Arment Dietrich

Social Media Global Domination and too Many Friends

By: Arment Dietrich | June 13, 2012 | 

Ever hear of Hofmann hot dogs? They’re from Syracuse (where I was born and raised) and they are possibly the best ever made.

The first time I took my husband to Syracuse, he asked me what the city was known for, in terms of food. Hoffmann hot dogs, of course!

So whenever we go there, we HAVE to bring home hot dogs.

Well, the other day, my mom sent me a link: Hofmann’s is going national. Soon you’ll be able to buy their hot dogs anywhere. She thought I’d be excited. Instead I thought, “There goes Hofmann.”

I get it. Businesses have to scale in order to continue to grow and make a profit and show their investors a return-on-investment.

But from a consumer standpoint, you sacrifice two things:

  1. Experience
  2. Relationships

I wrote about this last year when I compared Facebook to the Walmart of social media. Getting my Hoffman hot dogs in any store in the country loses it’s appeal; it’s specialness. Eventually what will happen in the attempt to mass produce and keep up with the demand, the experience will deteriorate and so will the quality of the product.

I’m looking at you, Facebook and everyone in your footsteps.

I’ve been spending less time on Facebook and more on Instagram and Foursquare lately. Me! The Facebook addict.

You know why? Because I like going to small shops, and I’d rather spend more hours visiting four small boutiques tailored to me exactly, than to go to one big box and get everything. So I’d rather skip from one app to another because I know exactly what I’m getting when I visit each one.

We go to the big box store to save money and time, right? Not because we want to stroll about in a warehouse with concrete floors and fluorescent lighting.

Remember when each social network started out with a very single, simple functionality? Before it started to try and take over the social world? The biggest thing I remember is that was when we were cherry picking our audience. Soon, it starts to get out of control and we find we have hundreds if not thousands of “friends.”

We are now trying to mass produce friendships and it’s not working. 

I already have a false sense of relationship with, say, my morning radio personality or news anchor. For example,  Scott Simon comes into my home every Saturday morning while we over a steaming mug of coffee. That’s an intimate time, one which I haven’t shared with some of my closest friends. He has no idea who I am.

That false sense of intimacy is happening in our regular online “friendships.”

The definition of friend has suddenly loosened. Who do you call a friend now? We have friends we’ve never met in real life! Or have known far longer online than offline. You know what happens when you have hundreds if not thousands of “friends?” You forget they aren’t really friends, and you hold them to the same standards and expectations you would a real friend. And you get let down. Way too often.

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. There is no denying my life (and, no doubt, yours) is FAR richer from the relationships we’ve created online. The same holds true for brands, and the relationships you are building there.

We suddenly have a lot more on our plate as we add relationship management to our digital strategies. The real goal is to build a brand be it corporate or personal. The icing is, we made a few really awesome and deep relationships. Let’s not one-stop shop our relationships, and start allowing more forgiveness and openness.

  • rustyspeidel

    This is TOTALLY what I was talking about yesterday in my own post! You can’t mass produce connections that last, or content that sticks, or SEO-driven relationships. You can create em, but they fade fast. And with the dawning ubiquity of mobile, digital platforms that seem to know no socioeconomic boundaries any more, it’s even more important to be human.
    When Facebook went public they jumped the shark in my opinion, because now they have to start exploiting the one thing they had over other platforms–trusted, personal connections. They are gonna spam your brains out to make those EPS numbers. See ya! 
    Wow, now that you mention it, you and I have never met, even. And although I’m sure it will be great if we ever do, it’s weird! 

    •  @rustyspeidel SEEE????? We’ve never met in real life, yet I feel like I know you quite well. Who knows? Maybe we are really good friends – but the definition definitely gets a little twisted. 
      BTW, we will one day meet. My parents-in-law live about an hour from Charlottesville. One day we’ll go there, and you and I will go mountain biking. Even though you scare me with your mt. bike tales. 

      •  @Lisa Gerber @rustyspeidel If you interact “enough” online you can develop real friendships. You learn about people same as you would in person.
        Sure there are some distinct differences but not so much that it is impossible to create something real.
        It is different though when you talk about brands and people. That is a whole different ball game.

  • This is the long-discussed issue with any company…not just online or social networks. People leave companies because the culture changes as it grows. There isn’t a way to avoid that, as far as I can tell. I feel badly for Facebook because the investors wanted to get some money out of the company (which is totally fair), but the consequence is now they have to report to Wall Street and all they care about is how much money you’re making. They’ll have to sacrifice some things to make more money…and relationships may be one of those things.

