American Marketer


Brands and consumers cannot be friends

September 24, 2014

Matt Rosenberg is senior vice president of marketing at 140 Proof Matt Rosenberg is senior vice president of marketing at 140 Proof


By Matt Rosenberg

“She is like you, though less likely to like you.” – Jonathan Heck

Facebook and Twitter are more than social networks – they are mobile companies.

Look no further than last quarter’s earnings for proof: 62 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue came from mobile, with more than one billion monthly active users on tablets and phones. Over at Twitter, monthly mobile users clocked in at 211 million, up 29 percent. And they are not slowing down anytime soon.

It is fair to say, then, that mobile and social are inextricably linked. It is easy to scroll through tweets to browse the day’s news and even easier to “like” a friend’s status with just a tap. But that is exactly who these actions should be reserved for – actual friends.

Brands measured their self-worth based on popularity and the size of their social circle, but they were not fooling anyone. We knew that they cared about themselves more than us. And when we broke up with them, they did not even notice because they were too busy chasing the next best thing.

It may seem clichéd, but brand marketers would do well to abide by the dating advice they were given years ago: do not just talk, listen and ask for their opinion. Reward their attention with your attention. Wait a while between contacts, especially in the early stages. Make them feel like the most important person in the room. Let them know you are thinking about them, but do not be creepy.

It is about quality, not quantity. Fewer followers that actually want to hear from you are better than massive numbers you regularly annoy.

You can fire your newsroom, you can dismiss your 30-person social staff – but keep one or two. You do not need to banter on Twitter with other brands. You do not need to comment on every cultural moment – that is not what anyone looks to you for.

We want customer service and product information, and we want it when we want it, not when you feel like giving it to us. With every earned impression, you try our patience, like some dude we dated once who calls three times a day until we change our number.

Hate to break it to you – it is not them, it is you. They disconnected when they felt you over-communicated, when you bored them, and when the basis for the connection was very superficial (see: a contest requirement that entrants like or follow the brand).

And, yes, that sucking sound you hear is three years of your social strategy going out the window.

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Brands strive to collect followers, not the other way around.

We manage out that which intrudes on our lives – even brands whose products we actually do like.

Relationships simply cannot be bought, and one-sided relationships cannot be maintained.

A recent study from the IPG Media Lab asked people whether they had un-followed or un-liked a band they had previously liked. Yes, indeed, to the tune of 61 percent, with 69 percent of the younger 18-34 group severing ties.

THIS IS NOT all bad.

Remember the old saw, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”

Brands can get a lot more out of using social channels when they remember that they are brands and act accordingly.

In other words: stick to the customer service support and leave the relationships to real people.

Matt Rosenberg is senior vice president of marketing at 140 Proof, a New York-based mobile ad solution provider powered by social data from multiple platforms. Reach him at