A recent report on brand interactions on social media has some marketing people buzzing around the virtual water cooler.

To sum it up, the new NetBase/JD Power and Associates report notes that a growing number of consumers think that brand interactions on social media are too intrusive—noting that many don’t want brands to “listen” and that it is seen as big brother-ish.

We were a bit surprised by these findings and agreed with Brian Solis’ blog post stating “a double standard may exist in social media customer service where consumers say that listening is intrusive except when it’s not.”

Just as we were all getting settled into how to effectively manage brand behavior, we were thrown this curveball. We know it is just one study, but it definitely got us thinking.

So, what’s a brand to do with this new information?

Brands, just like people, alter their behavior based on real-time responses and feedback (reactions). Thinking, before you speak, is essential. We’ve found that most people intentionally and purposefully note a brand name in a post/tweet and are pleasantly surprised when a brand interjects or shares their feedback, but not in a robot manner. Personal interest combined with the element of surprise, can bring big rewards for building brand persona and evangelism.

Just like someone you follow on Twitter or Facebook, overzealous behavior or interactions can turn you off. The same goes for brands.

We standardly advise brands to listen intently, but not necessarily connect with every person posting public feedback. Some posts warrant direct contact from a brand, while others help the brand to evolve their approach at large. Public feedback can assist a brand in collecting market sentiment for improving an overall approach, and then sharing their changes in public in general either through behavior or through a change in an offering, can bring kudos. 

We have also found that someone on Facebook has a different view of brands interacting versus someone on Twitter. Each media brings with it a different set of rules of engagement.

Consumers expect brands to be creative, responsive and true to their brand persona online, while being authentic. Part of brands’ success on social media will be to evolve their approach as the media evolves itself. Social is indeed social, which, like human behavior, is a moving target.