More thoughts on Brands and Social Networking

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I know the great Brands Vs Google+ war of 2011 has sort of cooled off so far, but there’s something about it that has been chewing at my brain. I wrote a little about it previously on Google+.

But when I wrote that I was thinking at it more from the connection standpoint. People go to social networks for connections, and an impersonal brand front is going to have trouble fitting in as well as a person from a brand that people can connect to. I still think that’s an important thing to consider, but I think there might be a little more to it now.

This is a half baked idea that came to me mid food poisoning coma (yes, this is what I think about when I’m on my death bed) so I’m fully aware it needs refinement. Hoping you all can chew it up and spit it back at me to try and make more sense of it.

So my thought is that when a new (social networking) site launches *people* join it to see what it has to offer for them. Is it fun? Can they hang out with their friends there? Is it better than other options out there? Does it offer something other sites don’t? Does it make them laugh? Does it help them stay in touch? Does it help them connect with other people? I’m sure there’s more to it, but that’s the general idea. People join to interact.

*Brands* join for a different reason. Not always of course, and there are always exceptions, but especially in a case where a brand is just republishing a feed from somewhere else the goal isn’t to connect with people. The goal isn’t to interact or have fun or relax with people. It’s to drive traffic somewhere else.

(I say this fully aware that I’ve run brands in the past that have done this very thing, and have friends who run brands who do this right now. So no offense intended.)

The difference is subtle, but it’s important I think.

People join the site to connect with other people on the site.

Brands join the site as a potential traffic source.

People want to contribute something to the site, brands want to take something from it.

Now I don’t think there is any brand out there who is all “Oh look at this new site! How much traffic can we swipe from it?!” but I do think lots of them are thinking “Oh look at this new site, people are going to be there so we should be there too” but there way of being there isn’t the same as other people – who are there connecting and loling, their way of being there is just dumping the same thing that is available on their site, on their twitter feed, on their facebook page, on their rss feed, on a hundred other places. Rarely do brands look at a new site and think “Oh look at this new site! I wonder what new and cool ways we’ll be able to interact with people using it?!”

Granted brands as a whole are getting better at this. Look at how many brands on twitter have actual living representatives you can interact with. But look at how many don’t. And this isn’t exclusive to brands – many celebrities and entertainers take the same approach – just aiming the firehose somewhere else.

But that misses the whole point of the site, the whole value that the site creators are trying to build, and the whole reason other real living people ar joining the site. Which is likely why both people and sites have a hard time accepting or processing brands in their worlds. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more social networking sites that have an outright ban on brands. I think that would be kind of refreshing.

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  1. I think it will never really work because we connect to a brand because of the product/service we use from it. The entire “brand as an entity” paradigm is just BS. Like you said I interact with humans on networks. If I want some support I don’t want to follow a brand and @ it, I want to go to their website and have the same real time interaction that I have with social networks. Out of them though.

    Comment by Harold — July 28, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

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