The Me Talk Contradiction

by · January 27, 201415 comments

Chris Brogan thinks he doesn’t talk enough about himself on social channels.

WARNING: Some of this will be a little inside baseball in the social marketing world, but bear with me … there’s an interesting debate to be had here.

Before we get all wrinkled nose, Chris and I are friends. I’d say good friends, though we don’t spend nearly enough time together. I love him and everything he does. We don’t always agree on everything, but I’ve considered him a friend and even mentor for some time.

Chris Brogan - Owner MagazineBut when he threw up a post yesterday entitled, “You Can’t Talk About Yourself Enough, Apparently,” I’m certain that 80 percent of the social media it-getters couldn’t help but laugh. Chris is very good at talking about himself. Not in a sleazy way, mind you, but his narrative is normally first person and focused on lessons learned, etc.

He’s also a very successful affiliate marketer. This is where you hock your stuff (and sometimes someone else’s stuff) at levels some people would find incessant.

Bottom Line: Chris doesn’t need to talk about himself more. Much more and a few of us would get turned off.

However, in his piece, he outlines how he is shocked that still some of his audience is unaware he is the publisher of Owner magazine. This is the project Chris has been passionately pursuing for the last few months and, as he admits, it’s all he talks about.

He is beating a drum and some people — astonishingly — aren’t hearing it.

The Problem Of Frequency

What Chris has, in my opinion, is a problem of frequency. When you talk too much, your audience — even a willing one — sees but doesn’t hear. They see the Facebook or Twitter or Google+ posts roll by, they get the email newsletter, but the consistency and repetition make them expected and normal. They don’t stand out, even if the content does. So a portion of the audience doesn’t actually read them. They don’t actually click through. They don’t really even consume the content. It’s just made available to them if they wish to.

Chris could talk about nothing but Owner magazine for the next year and a certain number of his audience members wouldn’t know about it. This is because they’ve become so lulled into seeing the same allotment of posts from Chris in their stream, they pass over them looking for the new, shiny object.

The Problem of Infrequency

But the situation Chris is in produces an interesting Catch-22 in the world of content algorithms. Without frequency, Facebook will show your posts to fewer people. The volume is necessary to maintain even a chance of getting organic reach. While the same is not true for Twitter or Google+ (as far as I know), the less you hit your networks with a message, the less chance you have that the maximum number of people will see it.

Ideas On A Fix

If we continue to deliver the same level of awesome, over time that level is average.

Certainly, I don’t believe Chris needs to post more or less. But I do believe we all suffer from a similar problem. Our content was outstanding enough at one point for the audience member to opt in to it. But if we continue to deliver the same level of awesome, over time that level is average. It sounds contradictory, but you only need a 5 on a scale of 1-10 to get someone’s attention the first time. You need an 8 or a 9 to get it again.

The best way to control who sees your posts is to funnel that audience to a medium you control: Email. No algorithm is going to screw with your chances of your audience seeing your email messages. So long as the audience member white labels you from spam folders (which is just the cost of doing business), you will get in their inbox. So long as they view their inbox at some point, they will have to take an action on your message.

But even then, you can’t guarantee they’re going to read it, right? The only answer to that problem — in email, on Facebook or anywhere else — is to continually one-up your own content. You have to push to make every element you push better than the last. You have to create a thirst in your audience that is unquenchable without opening that next newsletter, reading that next Tweet or viewing that next video.

What this means is that marketing success in today’s consumer attention-deficit environment is ultimately self-destructive. You will eventually implode from the pressure of getting continually better. But at least we can approach our content knowing the cost of making it successful.

What Say You?

What do you think? Do you notice dependable content resources floating by in your stream that you unintentionally ignore these days? How can we be a signal to our already opt-in audience with our messages when their streams are overloaded with noise? Is managing frequency up or down the answer? Is it about making better content?

The comments, as always, are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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  • Parissa Behnia

    Interesting read… Truth be told, inasmuch as I (from a distance) believe Chris Brogan to be a nice person, I tuned him out many moons ago. When fame grows, one is compelled to “feed the beast” (as it were) and to keep selling the thing that made one famous. I got tired of uncovering the content from whatever thing he was promoting. I have had the same experience with other luminaries whom I used to follow religiously but now just sigh when more than half of the posts are about the book just published or the one about to be published.

    Nevertheless, it is a conundrum because he does have bills to pay, a family to support, etc. He clearly works hard and has a passion for what he does. My preference would be to push less and share more.

  • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

    The online world is a noisy place and it’s getting even harder to get noticed and maintain people’s attention. In a lot of ways, this goes along with Mark Schaefer’s content shock theory. While I don’t think the need and value of content will go away, it is definitely harder to stand out from the noise. We only have so much time and people can’t consume everything that’s out there. I know I struggle with this – there are plenty of quality blogs that I just don’t have time to read.

    I think that’s why audiences will begin to get smaller, not bigger. Focus on getting the RIGHT people and maintain their attention instead of working to attract everyone. I suppose that’s always been the case, but it seems more imperative now than ever.

    It also makes me wonder if less is more. Focus on quality over quantity. If your stuff is so good (whether it’s email or social media) that people don’t want to miss it, that might trump frequency in the news feed or in the inbox.

    Interesting stuff to ponder, for sure.

    • Steve Woodruff

      What Laura just said. Now I don’t need to write it! :>}

      • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

        Hey – thanks, Steve! :)

  • http://rhogroupee.com/ Rosemary ONeill

    My initial reaction was, “Holy Frijoles Batman!” If Chris Brogan’s message isn’t getting through, where’s the hope for the rest of us? Upon reflection, though, I wonder if part of the problem is that, because Chris is so well known that lots of beginners who are simply told “you should follow Chris Brogan” do so without really taking the time to really connect. They just ticked off the box that says “OK, I followed Brogan…” now I need to update my Twitter bio…. I think there are a lot of “followers” who aren’t paying any attention to the things they’re “following.”

  • https://twitter.com/#!/atrumb Angela Trumbaturi

    “You can’t guarantee they’re going to read it, right?” Right. I see it as the same challenge across all marketing, it’s just a given part of the game. And that’s ok. Over the last 4 months or so we’ve been confronting the frequency issue head on by trying a variety of frequencies and the current sweet spot varies from client to client. Again, that’s ok. The key to staying on top of it is frequent evaluation, checking the metrics and adjusting (or not) from there with the mindset it’ll always be evolving. I think it’s important to note that paid support also make a drastic difference (duh, right?) and an important factor that when planning the scheduling of “organic” posts. I see a decent amount of folks overlooking that paid factor when they implement it, forgetting that their audiences might be deluged by their content. Or at least I hope they’re overlooking it and not planning on their audiences seeing THAT much content.

  • http://www.businessesgrow.com/ Mark W. Schaefer

    This is a bit of a conundrum. One explanation is that the more you talk about yourself, the fewer people will tune in … so the solution is NOT talking about yourself even more.

    I love and respect Chris but his blog has become a bit of an infomercial so I read it much less than I used to. Speaking only for myself, that would be the reason I am unaware of really important developments because they are getting crowded out by the less important ones.

    Super post Jason.

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  • http://www.annbevans.com/ Ann Bevans

    Interesting problem, Jason. Being increasingly more awesome ad infinitum just doesn’t seem possible. As you say, ultimately one would implode under the weight of it. What if, instead, I focused on being more authentic? Or on telling a better story? Or on NOT talking about the same thing all the time (i.e. variety)? I think there are other ways to keep things fresh besides being more present. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  • http://www.andyandtrout.com/ David Murray

    It all comes down to intent. Does one talk about themselves because the stings of vanity tug at you, or are you positioning your self talk from a value/helping proposition?. I feel Chris’ aim is door number two. We should also consider that the majority of us in the “social media professional circle” are not his intended audience. I recently stopped following Chris on Instagram because I don’t need to see pictures of himself before, during, or after every work out. Doesn’t mean he’s doing it wrong. His content is for an audience I am not a part of. Value and relevancy.

  • Kimbe MacMaster

    I definitely felt some severe anxiety as I neared the end of your post, learning that I ‘just’ need to create better content every single time I produce. *Phew* glad that would also lead others to self-destruct.

    As a consumer of content, I can certainly say that the majority of what I have been consuming is sought out. I hadn’t really given this much thought until you posed the question, Jason. I did recently unsubscribed from the majority of my email subscriptions (as they just seemed to pile up in my inbox and I never got to them, or if I did, the content almost felt stale); I never look at my Twitter feed but instead search for topics or hashtags; and I have a couple of go-to sites for great content (yours being one of them). The only way I discover new content is through search – which leads me to believe that ‘optimizing’ content is becoming more and more important as consumers search through the clutter for content they know they’ll appreciate.

    I will point out, while it’s a big frustration for marketers, the one platform where I don’t search but do find valuable content is Facebook – and that’s because it’s tailored to my every engagement.

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