What do you do when you see someone new has Liked your brand’s Facebook page? More specifically, what do you think?

One piece of advice I often come back to is something a drama coach said to a bunch of us who were involved in a summer production in high school: When you go out there tonight the people in the audience are there to see you. Likewise when you’re in the audience those people on stage are there just to entertain you. The intent behind this bit of wisdom was meant to make it clear that anything less than your full effort as a performer, someone who the audience has granted their attention to, is a violation of the relationship.

The same goes for the relationship between brands and their followers on social networks. We’ve moved past – but not transcended – the simple monetary exchange that used to define the bond between the two. Now consumers are choosing to vote with their attention what brands they’ll affiliate themselves with and are doing so in a very public manner.

Building numbers is not an end in and of itself. Like there is with a performer and the audience there are expectations on both end, particularly expectations of mutual respect.

Survey after survey shows that people unfollow or de-friend a brand on social networks because they’re not providing what’s expected, mostly coupons, insider information and variations on those two themes. But a continued emphasis on collecting fans or followers like their novelty rubber bands means you’re not looking into what the current fans or followers are expecting.

It’s necessary to, as Spike Jones recently said, go “beyond the like” and figure out what the relationship is going to look like after someone clicks that little button. If not then these networks are just going to be a constant churn of someone coming in through an ad, a QR code or some other means and then leaving when they realize they’re not getting anything of value. Or worse, they continue to linger there but are completely inactive, distorting the overall number while driving down the ratio of active members.

We leave relationships with a sour taste in our mouths when they don’t turn out like we expect. Facebook may indeed be the primary way we signal our affiliation and enthusiasm for a brand or product but work needs to be just as focused on what happens after that initial signal is made as it is in prompting someone to do so in the first place.