In Social Media, Your Personality is the Silver Bullet

Have you noticed how many social media posts are actually just suggested content? Now that this feature has started disappearing, it is time to rethink social media and get personal again. This post shows you how!

When I logged into my Buffer account early on Tuesday last week to start my social media morning ritual, I was greeted with a small message, saying that Buffer will shut down their content recommendations bit by bit, completely discontinuing it by the end of August this year. While Buffer certainly is not the only company to provide content suggestions for Twitter and other social media channels (there are others such as e.g. Klout), it definitely is prominent and also a well-respected voice in social media in general. And therefore this move is noteworthy, especially since Buffer also offered an explanation for their decision here.

Content suggestions create peer pressure

While I have used content suggestions for multiple social media channels in the past, I was always aware that there was one primary reason why I did it: everyone else was doing it too. And by everyone I mean mostly people in digital marketing or the tech industry in general, because the content suggestions were mostly geared towards topics relevant for those people. So if work in one of those areas and didn’t want your Twitter or LinkedIn to appear empty compared to your peers, you probably also felt the urge to take advantage of a handy content suggestion tool and keep sharing away.

At this point I have a confession to make, and I do not like it: I did not read c. 80% of the suggested content I shared in the past – because I just did not have the time. I kept sharing it to make my account look more active and to tweet “smart stuff”. Why? Fishing for engagement (favourites and retweets) and new followers, of course. And this is not what social media should be all about – but nowadays often is.

Over time, as content suggestions gained more and more popularity, I observed bizarre phenomena: When checking my Twitter feed in the morning, I noticed how my friends’ Twitter feeds consisted solely of suggested content over night – when everyone was sleeping. So the algorithms were having a Tweet-fest during the small hours, and in the morning you were greeted by a large number of tweets which you could easily identify as scheduled content suggestions. Oh boy.

High-frequency posting ruins any social channel over time

If you now think that this is somewhat sad, I have to agree with you. And I would even take it one step further: The peer pressure to keep up with volume of posts is in fact capable of ruining not only your self-respect, but the entire culture of a social channel! Think about it: more content means less organic reach, less engagement, and ultimately less ROI on your social media posts and content marketing efforts. This means that marketers will eventually turn their backs on a channel, once profitability on organic posts approaches zero. This can of course happen for other reasons as well – for example, when a channel focuses more and more on paid content promotion, as it is the case with Facebook.

Facebook organic reach per fan
Facebook organic reach (data compiled by Socialbakers)

As a marketer you may now think that this does not really affect you, since you can simply keep doing it while it works – making hay while the sun shines. However, you would miss a very important point:

Using suggested content excessively will not do you much good – because it simply is not you posting!

Personality matters more than anything else

This is something many companies (and individuals) still do not understand: In today’s marketing world, users do not need simply more content, quite often they would like the opposite. A while ago I wrote a post on the problem of content overflow and how content marketers struggle with the ever increasing amount of available content and the resulting decline in user engagement. And my conclusion was (and still is) that users connect with truly personal communication, with a certain style they can recognise. This builds true loyalty, not just more volume.

And this is where suggested content fails to deliver:

Unless you add a personal touch to each tweet, each LinkedIn share and each Facebook post, your followers will simply not perceive it as coming from you.

It will be part of the white noise they hear all day. And which they have become really good at ignoring.

While you may not feel a direct penalty for using suggested content, you are missing out on the opportunity to build genuine, lasting relationships with your audience by being personal in your communication.

So when I learned that Buffer will shut down their content suggestions, it made a lot of sense to me, even before reading about their reasoning. In our age, and with the outlook of the internet growing by 600% until 2020, simply increasing the content volume and frequency on your marketing channels is not ineffective, but may in fact alienate your audience.

Instead, focus on being personal, on being human when interacting with your audience. Rather than flooding your audience’s news feeds with endless posts, try to inject the “human” back into your social media. Real connections are made through emotions, and if your social interactions have a personal touch, people are more likely to favour you over anyone who still tries to win the race simply by adding more volume.

Managing your social media in 5 steps

But how can you manage to be both personal and still active enough on social media? Here are 5 steps you can follow to manage your social media accounts every day:

  1. Have your hotlist of great sources you skim every morning at breakfast, and select 3–4 posts you really find interesting — that’s your personality talking
  2. Schedule them during the day using scheduling tools like Buffer or Hootsuite, including obviously some of your own content. Again, three tweets is enough
  3. Use Twitter saved searches (doing a search and then clicking “save”) to follow certain hashtags or keywords, and then jump into a few of those conversations, adding your opinion
  4. Be reactive — if people like your tweets, they will reply or retweet, and that’s a chance for you to be human and reply to them to build true relationships
  5. Retweet a few more interesting things you see in passing to show appreciation and make your feed more diverse

And there you go: This brings you to about 7 of your own tweets, plus some retweets and replies — which is great! And it makes you come across like a person, not like a bot. This is how you will win in social media in the long run.

What are your thoughts on content suggestions? Do you have any other ideas for being personal on social media? Leave a comment!