Your customers are human. Your partners are human. Your employees are human. Even your social media fans and followers are human.
So answer this question... why are you talking to them like they are a robot who wants to read your corporate speak? Why are you afraid to let your human show? Why do you keep trying to win them over with stupid stunt marketing and upside down tricks?
Your audience wants to see you, hear you and understand you. They want you to inspire them to connect and engage with you. They want you to help them achieve their goals and objectives. They want relevant content and conversation that makes them think. They want inspired to do different, do better and be better.
So tell me, are you doing these things? Are you even thinking about these things? Or are you too focused on yourself? Too focused on your own campaigns or developing the next big thing that you forgot why you were doing it all to begin with?
Humanizing your brand is a requirement, not an option if you want to survive in business today. Yes, you can put brand humanization on hold. However, every day you lose is a day you could be building relationships, nurturing friendships, establishing and earning the respect of powerful brand evangelists who will shout from a mountain top how wonderful you and your brand are.
Don't wait. The time is now. Here are 20 tips to help you humanize your brand starting today. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to do these things. Start now and start somewhere. Perfection is the enemy of good. Embrace imperfect perfection.
1. Start from the inside out.
I recently participated in a Lowe's Social Business event as a keynote and breakout speaker. They invited internal business leaders to participate in two days intense days of training, collaboration and out of the box thinking.
It was enlightening to see how they are approaching social business from the inside out. It starts with their CEO and feeds like a wildfire throughout the organization. There is something different about the way their team works together, shares information with a goal of truly helping one another. You must know who you are and what you are before you can know how you can inspire and connect with your target audiences.
As Clarissa Felts from Lowe's said, "social didn't transform our culture, it revealed it." Wow, I just love that quote. Good job Lowes. Your culture shines and it was a pleasure working with your team.
Sandy Carter of IBM, who also participated in the event preaches, "culture eats strategy for lunch." I simply love this and even though I am a lover of strategy, I a do agree with her.
2. Start from the outside in.
At the same time you start with internal culture, building your social business from the inside out, you must also start with a focus on your customer, audience, community and stakeholders. Who are they? What do they need and want? What keeps them up at night? How can you help them achieve their goals? Where are they hanging out online? What conversations are they having? How can you have a relevant conversation with them that brings them value?
Check out this Audience Analysis Worksheet based upon the POST Methodology for tips in prioritizing your time on social networks based upon your audience needs and goals.
3. Think like a human. Focus on relationships.
You must get out of the old school thinking of only email blasts and traditional advertising. Think about the conversations, the content and the way you can build relationships with real human beings. If you think like a corporate engine or cog in the wheel you are going to have a hard time connecting as a human being.
Relationships are the life raft of the never ending social network technology changes. If you focus on the relationships your audience will follow you wherever you go, despite how the social landscape changes. This is because they are not connecting with you as a Twitter handle or brand name, but instead as a human being or group of human beings.
4. Have a personality.
Knowing who you are is obviously key to having a brand personality. If you don't know what your brand personality is then you better figure it out. Who are you? What are you? Are you serious? Are you funny? Are you a combination of both? What is the tone of your conversations? Tone of your educational material.
Social media is going to open everything up for everyone to see. If you have one personality online and another when a customer calls your support center, it is going to become quite apparent. Nail this in the early stages and it will become an asset to you forever.
5. Show up (in other words, be available.)
Regardless if you are communicating with your customers, partners and audience online or offline simply be available. Don't setup the latest social network profile unless you plan to actually show up. Show up more than once a week or once a day.
Don't show up to just brag about your latest reward won, promotion or blog post. Instead show up with a goal to inspire and connect with your audience with an underlying goal of helping them achieve their objectives. Be proactive and responsive with the interest of your audience and fans at the heart of all.
6. Speak in your customers language.
Delete the corporate mumbo jumbo speak. Social media is not a billboard for your 1995 corporate collateral. Speak in a tone, words and rhythm your customers, partners and social community can understand. Use language that inspires them and connects them to you and your brand.
7. Stop the interruption marketing.
Social media is not broadcast entertainment. You audience is going to see your self fulfilling broadcast as an interruption to their discussion. Build the relationships and earn the right to communicate with them.
Share information that brings them value, not just helps you increase your blog traffic. The best social businesses listen more than they talk. Listen, watch and learn from the conversations you see and hear online. You'll then know better how to engage in a way that brings value.
8. Invest in people.
This goes for both internal and external. If you have people in your organization that don't understand social media and how becoming a social business relates to them and their job, then by all means educate them on such. Invest in educating your top executives down to the lowest level employee you have. Make them aware of what you are doing and WHY.
Invest in the people who are in your social communities. What do you know about them? Do you see them as "likes" and "followers"? Or do you see them as human beings you could be building relationships with? Do you believe they matter? If not, you should. You can never go wrong by investing in people, period.
9. Put some thought behind how the corner office get online.
We help brands of all sizes get their corner office online. It is not a once size fits all. Do not think you can simply throw up a Twitter handle and a new executive Twitter bio and overnight your executive team will be rockin' Twitter. It takes time, effort and a strategy for each and every individual who gets online and is going to represent your brand.
