Behind the power suits and meeting agendas, we’re all people with unique personalities and interests. When in proximity to each other, we just might even discuss those things we enjoy. Call it water cooler conversation if you like, but people like to discuss and share stories. They like to enjoy themselves.
This holds true for social media, as well. Social sites can sometimes trick us into believing that we’re communicating with a purely digital personality – someone who only exists within those platforms. But behind every avatar is a real person. I don’t know about you, but I find that reassuring. In fact, I like to see that. While I would never advise you to throw caution to the wind and let your guard completely down when it comes to exercising professionalism on social media, I would advise you to let your personality shine. Give your brand a little zest!
What does it mean to humanize your brand on social media?
Humanizing your brand on social media means that you post things that are business-relevant and topical, but you also aren’t afraid to kick back a little and ask your followers and fans what they think of the big game or some other cultural touchpoint. In short, interaction. You stitch up the threads that connect us in business as well as in life.
It also means relying upon automated responses as little as possible. Let your community know that when they reach out to you, a real person is going to be reaching back. There are some great examples out there of businesses – big businesses included – who do a great job of humanizing their social media presence. Their posts are warm and friendly, and they welcome conversation. Many businesses are taking note and following suit. Companies such as Dell even have employees sign or initial their tweets and Facebook posts. Seems like a small gesture, but it goes a long way in getting you on level with your target market.
As a brand, your personality is uniform. Everyone in your organization who contributes to your social media efforts is consistent when it comes to maintaining that voice and, in turn, the brand personality that derives from it.
The risk of not humanizing your brand on social media
Social media isn’t a new space for businesses. In fact, the space is becoming a bit crowded as we’re tempted to ‘Like’ and follow more and more brands. The problem is that we’re not engaging or interacting with all of them. Most of us ‘Like’ a page on Facebook and then never return to it.
To those who are consuming your social content, it’s easy for everything to blur together. In other words, if you’re not humanizing, you’re probably not standing out very well. If you’re not standing out very well, your brand voice, at least as far as your social media communities are concerned, isn’t very distinguishable. This could be an indicator that your brand simply isn’t viewed as being very dynamic.
Your community wants to engage and interact, but they’re not going out of their way to do it. You have to catch their attention, and genuinely so. If your brand shows no sense of a dynamic personality on social media, they’re going to assume you’re just the opposite of that: static.
Surely you know what static sounds like.
The background to which no one is listening.
That’s not the brand voice you’re hoping to convey, right? So show what makes you who you are!
Let’s talk for a moment about cultural touchpoints. These are most certainly a great way to humanize your brand – get people talking about what brings us together as a society or community – but you must be sure to exercise good judgment. For example, asking what people thought of the Presidential debates could generate a lot of conversation, but it might not go the way you want it to go. It could potentially lead to a lot of bickering, which isn’t conducive to community.
In that same vein, as a business, speaking out with strong opinions will likely also generate a lot of discussion and interaction, but you risk alienating a portion of your community. When you alienate a portion of your community, you risk having them take their business elsewhere.
If you want to spark some conversation or debate among your social communities, choose topics and shape the conversation in such a way that discussion is very casual and full-blown fights don’t erupt.
Should you prefer to steer clear of controversy altogether (and many businesses do), keep it light. This is still your business page and you don’t need to go overboard on personal details or opinions just to prove there’s a real person back there.
Keep at it and you will strike that balance with your community.
Maintain a sense of humor.
It’s a good thing to take yourself seriously. After all, you want to be respected and set an example. On the other hand, taking yourself too seriously could be a bad thing. For businesses, it could indicate that you aren’t willing to roll with the punches or that you don’t have a strong brand voice.
A sense of humor might just be the cornerstone when it comes to humanizing your brand on social media. It’s eye-catching and keeps your community engaged.
Keep in mind, too, that you don’t always have to go out of your way to entertain. You don’t always have to try to be funny. Sometimes it’s more about your reactions and whether you can maintain your sense of humor there. This ability is very telling.
I’ve got a friend who likes to test brands’ senses of humor. Typically this involves him going to their Facebook pages and asking questions or commenting based on ironically literal interpretations of their commercials or – you guessed it – cultural touchpoints.
CVS does a great job of responding to customer complaints; however, this one was one that they chose to ignore.
I love this example, though, which he recently shared on Facebook.
If you reach back to your knowledge of Saturday morning cartoons, you’ll surely get the Looney Tunes references there. ACME, a supermarket chain operating in NJ, PA, DE, and MD, could have chosen to just make like CVS and ignore the comment, but instead, they chose to respond with humor.
This shows a human side to their brand. They can take a joke, come back with a witty reply, and manage to get a little product promotion in there. To top it all off, it’s signed. This post didn’t just come from some random ACME worker. This came from Kimberly. And well done, Kimberly!
Did this reply have a direct effect on ACME’s business? At first glance, no. It seems to be somewhat off -topic for them to reply. However, people who visit that page and see that post might get a smile out of it and it might give them stronger feelings about ACME. Beyond just ACME’s Facebook page, this is the kind of post that gets shared, so the reply was smart. When that post gets shared around (as my friend did on Facebook and I have done here), it gets ACME’s name out there and shows that they can run a business and have fun with it.
What are you doing to humanize your brand on social media? How do you find the balance?
**Thanks to Michael Franken for sharing the examples and images!