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On Bullshit

I’ve always been amazed by the lies companies tell themselves to help justify their existence. In some ways it’s required, but sometimes to the outside it seems absurd. Marco (Instapaper) has a good list of some of those lies (he calls it bullshit) from the big tech companies. While I agree with a few of the points on the list, I definitely don’t agree with his contention that people don’t want to interact with brands on Facebook.

That’s just not true. Brands encompass all non-people on FB, meaning a a brand is everything from Shakira to Red Bull to Obama, and in the case of those three even Marco couldn’t disagree that people want to follow. The question to ask, then, is do people want to follow what people traditionally think of as brands (toothpaste, deoderant, that sort of consumer packaged good stuff). Old Spice has over 1.8 million followers, Axe is at 2.2 million.

Sure these two brands are quite strong and have done exceptional things from a marketing perspective, but the point is that they’ve turned a category that is about making your armpits smell better into something people find interesting enough to interact with (Axe had a TV show on MTV for a period of time as well). These brands are exceptions, but that’s the point: If there are exceptions than the “lie” is true, people do want to interact with brands. The problem, then, is that most brands don’t know how to be interesting (or think they can’t be).

I guess my point is that people don’t want to follow things that aren’t worth following. That’s the real lie Facebook is telling itself. It’s telling every brand to go out and buy followers without any plan for how they’re going to come up with a content strategy interesting enough to engage their fanbase over time. Facebook’s not alone in this one, Twitter has the same problem and other platforms with follow models will join them. But it’s not that the brands can’t be interesting, after all, if you can make deodorant interesting you can make anything interesting.


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