When it Comes to Social Media, How Much Is Too Much?

When Deb Holland, director of marketing at Dallas-based software company Distribion puts out a corporate blog post, it tends to generate roughly 750 clicks. However, her 300-word post earlier this month about how to manage a company LinkedIn profile attracted a whopping 117,000 visitors.

And here’s the best part: it wasn’t hard to do.

Using a service called MyPRGenie, Holland sent out a press release with the title “Who Owns Your LinkedIn Profile? Hint: It Might Not Be You.” Thanks to its catchy title and visibility to key stakeholders in the social-media sphere, the piece was picked up by PC World, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and ComputerWorld, just to name a few.

Most of the process was automatic, according to Holland. She used MyPRGenie, a social media publicity engine that allows users to set up a virtual newsroom on Facebook and increase their exposure through social media tools and connecting with reporters. MyPRGenie distributed Holland’s release through its social media platform and did an e-mail blast to reporters that cover tech-related topics.

It’s no secret that for marketers--particularly small business marketers--social media is now the price of admission to reach a mass audience. Not to mention its impact is more measurable than just about any other marketing technique: The number of re-tweets, clicks and mentions content receives online are the new ways to measure success.

A growing number of companies are emerging that focus on helping businesses automate their social media activities while also ensuring they don’t over message their audience, an increasingly common blunder that can lead to brand fatigue. That combination can help small businesses save time, while guaranteeing maximum impact.

When Holland started her new job at Distribion in February, the company, with 125 customers and 50 employees, was facing a common challenge in the small business world: limited resources and aggressive growth targets. And forget about a marketing team, Holland is essentially running the show solo.

“My company has a really good story to tell. What I don’t have is an unlimited budget and a huge team who can constantly stay on the phone and manage our social media.”

Business looking to automate part of their social media campaigns have an emerging group of companies to choose from that allow them to post a piece of content--say an article, tutorial, or a blog post--without being strapped behind a desk to send it.

Holland doesn’t have time to tweet five times a day--she wasn’t even sure her audience cared to hear from her that often. According to social media experts, there is a limit to how much social media an audience can – and cares to – absorb. It’s a delicate balance: businesses want to engage and generate customers, but don’t want to over message and have people tune them out.

Most people over message, said Frank Speiser, CEO of SocialFlow, a software-as-a-service firm that helps companies automate a percentage of their tweets and when to tweet them. Most of the time, said Speiser, a message is worth more when the topic corresponds with a discussion presently occurring online. “SocialFlow attributes value to those topics in real time.”

So how much is too much, and how do you choose which tweets are worth going out? “If you have 10 things to say, I guarantee you shouldn’t be saying them all. At least not right now,” said Speiser.

When deciding what to send out to Twitter followers, trajectory is key – if the number of mentions, clicks, and re-tweets your content gets is increasing, then keep it going. If it’s dropping, it may be time to throttle back.

"We had 2,000 re-tweets in May,” said Susan Halligan, marketing director for the New York Public Library, an early customer of SocialFlow, which costs $1,000 a month for for-profit businesses (the library pays a special non-profit rate). That number is a 44% increase from the prior month, with higher engagement and more referrals to its Web site to boot. “If we weren’t seeing that growth, we’d think the messaging was too much.”

Automating tweets, Facebook updates, and other social media activity doesn’t involve a robot or mean repeating the same information again and again. One automation tactic is using something like TweetDeck or Hootsuite, which allow businesses to program when updates are released.

Experts warn businesses against automating all of their social media activities--especially anything related to customer service. A customer wants to know someone is there to actually help them, said Miranda Tan, CEO of New York City-based MyPRGenie, the automated online PR platform that Holland used.

Many companies are finding that quality and engagement trumps quantity in the social media sphere.

“We update between three to five times per week – more than that would be too much for our audience,” said Janice Chan, PR manager for Shuttle Computer, a specialized computer manufacturer.

“ When we talk about something, we want feedback before we move on to the next thing.”

A larger computer company like Dell has a huge team responsible for social media and responding to the huge volume of requests they receive, Chan added.