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7 Tips to Humanize Your Brand via Social Channels

  |  September 12, 2012   |  Comments

Think of your social channels as business dinners – yes, you’ll talk a little business, but you’ll talk about your personal lives as well. You’re there to get to know your clients (or customers) on a personal level.

Now that virtually every company has a Facebook page (and other social channels) I often find myself reminding brands and businesses (especially B2B companies) that “It’s OK to be human.” You don’t have to be getting down to business all the time.

Think of your social channels as business dinners – yes, you’ll talk a little business, but you’ll talk about your personal lives as well. You’re there to get to know your clients (or customers) on a personal level.

Now I’m not saying that the world cares what you served that day in the cafeteria (unless it was something really amazing) or the score of your kids’ soccer game, but it’s important to remember that social media is about socializing. It’s about connecting with people and engaging in a wide range of conversations with them.

Ever have a friend who only ever talks about one thing? Gets pretty boring, right? Well the same applies to companies.

Also remember that people want to engage with other people – that’s what social media really is about: people socializing with other people. Companies just happen to work themselves into the mix, but consumers still know there is a real human on the other side of their screen.

Social media is the absolute right place to show the human side of your company and that your company is made of real people who have lives, work hard, and care about their customers. Show that the people who work at your company are worthy of social attention and brand loyalty.

If your Facebook page is all “get down to business” you’re missing the point of most consumer social media activity – they are doing in their moments of leisure it for fun! So you need to be interesting. You need to be worthy of consumers leisure time attention.

OK, sure there are brands like Coca-Cola and Harley-Davidson that are so loved the human factor main mean less, but let’s face it – most companies will never have a million fans and just aren’t that likable. Most of us need to work very hard at being likable, interesting, and human! (And so does Coke and Harley – just not as hard.)

Here are a few tips to humanize your brand.

Ask, “Why Would Anyone Want to be My Friend?”

How many times do you see ads that say, “Check us out on Facebook”? But really:

    Why should they check you out?Why should they follow you?Why should they listen to you?Why are you worthy of attention beyond the initial Like?

Again, if you’re Harley-Davidson, these are easy questions to answer – people love Harley! They tattoo the Harley logo on their necks!

But if you’re an IT technology company, why should anyone be your friend? Well, how about that fans will get innovation information from the industry right from the experts in your company – they will keep you in the know!

Remember – make the reason about them, not you! Then inform, educate, and endear them. That’s where the next few points come in.

Don’t Be Self-Centered

Do you like people who do nothing but talk about themselves? Of course not.

Now your company may be the center of your universe, but it isn’t the center of your target audience’s universe. Don’t just talk about your products – highlight what’s going on in your industry and the world beyond. Look outward – not inward!

Not everything you say has to be about your product, company, or even industry. Variety is the spice of life! So widen your horizons and let your company be part of the world it lives in.

Show Your Face

Show the people who work at your company.

  • What are their stories?
  • Who are the artists, volunteers, luminaries, and musicians?
  • Who are the people employed by your customers purchases?
  • Are they likable?
  • What is the human side of your company?
  • Do they have fun?

Companies are more than the products they produce – let the world know this.

Strike an Emotional Chord

Remember, people are emotional creatures. They base their like or dislike of products on how they “feel” about them. So cater to their emotional sides.

Remember, sex sells. And who doesn’t love a cute baby or puppy dog?

The point of sexy, cute, and cuddly things in brand advertising is to help emotion embed messages and brands into people’s consciousness. So how do you do that in social?

Show content (images, videos, text) that strikes a chord and do nothing but make people feel good in the little moments of leisure when they are checking their newsfeed. Don’t stress too much about how relevant the picture, video, or phrase is to your product – the idea is to simply make someone feel good or amazed. If they do they might even hit Like or that share button! (Oh yeah – and that will help with your EdgeRank! A story for another day.)

Be a Good Citizen

Show people all the great things your company, and the people in your company, do to help communities and charities. Highlight the good you do in the world with more than a one-time tweet, press release, or post.

Follow up on the good work you support. Don’t just highlight the donations you gave or the one time day of volunteering your company did – follow the progress of the organizations you support and trumpet the good work they do. Make their causes your cause and republish what they publish.

Educate People

I have a saying: teach people something and your lesson and your brand will stick in their brain.

The reality is that when you learn something real physical connections are formed in your brain on a synaptic level. That is why thought leadership is so important – it’s not just saying you know something, it’s helping others understand it.

A true expert isn’t just a person who knows about something complex, it’s a person who can actually explain complex things to people and make them understand. So – in social be a teacher and help people learn! They will follow you, fan you, and share your wisdom!

Be a Real Friend: Ask, Listen & Respond

Part of being a real friend is having real conversations. Asking questions, listening to the answering and responding to the answer. Well the same applies in relationships people have with companies and brands.

People want to feel like their voices are being heard. Make sure you ask them what they think, thank them for their good ideas, and respond to their posts. This is the truest way to make a friend – engage with them! Have fun with them!

OK, now many of you think – of course, this is obvious. But the reality is very few brands do this well. They work to build up huge fan based of friends but then don’t staff up to actually manage those friendships.

If you aren’t truly engaging with your fans, sourcing ideas from them, and converting them into brand advocates, then you’re missing the whole point of social – it’s not about how many fans you have, it’s what you do with them!

Please feel free to add to these ideas in the comments and remember – it’s OK to be human!

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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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