Why Do People Follow Brands?


On the surface it seems strange to follow a business on a social network.  Social networks encourage one-to-one communications and engagement.  They are personal.  How is it remotely possible to connect “personally” with a brand online?

Brands are like pied pipers to our souls. Or not.

It isn’t – at least in the aggregate.

But the definition of a social network as a “one-to-one” communications channel is no longer applicable, if it ever was.  After all, how can we be having a one-to-one conversation when the conversation is being broadcast to a larger audience?

It’s like believing that when Oprah interviews a celebrity that they believe they are engaged in an intimate conversation and not in a public discussion on the national airwaves.  They know they are having an open discussion under the guise of an private conversation.

That’s how it works on social networks as well.  We all know we’re talking publicly and that knowledge changes our behavior (and expectations) as a result.

So the idea of social networks as gathering places for intimate chats with friends and family is a misconception.  Few people talk about really private and personal matters on Facebook.  Instead, social networks have become personalized hubs.  People use their social networks as a communications center to connect with colleagues, friends and family, but also for many other things:

  • Finding and discovering news and information
  • Researching products and services
  • Promoting charities and at-home businesses
  • Extending professional (and personal) networks
  • Broadcasting creative content (from blog posts to photographs)
  • Finding deals, coupons and discounts

The list is much longer, but you get the idea.  Obviously, people use social networks to do many things.  They have become a home base on the web for millions of people.  The starting place and the place to return over and over when you’re on the web.

So under these circumstances following businesses, restaurants, retail shops and non-profit organizations doesn’t seem so strange.  Why wouldn’t you want updates on meal specials at your favorite restaurant?  Why wouldn’t you want exclusive coupons from your favorite store?  Why wouldn’t you want news about your new smart phone?

In fact, connecting with brands has become a natural part of the social networking experience.  In much the same way in real-life that we frequent stores and businesses that we like or wear t-shirts or baseball caps with brand names stamped on them.  Brands have become the way many people identify themselves.  Think of the people who only buy Apple products, shop exclusively at Whole Foods, or the way some sports fans drape themselves in their teams colors and logos.

Brands are part of who we are as people.  So, of course, we follow the ones we like and use online.

That’s why it is important for brands to be on social networks.  Customers expect them to be there.

Links:

Website Magazine’s post “Why Do People Friend and Follow Brands?”

Photo by Yusuke Kawasaki (via Flickr)

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