simply do not dedicate time for ongoing engagement and openness with followers? So, it was shocking to see that only 3% said they unfollowed someone because of under-communication or inactivity.

Without a doubt, over-communicating and under-communicating are equally important on social-networking sites. We shouldn’t overwhelm our followers with too much information or useless content. On the other hand, we should not neglect our audience by inactivity, hoping they will still be there when we decide to engage with them on our own terms.

The best social-networking strategy is to learn what makes your customers tick by asking them the right questions and creating dialogue. To nurture and leverage relationships with our audience, we must find the perfect balance between valuable content, relevant postings, timely promotions, and ongoing dialogue without overkill.

Do you feel like you are over-communicating or under-communicating with your audience? How do you ensure a loyal following on social networks?