My sister emailed me this morning and asked why I follow brands on Facebook and/or Twitter. Here is my response:
I follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter for (any/all of) three reasons:
1) I have particular interests when I buy a product or invest time and energy company. I have certain expectations. I have certain needs. I have a particular challenge that I would like to see met. Once I have decided to take the plunge and buy a product, or invest some time and energy in looking at what a company is all about, Twitter and Facebook are a natural way to stay connected. I log on to look at what the company is talking about, curious if their promotion matches their values, hopeful that what I am spending my money on reflects my personal interests, or my interest isn’t misguided. I figure companies have an opportunity to use Twitter and Facebook to introduce ideas, explain positions, apologize for mistakes, promote products or services — and do so in ways that keeps my interest and pushes me to seek out additional information — and I want to see if they are actually doing that.
2) I want to learn new things, be introduced to people, get access to information that I wouldn’t find on my own, participate in experiences that I find valuable but might not make time for unless prompted. If I trust a brand, trust their judgment, think their people are smart, or even just hear from someone that a brand is trying something that is worth checking out, I look to Twitter and Facebook. I think its likely in today’s world that a company might offer something interesting or unique to me via Twitter and/or Facebook, as opposed to on their website or through their ads.
3) As someone who works to help organizations understand how people get and share information, the impact that technology and the internet are having on our society and our behavior — and what that means in terms of communicating, educating, engaging and mobilize audiences, I am curious to see who has an interesting approach to using Twitter and/or Facebook. I want to see who is helping the rest of us to see opportunity in a certain platform or channel, who is really changing the game or taking our communications/marketing/promotion/engagement/conversation/listening and similar efforts to the next level. Brands have a lot of money and interest invested in being able to reach people in new ways and compel them to act — whether its buying a product or supporting their cause. In theory they are going to be trying things that are different, that we can all learn from, and that actually work or might provide some guidance for what success could look like in the future.
Of course, few (if any) brands meet these criteria. I might follow a company, try to engage with a brand, or connect to an individual that is on the inside — but most of the time I am underwhelmed or disappointed. I unsubscribe. Quickly. I don’t follow brands much because they are aren’t adding any value to my world, they aren’t worth my time. I don’t follow brands because, despite the attention that they receive for their interest in these platforms, I don’t think they understand nor do they care about realizing the full potential that Twitter, Facebook, or technology and the internet generally might offer.
That may not be a part of their mission… they may just be in the business of selling stuff, or satisifed with measuring the number of followers on their list as a sign of success. But I am interested. I do expect more from the companies I follow. I am hopeful that we will continue to expand the uses of Twitter and Facebook beyond marketing and self-promotion. I see it all the time, from thinkers and doers and creatives and coders, from nonprofits and charities, the media, even government on occasion. I don’t see it very often from companies and brands. But hey, I keep following (and unfollowing) and will until I do find companies and brands that meet my critera.