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When it comes to social networks, how much is too much?

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: According to a previous SmartBrief on Social Media poll, about 45% of our readers say they tend to unfollow someone on a social network if they post too often. How often does someone need to post, on average, for you to unfollow them?

  • If they post between three and seven times per day — 31.82%
  • If they post three or four times per hour — 19.32%
  • If they post one or two times per hour — 14.20%
  • If they post between one and three times per day — 7.95%
  • If they post more than a few times per week — 7.95%
  • If they post more than six times per hour — 7.39%
  • If they post five or six times per hour — 5.68%
  • I would not unfollow someone for tweeting too often — 5.68%

A recent SmartBrief on Social Media poll, which revealed that a plurality of our readers would unfollow someone on a social network if they posted updates too often, created a bigger question: “How much posting is too much?”

We asked SmartBrief readers to tell us how much posting on average would cause them to unfollow someone — and we ended up with what I believe are perplexing results. Let’s take a look at what the above stats are telling us:

  • More respondents said they are more likely to unfollow someone if they post between one to four times per hour (33.52% combined) than if they post five or more times per hour (13.07% combined).
  • Almost a third of respondents said they would unfollow someone if they posted between three to seven times per day. This statistic definitely threw me off. Do these findings mean our readers have a low tolerance level for anyone who posts several times a day?
  • A roughly equal number of respondents said they would unfollow someone if they post more than six times per hour (7.39%), post between one and three times per day (7.95%), or more than a few times per week (7.95%).

So, have our readers answered the question of “how much is too much?” Are these results given us a good guideline to follow? Clearly not. These numbers show us that everyone’s tolerance level is different — and that they may not wait long enough to see someone post multiple times per hour or even per day or week before they decide to unfollow.

What I observe online is different than what the results are showing. For example, I have tweeted more than six or seven times an hour with no substantial decrease in followers, if any. As a matter of fact, I do this almost every day on Twitter, and the number of followers continues to grow. The days that I don’t post much, I don’t see much, if any, growth in followers. It seems that posting that much doesn’t hurt me on Twitter, but posting the same on Facebook or any other social network would be a different story.

This poll has made it very apparent that there is no single correct answer. There are too many factors involved. It depends on the social network, the audience, the type of business, the objective, context and value of the posts, etc. As I previously mentioned, there needs to be balance and learning about what makes your audience tick is what counts. Asking followers on each social network how much they want to see from you is a legitimate question that everyone should ask.

Let your audience tell you how much is too much for them. This will not only show them you care, but also help you keep loyal followers.

We will all have different opinions about this poll. What do you conclude from the above stats?