Social Screw-Up: Why Prospects & Customers Unlike, Unfollow, and Unsubscribe

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Is your health club’s social and email strategy driving sales prospects away? If you’re noticing an uptick in unfollows and unsubscribes, this troubleshooting guide will help you identify and fix common problems that turn off potential members and clients.

1. Not enough quiet time

One email newsletter I get from a fitness business features the owner, who is always “on.” She has a dynamic, inspiring personality. In person, I’m sure she’s a life-changing force for good. And for the first few emails, her constantly positive, high-energy “believe you can achieve” message was kind of inspiring. After that, it started to sound like a late night TV commercial.

What you can do

There’s a natural rhythm to communication, an ebb and flow. Pay attention to your last post and tone down the next one. Gather up some low-priority updates, some feel-good stories about customers’ small victories, or other lower-impact news, and ease it into the information flow every so often. Readers will be more likely to see you as a “real person” and less likely to ignore your emails and posts as “just more noise.”

2. I like you… but I don’t love you

Asking people to Like a Facebook post just to get the likes can backfire. It’s not uncommon for folks to Like something just to let their friends know they agree with the post, enjoy using the product, or frequent the business in question. However, if the thread results in a lot of traffic, many followers will then unlike the post, unfollow the poster, or in rare cases, report the post as “annoying” or spam.

What you can do

Excessive posting accounts for about half of all Unlikes. To avoid “noisy” threads:

  • Don’t create or share posts JUST to generate traffic.
  • Don’t post material that will generate lots of noise. This can be anything from controversial topics to “nobody is ever going to have the right answer” types of debates about product or program features.
  • Make sure that what you share and post will generate the kind of traffic you want: discussion about features and benefits, requests for more information, or requests for a phone call, email or private message follow up.

3. Too much information at once

This can take on multiple forms. One variety is the “data dump” email or social post. The Data Dump consists of long paragraphs of uninterrupted content that are information-dense. You have to actually stop and read them, maybe even hold your finger to the screen so you don’t lose your place.

The second variety is more common to social media. It consists of replies to replies to replies. Unlike the noisy posts above, each new posts actually DOES add information. But even if it’s clarification, after a while, it’s just too much, and people lose track of what you were trying to say.

What you can do

Use links to your blog, website, or external content to keep your emails and social posts short. Break up content with pictures, use headings if relevant, and summarize points. If you’re posting on a Facebook page or group you control, don’t be shy about reining in a conversation that’s starting to alienate folks.

4. Too many updates

In a 2011 study of social media disengagement entitled “The Social Break-Up“, conducted by online marketing firm ExactTarget, 54% of respondents said they received email newsletters too frequently, and 49% said they unsubscribed “just to get off so many lists.” That was several years ago, and the same trend exists today.

While your email newsletter is going to be one of those in your customer’s inbox, your job is to make sure it’s not one of those they want to delete.

What you can do

First, make sure everything you say counts. Realistically, you have about 10-20 seconds of your reader’s attention. What’s the first (or only) thing you want to be absolutely certain they read? Put that in your subject line, your summary, and at the top of your content. It may be your newsletter’s only chance at getting read.

Spread your updates across multiple media channels. Frequent updates work better on social media; weekly or monthly roll-ups of news work better on email.

Also, unless the information in your email newsletter is time critical, consider dialing back your weekly email update to once every two weeks. If you’re posting every day on Facebook, consider dropping back to a couple times a week, or even less.

5. Too political

This doesn’t necessarily mean long screeds about Obamacare. It’s political if it’s likely that there are two or more sides with deeply entrenched positions who aren’t going to budge no matter what.

I recently found myself in a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of a low carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. Posters on the thread fell into two camps: one camp consisted of strength trainers, weightlifters, and cross-training types who felt it was the cat’s pajamas. The other camp were mostly ultra-endurance athletes who subsisted primarily on runner’s gels.

At first I found the discussion lively and invigorating. I learned a lot about the viewpoints of both sides. Then very quickly, I got tired of the fact that nobody on either side acknowledged anything the others had said.

Now people will argue about anything; you can’t stop that. But grabbing a third rail, unless your business IS ALL ABOUT that third rail, is sales and marketing suicide.

What you can do

Before you post, consider the balance of fact and opinion. Is it possible that someone in your readership may strongly disagree? If so, ask yourself how important it is to make this point. If it’s essential to your weight loss program that clients avoid all added sugars, hop up on your soapbox. But if it’s not that important, why risk alienating potential clients?

For less-fundamental points, take a more information-centric approach. Instead of saying that the benefits of a paleo diet are obvious, cite the sources that say they are, and let customers decide if they believe you. That way you deflect the lightning away from your business, which is strictly reporting on the data.

5. Same ol’ same ol’

Customers can tell when you’re talking at them, not with them.

In the ExactTarget study, about half of the respondents who stopped following a company on Twitter said that the material was “too repetitive” or “just more marketing.”

Moreover, the same study said that many found emails “repetitive or boring.”

What you can do

If you tweet about something:

  • Make sure it’s a conversation starter, not stopper. In other words, slightly edgy and attention-getting but not unnecessarily controversial.
  • Get right to the point.
  • Talk, don’t pitch. Tweet about new trends in healthy eating, not Diet Program X.
  • Remember that you have a limited number of characters in which to generate interest.
  • Make sure your tweet contains a short link (such as an,, or tinyurl link) for more information.

6. It’s junk!

A surefire clue: your open, click, and re-post rates drop.

What you can do

One of your biggest assets is your personality. Use a “real person” tone of voice in your social and email communications. Sounding “corporate” is vastly overrated!

Avoid making unsubstantiated claims about the success of your products or services, and steer clear of over-hyped guarantees or promises.