Social networks weren’t created for brands. They were created for people.

At the heart of every social network, is a mission to help people communicate with one another. Social media networks are fundamentally all about conversations between people.

However very often brands seem to forget that which limits the degree to which they can interact with people – their existing and potential customers – on the very networks that those people choose to spend their time.

The problem is that brands and people are different and they need to behave differently on social networks.

For people, it is acceptable – in fact it is probably essential – that they talk about themselves on social networks. Facebook, twitter, Snapchat, Flickr, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and all of the others are vehicles for people to tell the world about what they are interested in, what they have been doing and what they like. There is a whole debate around how people curate their lives on social media, but by and large people post about themselves and their interests.

Brands on the other hand, should not just talk about themselves. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that brands shouldn’t talk about themselves at all. This is because people are interested in people, not brands. They might follow a brand’s Facebook page or retweet some of their posts or like an Instagram post. But that is because they want to tell the people that they are connected to about themselves – what they like and what they are in to.

Brands need to give people something worth sharing. Endlessly posting pictures about what the brand makes or does is quickly going to become tiresome and predictable. And engagement levels (as measured by how much people interact with the things a brand is posting) will soon plummet. After all, once you have told your network on social media that you like a particular event, product or brand once (or twice at most) why would you tell them again? And again? And again?

What brands need to do if they want people to share their content is create content worth sharing and that generally needs to be:

  • Useful
  • Newsworthy
  • Surprising
  • Amusing
  • Beautiful
  • … or ideally as many of the above as possible

The one area that we have not touched on here is where brands and people do use social networks in the same way – that is as a way of having conversations. People want to talk to one another as well as to brands through social networks. But that is for another time. Because if people are not engaging with your brand on social networks then there is no one to have a conversation with.

First of all, the people responsible for communications within businesses need to understand that they are interlopers on social media. They are only welcome and they will only engage with their intended audiences if they start to understand what those audiences wants and give them that. Brands that need to realise that social networks are not billboards and publications where they can post advertisements – social networks demand something else. And we are pretty sure that is not endless posts about what the brand is selling.


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