Can Brands Really Be Friends With Customers on Social Media?

Can Brands Really Be Friends With Customers on Social Media?

TLDR: Brands and customers can’t really be “friends” on social media. Do you think that’s true? That can make the people on the receiving end of social-media marketing feel snared in corporate traps.” He goes on to summarize his argument that brands can’t be friends with customers on social media: “Social media has made it easier than ever for companies to connect with people. Isn’t that the point, though? When the surprise wanes, that feels a lot less delightful.” I’ve long felt that “surprise and delight” tactics have been vastly overblown. The majority of brands purely do them to drum up the hype machine, which ironically, is exactly what happened in this Atlantic story. To me, these tactics feel forced and out of character–especially for brands like Comcast. Yet, here they are on social media sending some Atlantic author pizzas because he sent a random tweet talking about it. For example, sending some guy with 50,000 Twitter followers a Kit-Kat box for him to propose to his wife doesn’t feel very “on brand” or authentic (see Atlantic article). Can brands and customers really be friends on social media?

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Last week, I ran across this interesting article in the Atlantic. TLDR: Brands and customers can’t really be “friends” on social media.

Do you think that’s true?

This particular author told stories of a number of specific examples he’s been involved with, or heard of, in the last year. Randomly, his personal anecdote was a story in which he tweeted about wanting pizzas from Comcast, and a few days later they showed up at his door.

He talked about how brands do this kind of thing to, essentially, manipulate people into feeling guilty, hoping they’ll return the favor: “…it’s human nature to feel obligated when someone—even a company—does something for you. That can make the people on the receiving end of social-media marketing feel snared in corporate traps.”

He goes on to summarize his argument that brands can’t be friends with customers on social media: “Social media has made it easier than ever for companies to connect with people. These new, personal bonds between companies and customers feel uncanny—the brands are not real human friends, exactly, but neither are they faceless corporations anymore. Isn’t that the point, though? Branding’s purpose is to get under your skin, to make you remember an otherwise forgettable company…

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