    •  @ginidietrich my beloved Facebook. 🙁 and Hoffmann hotdogs. same diff. LOL. 

      •  @Lisa Gerber You don’t even eat hot dogs!

        •  @ginidietrich OMG!!!!! WAY TO BLOW MY COVER! 

  • See, here’s the thing about Facebook. I don’t see it as a Walmart, only because we each create our own experience here; our own scenario. I’m not friends with 900-million people. I’m friends with those I choose to be friends with, and connect with the companies I choose. I think there are better analogies. 
    Think of Facebook as a country. I live in the U.S. but certainly don’t know everyone. I live on the West End of the city of Lancaster, PA, and don’t even know everyone here. And while Facebook might have to sacrifice some things, it doesn’t have to have a negative impact on how I choose to use Facebook. I connect with a lot of businesses that are local to me. From a business perspective, the local spa or restaurant might want a lot of fans, but the only ones that matter are the ones in our direct region.

    •  @KenMueller I think of Facebook more as a cross between a reality show – produced by and starring all of your friends, co-workers and family members, most of whom cannot act or tell a story  – and a neverending high school reunion.
      Brought to you by every brand in the universe.

      •  @fitzternet @KenMueller I totally get what you’re saying, Ken. It’s definitely up to us to define our own experience, but I started to write about this in the post and it got too long (it’s a meme I’ve seen around a lot lately but I’m butchering it here, I’m sure): 
        On Foursquare I go in and see where people are eating. On Instagram, I can see what they are eating. On FB I can see all that plus what  music they are listening to, what videos they are watching, what games they are playing, and how they downloaded a coupon to eat what they are eating for 2 dollars less.
        I’m being a little bit silly, because I can turn off the things I don’t like. But let’s put it this way. My FB feed is full of garbage. My instagram and foursquare feeds are pure as the driven snow. Actually, I’m sort of struggling with the latest foursquare update, but we’ll see. 

  • I love this post. It hits home on so many levels.
    I wish I had seen your Walmart article sooner. Awesome analogy!

  • First of all, I went to Syracuse University, so I completely relate to this post in every way! And I have to agree, nationalizing a brand like Hoffmann will take away some of the appeal of it, but ultimately it’s probably a better business decision. But I can’t say the same for social networks.

    •  @AdamBritten Hi Adam! It’s funny, I get to meet a LOT of people who went to SU since I’m in the communications industry and all… 🙂 
      I dont know…. Hoffmann’s has been around for.ever. and now they have a group of investors. So they need to blow it up out of the region. I guess it gets to the point where that has to happen. 

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  • kategroom

    RT @ginidietrich: Mass producing friendships doesn’t work says @lisagerber < Another cracking post!

  • I love this post. Just wanted to say that.

    •  @bradmarley and I just want to thank you for saying that!

  • Very well said.

  • Gini, you’ve identified one of the great challenges of social media. However many friends / connections / followers you have, you look for more. Just one more… then one more after that. Pretty soon you start connecting with people you don’t know or barely know and then say, “Oh crap!, I don’t need more – I need better / deeper relationships with the “right” people. Then after a while it feels like you’re making no progress and you start looking to expand your universe more aggressively, and the cycle repeats itself.  Your Hoffmann’s example was perfect. You want to be the one to turn others on to Hoffmann’s, but when they’re everywhere, and people can find them without you, those hot dogs lose their “specialness.” New friends are great when they’re yours – not when you have to share them with millions of others. Great post!

    •  @Karl Sprague Hi Karl, Thanks for that. You hit on it exactly – what really initiated the post was the idea that we think we have all these great friends, but you might find out one day, they aren’t such a great friend after all. and you’ll be let down. We have to remember it’s part of a community and we all have our own selfish agendas. That’s OK! But let’s manage our expectations accordingly. It minimizes the drama.   – Lisa

      •  @Lisa Gerber Since I addressed my comment to Gini, please accept my apology. You now have license to call me Frank… or Gertrude… or whatever you want. You are spot-on about managing expectations. Spinsucks does a great job of making the social media behemoth real to us and pointing out the good, the bad, the ugly, the scary… and the funny. Keep up the good work. – Karl

        •  @Karl Sprague Ha!!! No worries. I’ve been called much worse. 🙂  – LG

  • lisagerber

    @mdbarber Thanks, Mary! 🙂 I was in a mood when I wrote that. 🙂

    • mdbarber

      @lisagerber I could kind of tell but I really liked it. We’re losing track of what relationships really are. We’re in such a rush to be #1.

