Think BR: Here's a crazy idea - let's not do Facebook

Kenny Nicholson, senior planner, Arnold KLP
Kenny Nicholson, senior planner, Arnold KLP

Some brands don't need Facebook, in fact using it could be doing more damage than good, writes Kenny Nicholson, senior planner, Arnold KLP.

Don’t you just love it when that guy in the pub you don’t know starts talking to you and is intent on telling you his life story? Or when that person outside the tube tries to give you a leaflet for colonic irrigation, despite the fact you’ve got your headphones in, are not a girl and are clearly not interested? No, me neither, but then isn’t that what Facebook feels like these days?

It started as a place to share stuff and talk rubbish to your mates, keep in touch with the ones abroad and maybe organise the odd party without needing to remember everyone’s email addresses. But it’s now turned into a barrage of status updates, 90% of which you don’t care about and that are from people who aren’t even your mates.

If you’re anything like me (which is unlikely), you’ve started taking great pleasure in de-friending these people or at least hiding their updates from your news feed.

It’s apparently called the ‘unfriend trend’ or ‘culling’ according to David Shing 'digital prophet' at AOL. He says it’s the next phase of online usage, with people seeking to reduce noise and make their networks more meaningful again. And I can easily see why, I don’t care that my once impressive 500 friend count is dwindling.

Seeing updates from those that I care about is refreshing, in the same way chatting to friends down the pub is way better than feeling obliged to endure some horrible class reunion.

So, if we are getting rid of 'friends', what does this mean for brands? I’m sure we all follow quite a few, but do we care what they say and are we going to keep following them or are they just annoying us?

I’ve been culling them because most of them haven’t come up with the goods and don’t have anything entertaining or useful to offer, they just clog up my news feed with what are essentially adverts trying to sell stuff to me or jabbering some rubbish I’m not interested in. And I don’t think I’m alone.

There are a few that have survived and they fall into four categories:

  • The brands I love and that have somehow carved out a little place in my heart, eg, British Airways, Orange.
  • The brands that mean I don’t miss out on things (events, discounts, etc)  - Secret Cinema, a few local lunchtime take-aways, Domino’s pizza, Asos, Nando’s and some bands I lik.
  • The brands that amuse, inspire me or just fill a gap if my mates aren’t saying anything interesting, eg, Red Bull, Jack Daniel’s, Irn-Bru and Skittles
  • The others are for work, and that probably only counts if you work in the wonderful world of advertising

An article I read recently (or dreamt, as I can’t find it anywhere now) claims effective one way engagement should be the major goal and two way communication is just a hygiene factor - giving people the option to talk to you if they want to and giving them the option to do it in the ways they want (which will likely include Facebook, Twitter etc.).

Think about Red Bull’s recent Stratosphere jump, that didn’t go viral because Red Bull put it up, it went viral because it was interesting ‘not to be missed’ content.

The same with Apple product videos, they don’t get talked about because Apple push them, they get talked about because the products are game-changers. And for the record, Apple doesn’t even reply to people on social media.

The conclusion to me seems obvious, do something useful on Facebook (a discount from Nando’s or a sale from Asos) or something entertaining (content from Red Bull or provocative and amusing questions from Skittles), or just don’t bother.

I guess all I’m saying is Facebook and other social media shouldn’t be something to get our knickers in a twist about. It’s still a developing channel at the end of the day and the role for brands there isn’t completely clear yet.

If we have a really good reason to be there then great, but if we don’t let’s not stress about it. Perhaps there are better things to be spending money on. Some companies set aside a proportion of their marketing budget every year just to do innovative things, while many others keep money aside for tactical opportunities (like the Royal wedding or the Olympics). And I bet doing these things gets them talked about a lot more on social media anyway.

Kenny Nicholson, senior planner, Arnold KLP


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