Let’s be honest – almost all of us enjoy a good “Facebook cruise” at night. Or an Instagram cruise, or a Twitter cruise, and somewhere out there we’re sure there’s an individual spending their evenings on Google+. For better or for worse, social media has become a pervasive and, to a certain degree, organic part of our lives. That’s not entirely a bad thing. Social media allows us to keep up-to-date with current events, see differing viewpoints and, perhaps most importantly, keep in contact with a diaspora of friends and family. Of course, social media also comes with a series of drawbacks, many of which we’ve talked about at length on Postconsumers. But, surprisingly, we realized when we were making our annual content calendar that we hadn’t necessarily given the “Basics 101” version of running through how much consumer media you are exposed to on social media channels. We don’t like holes in our content strategy, so today we’ll be tackling that topic.

All Consumer Media Exposure is Exponential to the Number of Social Channels

That was a very erudite sounding headline, wasn’t it? But what we’re trying to convey is that the amount of exposure that you’ll have to consumer media via social channels is generally related to how much time you spend on how many social channels. If your social network activity is just thirty minutes a day checking in on Facebook, then your exposure is relatively limited. If you spend six to eight hours per day cruising between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the latest hot social network, then you are bombarded with consumer media. And if you are spending that much time on social media per day, we would likely gently suggest considering a media diet!

Your Control Over Social Media Consumer Marketing Is Somewhat Limited

The other thing to keep in mind is that there is a limited amount that you can do to control the amount of consumer media messaging on social media. There’s no real way to turn off ads, and as you’ll see below many of the consumer messages you’ll see actually come from sources that you would consider benign.  But one big step that you can take is to not “like” or “follow” or “friend” brands on social media outlets. Once you do that, your feeds and pages will be full of posts from those brands doing nothing but sending your consumer messages.

On the flip side, take a moment to like Postconsumers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and enjoy topical and entertaining information on overcoming the consumer machine in your feed!

Consumer Messaging in the Form of Ads. We’re Starting with the Obvious.

The most obvious way that you’re exposed to consumer media messaging in social media is through ads. It’s not the only way though, as you’re about to see. And it’s not even the most targeted or effective way! But it may be the most pervasive way since most social networks make the bulk of their revenue from advertising. And the ads that you see are *very* targeted to you using one of two methods.

Big Data That You Shared: There’s a lot about your demographic and likely consumer behavior that an advertiser can tell just by the data that you share on your social networks. Did you follow a lot of teen celebrities on Twitter? Then expect to see ads for products those celebrities use. Did you mention you were pregnant in a Facebook status update? Prepare for diaper ads everywhere. What are your connections on the social media platform liking, following and talking about? All of these things lead into a profile of what ads are “best” for you.

Websites That You Visited: The latest way to optimize online advertising is with a tool called retargeting. Retargeting uses a cookie to identify not only which websites you’ve visited but also which products or pages you may have looked at. Then, those cookies are used to determine what ads you’ll see when you visit your social media outlets. In fact, you’ll likely begin to see ads for the very products you looked at on other pages. Marketers know that the more times that you are exposed to something that you were considering purchasing, the more likely you are to actually purchase it. That’s why retargeting is so effective.

Treat Brands That You Follow Like You Would Marketing Emails

As we mentioned above, direct feed advertisements from brands is the easiest (and possibly only) method of consumer media marketing that you can effectively avoid on social media. We often (always) tell you to unsubscribe from all of your marketing emails or newsletters so that you’re not a sitting duck for marketing messages. Do the same with brands on social media. Unfollow them immediately to reduce exposure!

But the Biggest Threat is Your Own Friends

But the biggest exposure to consumer media on social media channels is one you likely can’t control – unless the majority of your social media contacts are all dedicated postconsumers. Take a moment to scroll through your feed. How many times are your friends and contacts talking about or liking a brand or product? How many photos of them involved clothing or other items that they’re “displaying” or “showing off” in the photo and that you might be interested in? Many brands have done an exceptional job of “engaging” users on social media to ultimately be their own brand advocates. And you cannot avoid these.  More importantly, it’s the type of consumer exposure that you often don’t even realize that you’re experiencing when you experience it. That’s where the true danger lies.

How do you combat this? You simply have to remain alert and diligent. But we would say that about consumer media in general!

Social media networks, like anything else, come with good and bad facets. But they are certainly a channel that marketers and brands use to communicate with you in ways that influence your relationship with “stuff” and consumerism. Be sure to have your “consumer filter” goggles on at all times!

Did we miss a way in which social media is exposing you to dangerous addictive consumerism? If so, tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: Mark Smiciklas via Flickr