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MarCom Matters

April 2013
Issue: #42

A Friend Indeed

The last person to offer me payment for my friendship was Philip. I was probably eight or nine at the time.

Philip was a few years younger than most of us in the neighborhood and he didn’t have a lot of friends his age living nearby. And he wasn’t old enough to play baseball or hang out with us down by the railroad tracks (not that we were supposed to be anywhere near the tracks, mind you). But he was one of the few kids who had a swimming pool in his backyard.

Over the course of one particular summer Philip asked anyone he came across to be his friend in exchange for a chance to swim in his pool. Some kids took him up on it. I declined. Not for any principled reason. I’m just not crazy about the water. Besides, on real hot days the much bigger town pool was where the action was.

Not surprising, none of the older kids who headed over to Philip’s for a swim really became his friend. They just had a good time doing cannonballs and gulping down pitchers of Kool-Aid his mother had made.

So what does this bit of childhood nostalgia have to do with communications?

It’s this. I’m seeing a noticeable rise in the number of businesses offering an exclusive premium, “if only you’ll Like us on Facebook.” Or post a comment in our blog. Or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, whatever.

No doubt, premiums help strengthen the connections you have with buyers and customers. But there’s a difference between using one as a thank-you versus using one as a bribe… I mean incentive… to build social connections.

What’s going on? Maybe it’s the pressure to gather email addresses or boost numbers in order to show progress. Maybe businesses have committed themselves to social media platforms before figuring out what they want from them. Maybe they just really, really need a lot of friends.

Can’t say for sure…

But by leading with the premium rather than emphasizing a social connection’s worth, companies risk devaluing both.

A better approach is to establish a unique purpose for each social platform, and then promote that purpose as the major motivation for following or friending.

With that in mind, here are some questions that will help you get the most out of each social platform…

The bottom line: Leading with a premium may get you a few Likes. But as young Philip discovered, it won’t earn you a loyal following. Instead, establish a reason for each social platform (or blog). Then keep it focused and find ways to encourage interaction.

You’ll have fewer friends, but you’ll have better ones.

And the good news is, they won’t use your pool.