The Perils of Site Fatigue

Don't ask me to follow or Like your company on social media if it won't add value to my day. I am struggling already with site fatigue, and I can't add another unwarranted detour to my already tedious trip on the information superhighway.

I'll define “site fatigue” for those who may not have heard the term before. (You've probably experienced it.) But let me first explain how it can be contracted and who is behind it.

Each week, I visit hundreds of corporate, government, and individual Websites. I read news, dig up press releases, search for information, digest financial analysis, and even indulge in a few minutes of entertainment on sites like YouTube and Yahoo. To top it off, I receive a deluge of requests to Like companies on Facebook, follow tweets on Twitter, or be LinkedIn with others. Then there's Foursquare, Google+, Habbo, MyLife (formerly, MySpace, Plaxo, Renren, StumbleUpon, and XING. (Click here for a more complete list of social networking Websites.)

Stop. My brain is clogged. Like many other professionals who have to wade through this thicket of invitations in addition to other sites, I am typically dizzy by the end of each day, and I am happy to get away from my computer, smartphone, or tablet. I didn't know what to call the ailment until a colleague, Barbara Jorgensen, explained during a meeting that many of the people in the electronics purchasing community are suffering from site fatigue and would welcome only those additional offerings that help them sort through the clutter. They need functional sites that narrow the digital landscape they must survey. In other words, less is more.

They are tired of digging up pricing information for certain components on countless sites and then lumbering to another set of sites for news and data on market conditions, suppliers' financial health, product availability, economic forecasts, etc. They visit supplier sites for technical information, the Securities and Exchange Commission site for regulatory filings, parts distributor sites for end-of-life and lead time information, and manufacturer home pages to glean whatever they can about product roadmaps, other strategic initiatives, and management changes that can impact their operations. Then, as if this journey through the Internet wilderness weren't mind numbing enough, they get requests from some of these same companies to “visit us on Facebook.”

Are you kidding me? Some of these requests simply don't make sense. They eat up time I could be using more productively. I wonder if these companies realize how they are contributing to the mindless chatter that's clogging up our inboxes. Please don't ask me to Like your company on Facebook if there's no particular hook or reason for me to do so. Don't ask me to follow your tweets if they aren't worth following. Don't ask me to tag or recommend you if I can't justify the investment of my time.

In case that wasn't clear enough, let me get some more off my chest: I am tired of being asked to like companies I don't care to like, to follow firms with no compelling stories, to link with businesses that haven't convinced me we have anything in common, and to “pin” products or individuals with whom I share no interests.

And I am not alone. Site fatigue is becoming an endemic disease among workers worldwide. We like social media, but it must be properly used. Right now, that doesn't appear to be the case at many companies. If your company has a Website that I can reference, what exactly do you want me to do on your Facebook page? Are you sending me to this site simply because everybody else is there, or do you have something there that would make it easier for me to get the information I need?

OK, I know this may sound like the ranting of an overworked editor, but answering these questions can help businesses make better and more productive use of resources and avoid alienating suppliers, customers, and end users. The indiscriminate use of social media is driving a large portion of your audience crazy, and some are simply ignoring your requests because you haven't given them any justifiable reason to respond.

As I was writing this blog, I decided to conduct a simple test. I had never seen a “Like us on Facebook” request from {complink 379|Apple Inc.}, and I was wondering if the company even has a Facebook page. I checked. There's no page. What about the competition? All of Apple's rivals have dedicated Facebook pages, including BlackBerry, Dell, Ericsson, HP, HTC, Lenovo, Nokia, and Samsung. Component suppliers are on Facebook, too, including AMD, Freescale, Intel, and Qualcomm.

The typical message on these pages resembles this one from Ericsson's page: “Ericsson is on Facebook. To connect with Ericsson, sign up for Facebook today.” Why, I asked myself. Does Ericsson know something Apple doesn't? Has it leveraged Facebook in ways the folks over at Apple just don't get? Why would I want to connect with Ericsson on Facebook? Do I really need that intermediary between us? What exactly does Facebook offer me about Ericsson that the company doesn't offer now on its Website?

And why should I worsen my site fatigue by adding all these social media sites separately for the dozens of companies I follow?

I am not a social media Grinch. I will follow your company if you can justify the investment of my time.

21 comments on “The Perils of Site Fatigue

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 15, 2012

    Bolaji–First, thanks for the credit re: “site fatigue.” Every once in awhile, the old brain fires on all circuits. 🙂

    I have an additional thought on why social media resounds with some but not for others, and I think it depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I had this conversation during EDS. An engineer is facing a problem he/she can't solve, so he/she sends out a tweet for help. He/she gets 50 responses. Sounds good, right? I don't think so. He/she still has to cull through those 50 responses to find what he/she needs. There is no easy filter to narrow them down. I know hashmarks are supposed to do this, but even those are becoming overwhelming. You might as well Google your problem, you might have better luck.

