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Mothers and marketers should know when not to interrupt

Mothers and marketers should know when not to interrupt

Gena Tuffery

[Marketing]

These days I smile when a Saturday morning knock at the door reveals two dark-suited men leaning on pushbikes. An apologetic stranger calling at dinnertime to ask a few questions about my alcohol consumption often gets a “Yeah, all right”. Even the clipboard-carrying backpackers who intersect my lunchtime sandwich sprints to probe the depths of my social conscience, and wallet, get a nod—not a stop, but a real acknowledgement of their existence.

I once thought these people were rude, imposing on my personal time in the most inconvenient of ways, but now I view the real-time marketer as comparatively polite. They say, “Excuse me”. They say, “May I?” They knock.

Many of the virtual kind don’t. When I logged into my Facebook newsfeed the other day, I learned that ‘David Wells is now single’, ‘Jamie Keats and Angela Bell are now friends’ and ‘Here are some of the largest networks on Facebook: Telstra, Pfizer, United States Marine Corps, National Health Service and GlaxoSmithKline’. Right, my good buddy Glaxo—was just wondering what he was up to.

Marketers created more than 100,000 branded Facebook pages in the 24 hours after the network opened its commercial gates late last year, and they’re now busy converting user data into increasingly personalised messages. While you can’t blame them for seeing target-market bullseyes, they seem to forget one thing: you can’t buy friends. Well, not since you left primary school anyway. You can’t force someone to be your friend either—especially by annoying them. Hang on, did anyone even go to primary school?

Inviting yourself into a social group—or worse, not inviting yourself and just turning up—is like the mum who used to try to hang out with you and your friends. Cool mums were the ones who left you alone and made you nice food—and yes, Glaxo, they served it with Ribena.

The hundreds of anti-intrusion Facebook groups say it all: ‘Don’t Let Your Social Life Be Invaded’ … ‘Don’t Use My Facebook Info For Commercial Purposes’ … ‘I Won’t Shop At Sites That Have A Facebook Beacon’ … ‘Facebook, Don’t Use My Conversations for Commercial Purposes Or I’ll Leave.’ But what if Facebook does? The numbers aren’t inconsequential—that group had 2,319 members at the end of December and it’s only one of hundreds of similarly-titled clusters.

And remember Rupert Murdoch? He’s the poor billionaire head of News Corp, which purchased what seemed to be a growing concern in 2005. Indeed, MySpace grew 72 percent in the year to June 2007 according to comScore—but its then non-commercial rival, Facebook, grew even more: 270 percent.

The thing is, everyone likes to have a drink with their workmates, but socialising with random corporate strangers? Not so much fun. Yes, we should keep looking for new ways to ask people to buy stuff, but the key thing is to always ask. Breaking and entering may be a quick way to get what you want, but you’re not going to win any friends long-term.

So the moderator of ‘Facebook, If You Don’t Remove Ads From My Newsfeed By March 08 (My Birthday) I’m Leaving’ and I advise you to withdraw from social networks before you’re seen as un-fun—or worse, like an uncool mum. Then don a suit, jump on a pushbike and come and visit us during business hours. Or, if you must, Saturday morning.