Katie Edmondson
Katie Edmondson
Assistant Editor

5 Rules for Brands to Avoid Being “Pruned” From Social Profiles

Breaking news: Young people care about their reputation and appearance!

Well, maybe that’s not such a hot scoop, but when you add the words online and social media, the ears of brand managers everywhere start to perk up. According to a new study, nearly two thirds of people on social networks are engaging in “profile pruning,” carefully curating their own social profiles by deleting posts, comments, tags and friends. In order to stay in the fertile flower beds of young social-media users, brands must follow their rules to avoid getting pruned. Cue gardening metaphors.


Rule 1: I want my friends to think I’m cool

People are pruning their profiles because they want others to see them in a certain way, plain and simple. Whether it’s deleting drunken college photos to seem “office cool” or unliking a recently popular musician to be “under-the-radar cool,” young people are constantly thinking about their online reputations. This means that brands must attempt to be interesting and relevant in the social sphere.

We understand that not every brand belongs in the upper echelon of millennial cool with Levi’s and Apple, but there are definitely ways of becoming your own unique and demographically appealing type of cool. It’s good to post about your products and services—that is essentially what you are trying to sell—but you should also be aware of trends in the world around you and embrace a wide range of ideas.

Social-media outlets like Pinterest have demonstrated that brands shouldn’t constantly peddle their products. Rather, they must give off a brand glow, creating a feeling that represents their true brand identity and personality. Consumers will connect with this identity much more than with an individual product or service. If you are lucky, they will then make your brand identity part of their own identity by continuously engaging with your social-media outlets.

Rule 2: I want people to pay attention to me

Just as a flower needs water, people need interaction and attention (I warned you about the metaphors). Brands should embrace the human desire to be loved and interact with their fans, just as a real friend responds to a gesture. Someone wrote on your Wall? Respond. Someone tweeted at you? Re-tweet or reply. It’s that simple. Responding online is like giving fans a pat on the back, essentially saying, “We understand you and respect your opinions.” Fans will prune you from their profiles if they feel that you don’t like or trust them, just like people cutting their fickle friends from their social circles. Responding to posts will keep your online and offline relationship alive.

Rule 3: I want to find cool stuff and share it with my friends

We always preach the importance of content marketing. And we all know the old advice to create engaging, unique content for your consumers. But when it comes to profile pruning, this is truly essential. Fans will quickly lose interest if they find your posts uninteresting or uninspiring. Facebook and Twitter users want their news feeds to be full of brilliant insights and fun content. If your messaging isn’t up to snuff, users won’t hesitate to cut you off. Think of it this way: In your own social profiles, would you be engaged by the kind of content you are putting out? If not, why would your fans? They won’t give you endless chances to impress. They don’t have the time or patience.

Rule 4: Yeah, I want freebies. But that’s not all I want

Money-saving promotions are a sure-fire way to get likes and re-tweets. Facebook ads with coupon or discount messaging often catch the eye of a stingy user. But once the promotion ends, fan engagement often stops. This isn’t good. A brand admired only for its coupons won’t be successful in the long term. Yes, you can entice people with giveaways and discounts, but you have to keep them interested with ongoing content in order for your brand to really resonate. Unless your brand is all about constant discounts, à la Gilt or Groupon, you cannot keep fans engaged through monetary promotions alone.

Rule 5: I am always searching for something new

Stale content never does well online. It’s a fast-paced world, and users don’t have a lot of tolerance for outdated marketing strategies or rehashing of old ideas. Do something new and interesting. Don’t be afraid to take some risks when it comes to outlining your online brand identity. Setting yourself apart from the competition online will give your brand something unique and identifiable that will resonate with consumers. Being the first to do something online is a powerful tool, and it proves that your brand is current, social and now.

Do you have any horror stories about mass profile pruning? Which brands are doing a good job of keeping fans engaged?



We’ll be peering into the future of all things content marketing, advertising, journalism and social media at our Post-Advertising Summit, March 29th in New York City. We’ll pull back the curtain and teach attendees how to truly unearth their brand’s story. Speakers including Simon Dumenco (AdAge), Shira Lazar (What’s Trending), Joe Pulizzi (Content Marketing Institute) and more will be on hand to share their expertise. In order to get the best price, reserve your seat at the Summit table today! Use code “PABLOG” for $100 off!

  • http://twitter.com/ADWINGmarketing ADWING

    Great post Katie, we especially like seeing mention of Rule # 4 (which kind of goes along with Rule #2). I like how these rules point to an underlying question - How can we provide meaningful experiences for customers via networks and emerging tech? … ; ) Thanks again!