Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Are you a good friend or an awful friend?

I just finished speaking at the latest empty13 event, organised by Bite but attended by lots of brands, agencies and generally excellent people.

This time we were arguing for and against the hypothesis that, despite brands being able to contact people in very personal ways via social media, "customers do not want to be their friend".

ITV's Fru Hazlitt argued that they do, but you can't avoid the haters. Philippa Snare from Microsoft said they don't, and that brands should be bold, be clear, and be gone. John Bartleson from Telefonica explained that consumer habits change faster than even the most agile organisation. Spotify's Chris Maples told us not to try and fake it.

My brief was to talk 'around' the motion, so compared real friendship with brand friendship, with the suggestion that if you're a good friend then you'll be a good social marketer. And nobody wants an awful friend.

My tips were - for real friendship or brand friendship:

Keep secrets. (Brand translation: Don't sell my data.)
Don’t boast. (Stop bugging me all the time.)
Give people respect. (Don't post to my wall without permission.)
Be a good listener. (Listen to my feedback.)
Be generous. (Don't try to fleece me for cash.)

I then asked people in the audience to tweet something nice to a friend, just to see how it felt. And it worked well - people were reaching out to friends they hadn't seen in ages, just to say how fun it would be to see each other, or that they liked their shoes. The conference's Twitter wall was aglow with good vibes.

And so, as my service to you, I'm asking you to do the same. Tweet something now to a friend or colleague, and say something nice. Use the #empty13 hashtag if you like, just so we can see it. Or don't - it doesn't matter.

Let's make the internet a friendlier place today.