Are You Keeping or Killing Your Facebook Fans?
What is a fan? The wikipedia entry says:
A fan, aficionado, or supporter is someone who has an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking and enthusiasm for a sporting club, person (usually a celebrity), group of persons, company, product, activity, work of art, idea, or trend. Fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fanbase or fandom. They often show their enthusiasm by starting a fan club, holding fan conventions, creating fanzines, writing fan mail, or promoting the object of their interest and attention.
As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message. Thus, to misuse the medium is to disrespect the fan. A large number of my Facebook fan pages are pushing more content into my news stream than my friends. So I'm giving them the boot. A fan, just like everyone else, has a use for every medium. That being said, these particular brands might not be misusing Facebook, I might just have a different view of the medium than most. (Which I think is closer to the truth judging from past conversations)
A brand's fan is a normal person with a particularly strong liking for the brand's product, way of business, or image. Most fans don't care about their brands all day every day -- they care about them in the context of experiences and conversations. I've noticed this particularly with musicians who are going crazy with the status updates on Facebook. I'm just not interested in hearing what Coldplay had for breakfast or who Imogen Heap is hanging out with. Just because someone is your fan doesn't mean they are willing to put up with intrusive or spammy interruptions -- social media has given brands an arena to participate in, not a doorway to come barging through.
Destroying is always easier than creating, and losing a fan is much easier than making one. For brands to get the most out of their fans they have to respect them and the contexts within which fans choose to participate with the brand.