Do your customers really want to see your CEO tweeting 24 hours a day? Be careful of the automation. Less is more.
Help your executive team build their own personal persona, find content they can share that brings value to their audience while sharing a bit of themselves at the same time. Help them identify hobbies, quotes, favorite authors and other simple ways they can inspire and connect with those who follow them.
10. Show us your community manager.
If you have a community manager or a team of community managers representing your brand let us know who they are. Show us their faces. Tell us what their personal profiles are if they are online themselves and are comfortable doing such. The more we can connect with the people of your brand the easier it will be to build relationships.
11. Encourage your audience to be human.
If you only speak in corporate speak your audience will either turn you off or will begin to speak the same way to you. How many times have you seen a brand only speak corporate? When you look at their Twitter or Facebook conversations, they are far from human. Because the brand isn't sharing their human side, their community isn't either. Encourage your audience to engage, laugh, be funny. Let them share opinions even if they differ from yours.
12. Strike an emotional chord.
Emotional brands are the brands that are building real relationships in the social ecosystem. Make me laugh. Make me cry or make me mad. Do something that makes me think different, be different. Inspire me to do more, be more and leverage you, your team or your products and services to do such. The more you can connect with your audience, the better you will be at understanding what emotional chords will work best with them.
13. Be real. Take them on a journey as you grow and learn.
Don't fake it until you make it. There is only one you so be that person, that brand. If you are new to Twitter or Facebook, don't hop on and act like you are the world's best expert. Instead share your humble self. Share your story as you learn social media. Let your audience know if it's the first promotion you have ever done on Facebook or Twitter. Let them know if it's your first Tweet chat or Twitter party. If you take your audience along for the ride as you grow, they will celebrate the wins with you as they were a reason you are there. They helped build you. They will then be emotionally invested in your success without even knowing it.
14. Practice what you preach.
If you preach quality over quantity all day, then by all means don't tweet 24 / 7 via automation. If you tweet and talk about relationships then don't let your Twitter feed be filled with only automation and then "thank you's" thanking people for tweeting you. Take the time to look at people's profiles and have a real conversation. Be who you say you are. Do what you say you are going to do.
15. Develop an editorial calendar that leverages different mediums.
Every good human brand needs an editorial calendar. Keep it balanced with content that is about your industry, your business and most importantly about how you can help your audience. Include tips, methodologies, programs, via blog posts, videos, podcasts. Vary the message, delivery and the medium. Keep them on the edge of their seat wanting more. An editorial calendar will help you keep the conversation going over time versus having a one hit wonder blog post that doesn't have an ROI.
16. Share photos and videos of your team being human.
This is one of the best ways to become a human brand. Share the moments that you are human. If you have a company party or picnic, take some photos and share them. If your team goes on a team building mission or hike, let your audience know ahead of time they are going. Ask them who they think will win the contest. Share the fun and serious moments your team has offline working to help your clients meet their goals. If you have a team meeting, share a couple photos of the team brainstorming at the white board or enjoying themselves with a bag of candy or popcorn. You'll be amazed at how these simple little shares of your personal side will help build relationship with the people in your community. Try it, it works!
17. Don't let your Klout, Kred, Peer Index or other influence score determine how you engage.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is when companies focus too much on the influence score. If a company comes to us and says they want us to help raise their influence score, we know it's a red flag. While it may be good to keep an eye on these scores they are not a sole representation of your influence. The scores can easily be gamed and are simply a number. I know many executives who have a low score who are far more influential than the self proclaimed social media expert down the road with a high score. Focus on the things above before your scores. If you do the right things with a focus on your audience, your scores are going to increase organically.
18. Encourage your employees to be social.
As mentioned above culture beats out strategy. If you don't have social business in the bones and veins, from the inside it's going to be difficult to encourage your employees to be social.
Many businesses who feel frozen with social business as it relates to their employees have a culture problem, not a social media problem. It's important that over time your audience is able to connect with the real people in your business, even via the social networks.
Think of this as it relates to traditional relationships that start offline. They are between one human being to another. One sales rep to a business leader. One executive to another. Social media is no different. Invest in your team, training, policies and infrastructure that enable your employees to be successful when engaging online.
19. Social media policy.
I can't stress enough how important this is. Many business leaders think a social media policy is too restrictive. Or they may think they never will have a problem. Your social media policy is more than rules or governance. It is your risk mitigator. It is your life raft should you have a social media or marketing crisis. Any business crisis is going to go straight online and possibly viral within minutes these days regardless if you are on the social networks or not. Just ask KitchenAid or AppleBees. When you look t these two companies and their social media crisis that arose it is clear which one handled it better.
20. Have a plan.
I can't write a blog post about something as important as humanizing your brand without reminding you how important it is to have a plan. Set goals, objectives and tactics to get there. Know how you are going to measure results. Know what your key performance indicators are and what success looks like to you now, tomorrow, a year from now and three years from now. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
What You Say?
Did this post motivate you to better humanize your business? Does your business truly connect with people? Or are you guilty of corporate speak? If you have already been thru this process and have made strides toward becoming a social business with humanization at the core, what tips can you provide for others?