    I think for the purchasing audience, the same rule applies. You send out a search for a part. You get 50 responses. Maybe 50 is good–you have lots to choose from. But do you really comparison shop on 50 sites? Are you going to save much money when the part you are looking for costs less than a cent? You need a filter. You need help selecting the part, not more links to more sites.

    I think there is opportunity here for anyone who is willing to be a filter. Not just a random filter: an educated, balanced filter. Ask your audience: What are you trying to accomplish? Then help them do it.



  2. bolaji ojo
    May 15, 2012

    Barbara, I couldn't have put it better. The market is filled with information — if you can find it at the right time, right price and right when you need it. All of these “rights” make my head swim. The 6 billion web sites clamoring for my attention are unwieldy enough then I have to swim through advice, comments, etc., from friends, colleagues, family and their parakeet. Or are they really trying to help narrow down the answer?

  3. TimKarr2000
    May 15, 2012

    Bolaji:  In my experience, there is another issue with these social media sites – you sign up and get inundated with everyone who has ever posted a message regarding a certain topic.  In my case, I had 37 such instances in one day – and that was me just JOINING the group and not posting anything.  The next task was to un-join this group of people who seemed to be spending more time posting to this site instead of doing their “day jobs”.  I could not find a way to un-join, so I ended up deleting this particular e-mail address.  Then I breathed a sigh of relief.  I didn't want to feel obligated to spend a few hours each day wading through their rantings and ravings.  Sometimes these people would get vicious and start attacking a person for having a differing opinion.  DUH!  Isn't that why you joined this group – to get others opinions??

    The other issue I encountered on several occasions was finding a product or service where I was interesting in learning more.  I clicked the “More Information” hyperlink, and was taken to FaceBook where in order to learn more, I first had to “like” them.  I didn't like them THAT much, so I just closed my browser window.  By liking them, they would be linked to my faceBook page, and if I am going “advertise” their products or services on my home page, I should be compensated.  Is that so wrong??

    I think I'll just go back to guzzling beer and playing with my muscle car, thank you very much!


  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 15, 2012

    @TimKarr: How's the cat-hating going? 🙂 You make a really good point that social media is no longer about connecting with a select group of people that you trust. It's about connecting with EVERYONE. And while that has a place in our lives, I'm not sure that place also includes work. That's why I tend to segment my activities to LinkedIn (business) and Facebook (friends and family). Plus, “unfriending” sounds cruel, don't you think?

  5. bolaji ojo
    May 15, 2012

    TimKarr2000, Sorry, I beat you to it. I already went back to beer and my muscle car.:)

  6. SunitaT
    May 16, 2012

    Do I really need that intermediary between us? What exactly does Facebook offer me about Ericsson that the company doesn't offer now on its Website?

    @Bolaji, that is a very good questions. I am sure Ericsson will not be able to answer your question because many companies are just blindly adopting the the social media because social media is a fad these days.

  7. mfbertozzi
    May 16, 2012

    Gents, in principle I could agree with you, but it seems that, according to recent studies from Neuroscience Labs at Harvard, socials hold a magnetic power for humans and believe it or not humans are absolutely attracted by. It looks like an unconscious behaviour.

  8. Daniel
    May 16, 2012

    Bolaji, you are right. Information's are available in and around all of us; the only thing is we have to select the right one. While searching, we can see info's that are relevant, non relevant, misleading etc; it's all about how we choose the right one by putting different filtration.

  9. elctrnx_lyf
    May 16, 2012

    I think it is very important for both companies to understand who are their customers. Genearlly if their customers are some enterprises there is no meaning to actually have a face book page. But probably companies who actually touch lives of people everyday through their equipments could have a face book page. But again it is left to individuals interest.

  10. TimKarr2000
    May 16, 2012

    Barbara:  Ok, you got me; I'm not really a cat-hater.  I am more of a dog person instead, but I do have a really cool hypo-allergenic Devon Rex cat 'cause I am highly allergic to cats.  He looks a bit odd, but this breed acts more like a dog than a cat which is pretty cool.  It's an interesting combo.

