Paul Simons: social media has gone ‘notification’ mad but brand owners should resist it

I spotted an article in The Marketer magazine online titled “Six ways push notifications can help pull in and keep app users” by a lady called Dorothy Craven of a company called Element Wave.

I think my blood began to boil before I had finished the headline as I do have a growing hatred of ‘notifications.’ Facebook seem to get their knickers in a twist if I don’t go on to the site daily so they send me ‘notifications’ along the lines of ‘Bill commented on John’s photograph of his pet hamster,’ like I’m going to be remotely interested.

facebook-targetSometimes I get ‘you have notifications you have missed‘ that sound like they might be important but of course they are not notifications as in, someone I know would like to inform me of something important. They are mostly drivel posts about absolute garbage.

I haven’t been too scientific about my analysis but my sense is the most frequent posts on Facebook are about 1) pets, 2) babies, 3) beaches, 4) shoes, 5) airline topics (ticket, picture out of window, lounge, seat, food, drinks) most of which are not on my radar. The only exceptions are if they relate to my close family. I haven’t any interest in other people’s more personal lives, as I’m sure they are not interested in mine either (it is pretty dull anyway).

LinkedIn have followed Facebook’s lead and I have started getting notifications about someone’s birthday in Cape Town who I’ve never met or never will. It feels like a pandemic creeping across the world.

I feel like a lone voice because any criticism of social media appears to be met with the kind of look held in reserve for handling difficult moments with elderly relatives, the kind when granny breaks wind at tea time with the family.

I do suspect that within large organisations there is a dis-connect between the digital team and the board where the non-executive board members avoid asking questions about the company’s social media strategy to ensure they don’t look stupid; therefore allowing the digital team working away in the windowless basement to do their worst.

In terms of managing brands a truth is that irritating customers is a recipe for problems down the track. Just think about Ryanair and where they were before the U-turn on customer service. It looks like Mr O’Gobby saw the light, turning the 737 hard starboards to avoid crashing and burning. Social media channels face a similar challenge, although from a different perspective.

Social media sites need traffic in ever-increasing volumes to satisfy the voracious appetite of the investing community. It is inevitable that a proportion of Facebookers are passive – not particularly interested – so rather than let them fall asleep the geeks at FB have a gismo that sends them a ‘notification.’ I opened one about an hour ago and truthfully I’m just not sure what post was the one I had missed. It was just a prod to get me back on to the site.

I would caution brand owners to take great care about the advice from people like Ms Craven because she is looking at this topic from the site optimisation POV and not the customer optimisation POV. Isn’t this at the heart of Tesco’s fall from grace? Focusing on operational efficiency and forgetting the customer?

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About Paul Simons

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Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

One comment

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    Paul… You and I know it’s all a giant wank. But let’s not tell anyone until after I have raised several million in funding for my new social media venture… “GiantWank.com.” You’re in for ten percent.
    Cheers/George “AdScam” Parker