  • lisagerber

    @kyleakerman Hi Kyle! How are things? I feel like I haven’t “seen” you in awhile. 🙂

    • KyleAkerman

      @lisagerber Guess you have too many friends 🙂 I saw you and Gini at SOBcon/SMC event but did not make it over to say hi before you left.

      • lisagerber

        @kyleakerman Oh!!!! I’m sorry we missed each other. I didn’t get to meet @crestodina in person either. Had to leave for a dinner. Next time!

        • KyleAkerman

          @lisagerber You should come to Long Room at Irving/Ashland every Thur ~ 6PM, @crestodina holds court there w/lots of creative folks.

        • lisagerber

          @kyleakerman I will try next time I’m in town. I’m in Chicago one week/month these days.

        • KyleAkerman

          @lisagerber Forgot AD is virtual now. Must make your quality of life much better now 🙂

        • KyleAkerman

          @lisagerber You can also HEAR me every Mon 6-9AM CST playing tunes for @CHIRPradio. Requests are welcome 🙂

    • KyleAkerman

      @lisagerber Still looking for full time work, but in general things are good. How are you? Any big projects in the works?

  • Fab post! And I’ve enjoyed the discussion thread as well. My fear is that, in order for places we love like Hofmann’s and FB to “make a profit and show their investors a return-on-investment,” we lose the things that make them great like you said. Do you think FB will start charging us ? That will change the customer experience as quickly as Hofmann’s changing the menu choices.
     (BTW, I went to Ithaca College where we used to drive to Syracuse for Hofmann’s (and parties).

    •  @AlisaT LOL! I grew up in Cazenovia but we used to go to Marshall St for some great parties too. 🙂 
      I don’t see how they could possibly start charging users for something that has been free for many years. Unless they add some features that are only available for paid users. 

  • Hi @Lisa Gerber I love your post for 2 reasons. The Social Media Agency Industry and VCs and Networks refuse to accept the ‘weak bonds of social media’ as a reality. While we do create strong bonds with strangers. The majority are weak. Especially when you accumulate huge networks. I mean @ginidietrich has 24K followers on the Twitter and follows back 20K. And she sees every tweet they all send. and talks to every one of those people every day. And meets them for slurpees at 7-11 on Fridays. It is why it is so BS that the Social Media wonks claim we go to our networks for advice on buying products when the research folks like Pew show the opposite. Last survey I saw social networks came in dead last.
    Now your Hoffman point. Vermont loves to buy Vermont. Until you go national. Green Mountain Coffee is in every general store but the locals I know won’t buy their beans. They buy a local small brand. Magic Hat Beer they don’t buy. Only ben and jerry’s and cabot do they still buy. All because they feel the brands that got big sold out. It is why franchising can be dangerous if done wrong. Mass production will never trump ‘hand made’.
    Ironically in the late 90’s early 2000’s when Starbucks went on the expansion binge business week did a story showing that instead of independent coffee shops being pushed out of business they actually gained business when starbucks came to their town.

    •  @HowieSPM  I’m coming back to you. not ignoring you. 🙂

    •  @HowieSPM  That’s an interesting point about Ben and Jerry’s – they are a great example of a brand that has become ubiquitous yet been able to maintain that small, local feel. I don’t know enough about what they to know how they do it. (do you?).
      But I love what you said about creating strong bonds with strangers – that’s what I was trying to get at – these bonds create theat false sense of intimacy.
      I totally avoid Starbucks if I can. 🙂

  • SpinSucks

    @sydcon_mktg I like that!! 🙂

  • swagclub

    @jeffreypjacobs @ginidietrich I am prof.dr.dunbar’s bitch. #149, ftw

    • jeffreypjacobs

      @swagclub uh-huh. #truth. Cc: @ginidietrich

      • ginidietrich

        @jeffreypjacobs @swagclub This scares me

        • swagclub

          @ginidietrich @jeffreypjacobs yeah. That’s prolly a good idea.

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  • lisagerber

    @shonali Aww! Thanks. 🙂

    • shonali

      @lisagerber MWAAAAHHH

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  • WordsToThriveBy

    @steveology @ginidietrich Great post! How’s everyone’s Father’s Day so far?

  • Pinaatje

    @loretobgude Hola guapa, gracias por le RT!

    • loretobgude

      @Pinaatje un placer, amiga holandesa! 😉

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