Relationships – The Biggest Lie In Social Media

In 2009, I wrote a blog post titled, “The Biggest Lie In Social Media.” The post focused on the industries love affair with talking about social media as something that shouldn’t be measured, because social media isn’t about the numbers. Fast forward 3 years and we can see, it’s indeed all about the numbers. In 2009, it was about the numbers. In 2010, it was about the numbers. In 2011, it was about the numbers. And today, it’s about the numbers.

Though we’ve advanced 3 years, would-be experts are still touting misleading information. I could spend a whole post, just on that, but I want to really focus on one thing: RELATIONSHIPS. Read a social media book or blog, listen to a keynote on social, meet with a social media agency and you’ll find them talking about how social media is about relationships. They’ll say, with social media, you can have a relationship with your consumers and your consumers can have a relationship with you. Sounds good. Heck, it sounds great. This concept has allowed for an entire new set of companies to be created, focusing on social CRM. These companies offer you the ability to create and enhance relationships with your consumer/customers…at scale. Wow. Pretty awesome, eh?

Let’s look at that word…relationship…for just a second. There are good relationships. There are bad relationships. Let’s assume for a second, that when the industry talks about creating a relationship, they mean creating a good relationship between your company and your consumers. For a second, let’s simplify and talk about the relationship between 2 people, because we always here how brands need to become more human to connect with consumers. Ok, so what makes for a good relationship between 2 people? Well, ask Google, and there are no shortage of helpful pieces of advice. I read through several of these links, at length; the one link that made the most sense to me was this one from WikiHow. They offer 7 steps to a healthy relationship.

  1. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
  2. Devote time to each other.
  3. Develop better communication.
  4. Be realistic.
  5. Admit your mistakes.
  6. Practice forgiveness.
  7. Support each other.

Not bad, right? Seems simple. It’s clear cut. Let’s for a second, go with this model for creating  good relationship and apply it to the relationship between your company and your consumers.

Before you read any further, do you see the problem?

YOUR CUSTOMERS DON’T WANT A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU

Let me say that again, without the caps: your customer don’t want a relationship with you. Before, you jump right to the bottom of this post and leave me a comment telling me about this one time that X customer did Y with Z company, let me say: yes, there are some verticals, some companies and some customers that do want a good relationship. Yes, there have been cases, situations and examples of this that we can link to and reference. But, those are the exceptions. Let me also say, in many cases, a customer may want a relationship with your company, but they don’t want it thru or on social media.

It is the single biggest lie being purported right now. The idea, that social media is the place where you can have a relationship with your customers. If we go back to our simplified version of relationships  the one between two people…well, social media is being referenced as a key reason for divorce in over 20% of divorce filings. The very assumption that consumers want a relationship…in social media…is the problem. How do we know this? Well, we can look at raw data from research and it’s not pretty.

Why people use social media to post about companies

and

What complaining consumers want from brands, when commenting on social media

Does that seem like a good relationship? If we again revert to our simplified version of a relationship between 2 people, would you maintain a “relationship” with someone who publicly complains about you and expects to receive financial compensation because they publicly took you task? Of course not. It’s a bad relationship. Oh, and I didn’t cherry pick. There’s a significant amount of research focused on what people want from companies in social media…and it boils down to the same thing.

But, do we really need research when we have the ability to go to twitter and Facebook, to view the comments from consumers to brands. Here’s just one example of how consumers interact with 1 brand in social. This works though if you use the “F” word and any brand name on twitter. When you see commentary like that, is it any wonder, that according to Social Bakers, only 30% of consumers receive a response from a brand on Facebook?

Can you create relationships in social media? Absolutely, it happens all the time. Can those relationships be long lasting? Definitely. Not only does it happen all the time, but I’ve personally been in situations where what a company does in social enhances by relationship with them. But, just because it can happen, doesn’t make it the norm. And unfortunately, as much as companies want to build a relationship with companies, the reality is most consumer don’t want a relationship with you…on social media.

  • Micah Brafford

    Adam, I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now. Love your insights and I think you’re spot on.

    I work for a regional bank who outsources a lot of our marketing/advertising to a local agency. They have been trying to push social media as a “relationship channel”. We have always countered that “we would be building a platform to aggregate our customer complaints.” Few customers want to rave about their bank. Most customer, who engage your brand through social media, are looking to vent frustrations or looking for financial compensation. Love these posts…. keep the coming. Micah 

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com/ adamkmiec

    What makes things challenging is the word “relationship.” Do customers want to connect with you, especially if they have a problem? Yes, most definitely. Do they want to share their account info on twitter so you can help them? Probably not. That means the relationship will always be at arms length.


    Adam

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Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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