A report from the Chief Marketing Officer Council states that out of the 91% of consumers who opt-out or unsubscribe from email marketing, 46% are driven to brand defection because the messages simply are not relevant. Don't worry about those who unsubscribe? Perhaps you should be a bit concerned about those people who hit the unsubscribe button. They may be opting-in to your competition permanently.
A blog post from Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, provides additional interesting insight into the future if you read between the lines. Facebook originally created networks by region and school. While the community was small, this worked to achieve what people wanted. It connected those students who wanted a way to connect and communicate to others around them. Now that seemingly everyone is on Facebook, people do not necessarily want to share their information with their bosses, family, and advertisers. The connection of living in the same region is not necessarily relevant to all consumers.
What do these things have in common? Consumers exercising their voice to make real changes in new media. This is not a new concept, it is likely that consumers have been defecting due to irrelevant messages since the first time a cobbler hammered an advertisement on a lamp post. This puts some information in our hands that we need to use in communicating.
Traditional wisdom was to create a message and broadcast it to the largest number of people possible. It was known that not every person would react positively (make a purchase) to the communication, and only in the event of accidentally insulting people would that communication result in negative reactions. What this information shows is that a very large number of consumers may actually gain a preference for the competing brand if they feel your communications are irrelevant.
Putting it all together now. Facebook is an example that shows people want to communicate and belong to a community. They are willing to become "fans" of their favorite brands, join in discussion groups about products and services, but that does not mean they want to connect to everything. Consumers who actually opt-in to communications from a brand they use, then defect to a competitor because of irrelevant communications shows that what we say and do can have positive and negative effects. Even if the communication was simply an offer that was not relevant to that consumer.
What you say matters. A lot. It is not safe to assume that you can bombard people's inboxes, television sets, Facebook pages, Twitter streams, etc. with any message, as often as you want. People watching may not just unsubscribe or change the channel. You may be sending them right into the arms of your competition.
Every time you communicate with your customers, think carefully about what you want to say. Make an offer that people will appreciate. Be relevant.