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Tom Evans: Why Brands Are Not Your Friends

Tom Evans: Why Brands Are Not Your Friends
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Businesses are masquerading as peers in social feeds but their bottom line is still to sell.

Tom Evans
  • 21 april 2013

‘What are you up to this weekend?’ ‘Where’s your favorite place to hang out?’

Messages from your best friend? The start of conversation in a coffee shop? More likely, status updates from a brand that has decided you’re more than a customer: You’re their BFF.Combine the ever-increasing value of a brand’s social-media presence with the pressure to develop relationships with consumers and a desire for instant ‘engagement’ ROI, and brands often risk developing a delusional personality. Many rightly want to converse with you. They want you to feel something on a deeper level. But as they reach for this goal, too often the lines between friendship and valued acquaintance become blurred.

In the age of social-media marketing, brands have learned that personality and character are essential. Social media has enabled the creation of dialogue between brands and individuals, a huge evolution in marketing that holds massive potential value to the brand.

Long gone is the cold, corporate drone of organizations demanding your loyalty. However, it’s crucial to correctly understand the basis of the brand-consumer relationship. Simply embracing human vernacular doesn’t make you human, just like friendly statements don’t make you a friend.

For example: A bottle of juice can be really good for me. It can packaged in a way that appeals to me. The juice will no doubt do me good. The copy on the bottle can be chatty and friendly. But as much I appreciate these things, a bottle of juice is not my friend.

I can like it, I can even tell people I love it, but ultimately I have to buy its love, and when I’m done, I throw it in the recycling bin. The same is true of the juice’s social-media presence. A friend doesn’t invest in a relationship with the goal of selling you something. A friend doesn’t spend time and money researching your conversations and meticulously calculating how to make them more engaging.

Smart brands (and their agencies) understand the nuances of this relationship. A brand’s social media presence exists to serve the consumer, not act as a faux BFF. Service encompasses many dynamics of the relationship. The brand can (and should) deliver a tangible benefit to the consumer, but it can also provide a broader, more emotive range of services. A social platform can serve its followers by keeping them informed or giving them exclusive information. It can inspire or entertain.

What it shouldn’t do is offer meaningless, shallow engagement tactics. Entertain me with a relevant and clever St Patrick’s Day post, if it’s timely and relevant. Trying to inflate your stats with scheduled platitudes may result in a short-term bounce for the community manager, but what about the community?

Just as with real friendships, the most rewarding relationships are those with substance. Educate, surprise, humor, even shock—but always understand me. Endless niceties but no depth risks wasting of the power of social platforms.

Now, what are you doing tomorrow?

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