I got an email this morning from my mom asking me what I meant by something I wrote in a blog post here a few days ago and I figured it was worth explaining. In discussing the changes to Twitter and the challenges around brands, I wrote:
Obviously we agree [that brands need better publishing tools] (we’re building a publishing tool for brands), but it’s interesting to see a technology writer call that out. I think it’s a non-obvious problem brands face. Being interesting isn’t easy for them and even tools that seem simple become complex when you abstract out from people to brands.
She asked me to clarify “abstract out from people to brands,” so here goes nothing. As I see it, brands aren’t very good at acting like people. That’s not a problem, after all, they’re not people. However, these platforms are built around human users and when they tend to build out their ad platforms they try to just extend the same tools for brands to use in the same ways. The problem is brands don’t know how to act like a person. They don’t have interests like people have and they don’t talk like people talk. I think most platforms underestimate just how different brands are in this way.
This is what we’re trying to help brands with. Enabling a brand to act more like a person isn’t about being conversational, it’s about being interesting. Being interesting requires consuming content. We’d all struggle with what to tweet about if we weren’t out there consuming the web (and wider world).
That’s what I meant by abstracting out from people to brands: The tools a brand needs to be a good Twitter user are just different than the ones a consumer needs. A brand doesn’t have a brain in their head, it’s spread out across teams of people. We’re hoping we can help be that brain.