    As for “unfriending” people is not necessarily “cruel” as you put it.  I am sure that there are hard-core FaceBook people who will get offended if you unfriend them (get over it!), but this brings up another interesting point.  With the advent of e-mail and social networking sites, the human element has become quite removed.  Our Engineering Department is about 50 feet away from the QC Lab where I work, and instead of working face-to-face, we will engage in a series of e-mails over the course on an hour for an issue that could be resolved in a few minutes face-to-face.  Every now and then, it is nice to actually walk over to someone to say “Hi” and collaborate in person, which I typically do.  I think I catch people off guard when I do.

    Like you, though, I used LinkedIn for business (I'll have to look you up) and FaceBook for friends and family.  It sounds like we are more alike than we both originally thought.  How about a nice, cold Miller Lite?  Bolaji:  would you like to join us?  If you show me your muscle car, I'll show you my white 2004 Ford Lightning SVT with only 14,500 original miles and a kick-ass stereo system.

  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 16, 2012

    @mfb: I've been thinking about that, and the conclusion I come up with is people are addicted to themselves. How did Twitter catch on?  People reporting every move they make and thought they have and sadly, most thoughts CAN be summarized in 140 characters or less. Facebook is a popularity contest and he/she with the most friends wins. Anyway, I have no doubt there is good scientific evidence that socials draw people in, but I think a big part of it is feeding one's own ego.

  12. mfbertozzi
    May 16, 2012

    @Barbara: it's true, definitely; there's, as unconscious attitude, the interest in propagating products of our mind and it is nothing but the ego…hope to avoid that by leaving this post !

  13. bolaji ojo
    May 16, 2012

    Matteo, Yes, humans are social beings and like to surround themselves with people who share similar things. But even a social animal should not be suffocated with the things we like — everything in moderation, I guess.

  14. bolaji ojo
    May 16, 2012

    TimKarr2000, My muscle vehicle is still only in my imagination. Perhaps you can help me select the best. I do love the idea of having a muscle car though. It's fun, interesting and maybe a bit odd to be so passionate about something you don't have. But that's me. From my teenage years when I first saw a convertible Mercedes 450SEL (I believe that's what I saw though it's been so long now I can't be sure) I've longed to own one. I also have read or viewed some of the Ford muscle cars and know I would like to own one.

  15. mfbertozzi
    May 16, 2012

    Good point Bolaji, it brings to me webmasters' companies could put beside socials' icons a basic link for providing guidelines in “netiquette moderation”. Maybe it will be next frontier for socials.

  16. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 16, 2012

    TimKarr and Bolaji: see, you two have something in common, so you should create a group or better yet, build your own social networking site! I know there's a market out there for beer-guzzling, women-ogling, cat-hating, muscle-car loving snack food addicts (did I get that right? It's been so long since I slammed that particular demographic)

    May 17, 2012

    As a avid reader of your site, I was very happy to see this article and can't agree with you more. The inability of most sites to provide relevant information or offer any degree of useful interactivity can lead to a long and frustrated journey. However, after visiting I believe I may have found the light at the end of tunnel.

  18. TimKarr2000
    May 18, 2012

    Barbara:  strangely enough, the demographic that you “defined” is not a very small group.  In fact, you may have nailed a high percentage of the male population!  …but we love you anyway, and wear that demographic as a badge of honor.

    Bolaji:  Hang onto that dream!!  Some day, you might have good luck and find that dream car.  By the way, I define “good luck” as a situation where preparation meets opportunity – i.e. you are ready to buy a car and the right one just happens to be within your reach.  I hope your dream comes true as it has done for me … twice!  The first car was a blue 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible with a 400 engine, a white top, and 15″ Crager SS rims.  It was perfect … until I lost my job and couldn't make the payments any more.

    In any case, it sounds like the three of us would have a fun time hanging out together.  Come to New Jersey, and we will make it a party.

  19. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 18, 2012

    Excellent idea–I'll bring my cat and a bag of Cheetos! Also, (TimKarr you know this was coming) what exit?

  20. Mr. Roques
    May 18, 2012

    Maybe Apple knows something Nokia doesn't (or, for that matter, none of us know). It could relate to amount of visits to the website but they don't place ads, so that doesn't really matter.

    Maybe they hate Facebook and simply don't want to. 

    I think there's value to companies having twitter and facebook. My experience is that for simple questions and even reports, those channels work better than the others.

  21. TimKarr2000
    May 18, 2012

    Barbara:  Exit 4 off the New Jersey Turnpike, which lands you 4 miles from my home in Cherry Hill.  Yes, “what exit” is a very common question in NJ, and you will frequently find magnets with numbers on the back of people's cars to represent their favority exits.  There is no other information – just a number, and we all know what that is in reference to around here.  See you soon…? 

    BTW – my wife is a cat-loving, Cheeto-eating, wife-of-a-muscle-car-driving, … well, you get the idea!!

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