Yep, I've been asking this question for a while and some recent posts/Twitter conversations stirred it up again for me. Do we really want to be friends with a brand?
Without a doubt, there are brands that we maintain more of a relationship then we do with others, but in most cases, here's what I think we want from brands:
That they deliver. Tell me you're going to do something, I expect you to do it.
That they listen when I have a problem. I don't want you to listen to me 24/7, but when I have a problem and reach out, I expect to hear from you within a reasonable amount of time. Reasonable depends, of course, on what my issue is, I don't actually think brands need to respond in real time to every comment someone makes. As a side note, I had some serious issues with United airlines a few weeks back and I'm still waiting to hear from their Twitter team.
That they give me deals. My guess is that a vast majority of people who follow brands on Twitter or like them on FB do so mainly to get deals.
As I said some time ago, SM in business isn't really about friendship, it's about business. We wrap SM up in the language of friendship, but more often then not, it's about generating business. If you're following more then a few hundred people, do you really have a relationship with them? Or are these new tools just another distribution channel to get our information out? Look at how many companies still use Twitter or FB as a one-way communication tool, not And BTW, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It's OK to conduct business, that's what businesses do.
But, if you're going to talk about relationships, then you need to talk about how relationships really get made. We need to really define what business friendship means. Autoresponders don't work in relationship. Hiring someone else to speak for you doesn't work in a relationship (except for Cyrano de Bergerac and that worked for the wrong person!). And honestly, you can't be friends with millions of people.
So, maybe it's time to put this entire social discussion to bed. There are lots of great companies, big and small, that people love and admire. And people liked them long before we had this whole social thing going on. They made great products. They delivered on their promises. They took care of me when I had a problem. They rewarded me for my loyalty. Companies doing that aren't social companies. They're smart companies.