After recently completing a purchase online, I received a request to participate in a survey from a large well know retailer brand.

They were attempting to gain some insight into how many touch points I have with their brand through social media. And, more importantly, they were trying to determine why I had not yet become a fan on Facebook or a follower on Twitter.

Why are we doing this social media thing?

In the rush to gain a social presence online, it appears many brands are now pausing to evaluate exactly why they are on these social networks and what they are going to have to do to keep fans and followers engaged and coming back to these channels. The survey questions provided insights into the value people might find by participating with a brand (instead of a person) in social media. They also initiated these impressions:

1. | It’s not easy being social

It’s sorta creepy to know that a brand is always looking at your profile to see how they can exploit it and turn it into a more precise ad targeting platform for monetary advantage. For many people online, they just don’t get “getting social” with a brand on a computer. And they may be better off for it.

2. | Being social should be rewarding

If you make the effort to connect with a brand, instead of a person, you should be treated differently and be granted unique privileges or opportunities that are not available to others. Savings, discounts, or promotions come to mind as attractive retention incentives and tactics. Without these, continued participation or interest becomes questionable. Many recent studies have confirmed that this is the primary reason people choose to opt-in with a brand.

3. | Make me feel like I belong

If you’re a customer of a brand and you have exchanged money for goods or services, are you somehow different because of that transaction? And will being a friend or follower just make a public formalization of this commercial relationship? The idea of being in a community with a brand is a bit of a challenge because it requires the relationship to provide something more personal, emotional and memorable than commerce to retain interest and participation over time.

4. | Tell ’em what you really think!

Why call an annoying voice tree when you can send an instant, real-time expression of your views about a brand experience for anyone and everyone online to see? Real-time feed back is good! And the people charged with managing a brand and the customer experience it delivers, need to know what their customers and prospects think—unfiltered or altered through traditional methods like focus groups. In fact, there may be no better way to be seen and heard if you are unsatisfied with a brand experience or would like to recognize your satisfaction with a brand.

Take away and implications:

  1. | Consumers have the power
  2. | Marketers need to make consumers an essential part of marketing
  3. | It’s no longer about marketing AT them—time to market WITH them
  4. | Channels are the building blocks of Social Media relationships
  5. | People are’t waiting for your brand
  6. | Features + benefits don’t create passion or a reason to become a fan
  7. | Brands need to be human

And what about you?

Are you “friends” or following brands online? What’s your motivation or incentive to bring these entities into your daily interactions? Share your thoughts on the value you find in these new digital relationships.