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Online Relationships

Social Media Valentines A viewer and a brand have a relationship. Yes, there are conversion factors and impression counts. But that's boring and stuffy. What about that alluring first glance, that swoon of emotional destiny, and the pain of breaking up?

It's not just for lovers. Brands and viewers have always been said to have a relationship, and it's not just figurative.

The Crush

A brand (let's call her Brandy) is the shy, insecure girl at school. She really wants to get the attention of viewers (let's call him Vie), the popular kid. Vie has his pick of the rest of the class, he can choose any one of them. And even dump them, and choose another. Everyone hates his fickle tastes, but they all desperately want to be with him.

So Brandy watches, as potentially more attractive or at least more charismatic rivals fight for Vie's attention. She's done her homework; knows all his favorite things, his favorite haunts, and his best friends. It's a sign of her dedication, if a slight bit stalker-ish (but no less so than the others).

The Courtship

Brandy tries on different clothes, different poses, and different maneuvers on Vie. Some colors work better than others. Some ice-breaker lines get her farther along than others. It's just a matter of finding that right combination to get him to spend more than five seconds with her.

Finally it happens. He notices her. It's a fleeting and brief first impression, but the seed has been planted. Vie is thinking about her. And maybe not right then, or even later that day, but ultimately later that week he goes to talk to her.

She did it. She converted him over to her cause and got what she wanted: a shot at a date.

The Date

Vie's unsure of this girl. He's been with others, and some instances have been better than others. He's feeling her personality out, testing the waters of his compatibility with her. Do they have aligning interests? Does she bring something out in him? If nothing else, is there something he could get out of this fling?

Initially Brandy is just happy Vie is here on this date. It goes well enough, she thinks. They exchange numbers, and she asks if she'll be seeing him again. He swears on it.

The Relationship

There come more dates. He friends her on Facebook, and starts commenting on her status updates. Brandy replies back. It's a pleasant exchange. He changes his social networking status to "In a relationship." They're going steady. Whenever she tries on a new dress or makeup, he's the first to approve of it.

When their interests diverge, Vie makes his voice heard. Brandy listens and acknowledges it, somewhat adjusting. Vie relents. The relationship continues.

The Unraveling

Brandy and Vie have been together for a while. She's gradually stopped trying new things. He's stopped approving of every little thing she does. They've stopped paying attention to each other on social networks, each doing their own thing. Their interests continue to diverge, even starting to conflict in some places.

Neither of them has really done anything fun together. They haven't shared a laugh in a long while. There hasn't been much in the way of new experiences they can both share in, period. Vie wants to start seeing other women. But Brandy can't stand the thought of Vie going to anyone else.

Brandy starts getting paranoid and really starts snooping around Vie's personal space. Vie really doesn't appreciate this. His fickleness is wearing her down. Her obsessiveness is wearing him down. Ultimately, indifference sets in both of them.

The Breakup

If they're fortunate, they'll both go their separate ways. Otherwise one will dump the other, and they will feel very burned by the experience. The end of their relationship could be a dramatic falling out, perhaps plastered all over Facebook. Vie tells all his friends to avoid Brandy. Brandy vows to avoid anybody remotely like or resembling Vie.

The Happy Alter-Ending

But what if this hadn't happened? What if Brandy respected Vie's personal space and trusted him? What if Vie was more explicitly loyal to Vie, at least in support if nothing else? What if they continued doing new experiences together: Brandy trying new things and Vie participating more in them? What if they hadn't taken each other for granted? What if instead of talking at each other, they listened to their respective concerns and worked to better aid one another?

They would've had a healthy, long-lasting relationship. One with true care and loyalty to one another. A relationship where quality is what matters, more than quantity. Where both Brandy and Vie learn from each other and adapt to one another, instead of forcing the other to shift around them.

The Allegory

So how is an impression much different than a first impression? A conversion that dissimilar from a date? A long-term relationship compared to a... long-term relationship.

In an age where businesses must "be" a personable entity online, the mechanics and dynamics of interpersonal relationships are something to keep dear to one's heart. In this day and age, they apply more than ever.

What do you think? Does a brand and its viewers have a relationship like this, or is it something completely different? Should brands even try to hold customer relations in this manner? Is it cost-effective, or even effective at all? Gives us your deepest thoughts in the comments. And Happy Valentine's Day to you, Internet. We love you.

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