Pre-Internet, the only way companies could reach you was through mass media: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, heck even billboards. No one was under the impression that a brand could be your friend. There was simply too much distance, psychologically and physically, between them and you.
In the age of social media that is no longer the case. We interact with brands in the same places that we interact with our friends: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. Companies exploit this juxtaposition by using techniques and language how real people do on these platforms. Jeff Beer at Wired writing about an exchange among brand managers on Twitter wrote:
“There’d be something strangely fun about seeing completely unrelated brands talking to each other if it weren’t just also completely absurd. It’s weird enough when Brand Twitter talks to people as if they’re people, but when it’s brands talking to other brands, the sheer thirst for our attention and approval is suffocating.”
It’s not just Twitter back-and-forths. Now brands are re-purposing comedians’ jokes in an effort to seem more approachable. Amanda Mull at The Atlantic writes:
“Companies selling things as disparate as underwear, vitamins, and beauty products now repurpose others’ jokes from across the internet, all in an effort to convince consumers that brands really are their friends.”
The social media managers at these companies may be clever and funny, but they aren’t your friends. They won’t take your call in the middle of the night when you need to talk. They won’t bring you chicken soup when you’re sick. They’re trying to sell you stuff, which is fine. Heck, even admirable. But they’re not your friends.