You may not know him but Tom Kuhlmann works for Articulate and his elearning blog has over 80,000 subscribers. To put Tom's 80,000 subscribers into perspective, the largest elearning group on LinkedIn is the Elearning Guild, which has 35,000 members. In my view Tom is one of the key reasons Articulate's community marketing and elearning software is so successful.
Why are individuals like Tom so powerful in social communities? Often an individual will have more followers than the brand they work for.
Individual personalities are powerful because they can build deep relationships, develop trust and provide authenticity. They can add value to your brand personality and should be a key part of your social media strategy.
Personalities can enhance your social media strategy in 4 key ways:
1. Personalities build relationships
It is a very human trait to build relationships with people. In particular people build relationships with people they like. In Tom's case he is friendly, modest and very helpful to his audience. People really like Tom as a personality and it reinforces a key point that many other commentators have made - life is short, be helpful.
People also have a life outside of their professional life, they are parents, they live in a city, they travel etc. They connect with other individuals outside of a purely work context. All of this helps to build relationships in a different way to relationships with a brand.
Social media relationships are between real people and can develop over time. They may start in a passive way including reading, listening to audio or watching video of someone. The relationship can grow through various forms of interaction including text based discussions but also through the use of Google hangouts or webinars. This synchronous interaction from a question and answer session to a full discussion all helps to build relationships.
In Tom's case he has become a star attraction at global elearning events, his followers are very keen to meet up with him face to face and to get to know him better. Fundamentally individuals build deeper relationships than brands.
2. Personalities generate trust
Surveys show that people are more likely to trust people in their social networks, even strangers they have never met, than a brand. Recommendations from individuals are therefore very powerful, even where the individual has never met the person making the recommendation. This is why many companies, exemplified by Articulate, use multiple individual personalities as part of their social media marketing. People relate to other people and establish trust through being authentic and genuine.
3. Personalities provide authenticity
Small stories from a person's life really help establish authenticity and intimacy. These might be as simple as 'when I was doing ...' or 'today I was at a conference where...' These personal stories create an authenticity about a situation or a solution.
People are real rather than perfect. A personal blog or Twitter account will often lack the polish of corporate marketing messages. The images used or slides created may not be as slick or as well edited as the corporate brand materials but their content has an authenticity that people connect to. People are also more forgiving of personal content than they are of branded content.
To have a personality and authenticity you do not need to reveal a lot of personal information, you can share small everyday stories. The degree of personal sharing is a matter of individual choice but these small stories establish authenticity and intimacy.
4. Personalities bring alternative perspectives
Individuals do not always take the corporate line and provide their own personal viewpoint. They may even provoke or challenge assumptions in a way that a corporate blog cannot. Individuals also have emotions and these can come across in a Blog or Twitter posts, whether they are frustration or passion. These perspectives help develop relationships, trust and authenticity.
As Neal Schaffer says in his latest book "social media was made for people not businesses". By using individual personalities in your social media marketing you can develop deeper and stronger relationships.