Many people will Like a brand on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter, simply because they love what the brand has to offer. Some won’t stick around unless the company has valuable messages to deliver. In the end too much repetitive information and not enough humanized content can make community members bolt quickly, so it’s very important that your brand finds a unique voice and keeps it consistent. Not only do you want to stand out but you want your fans to feel like they’re talking to someone they can trust – not a company CEO who can’t relate to them. Here are ten tips for humanizing your brand on Social Media, and some advice on what to avoid.
1. Hire the right people.
First and foremost, you have to have the right people crafting and delivering your brand’s posts each day. Those responsible for your Social Media presence are also responsible for your company’s voice, and they will speak the loudest during times of customer service. You want to make sure you bring on marketers who not only have the basic skills, but who are also very personable as a natural trait. It’s one thing to train a Social Media employee and give them preformed responses to questions and it’s another to have someone with wit and charm who can think on their feet, turning those general responses into something human.
Put simply, if your brand has a young and hip image then you’ll want someone young and hip running your pages because they will be able to better connect with the audience. You shouldn’t award Social Media jobs based on seniority in the company, but instead take the time to hire someone who fits the demographic and who will be able to learn the company culture inside and out without uncomfortable transition.
2. Add signatures or initials to posts.
If you have a big brand with many Social Media pages you might utilize the talents of two or more people who work as a team to monitor the pages, reply to comments, and add content. Unless you bring on a team of twins or triplets, chances are they’re not all going to type the same way or use the same kind of sentence flow. When brands have more than one person running the show it can be very obvious, because posts and Tweets will read differently. Normally this won’t cause any issues, but it can make some community members uneasy if they feel like they’re being passed around or watched by more than one person.
A simple fix to this issue is to “sign” Tweets and Facebook posts with initials, nicknames, or first names. Not only will your community feel more comfortable talking to you if they know what to call you, but it makes it much easier to join in on conversations and post opinions. You may not want to express your personal likes and dislikes because they can come off as the opinions of the company itself. Adding initials at the end of a comment will show your fans that this is how you think, not your brand as a whole, and that you are an individual and not a company drone.
You may even want to share media like images or video that you are uploading yourself and then include your initials after it so that others in your company, as well as your fans, know who is responsible. An example of this can be seen on Dunkin’ Donuts’ Twitter page with a post about their Coolattas, signed ^LH:
3. Publicly address complaints and mistakes.
In the age of screen-capture and image sharing one wrong sentence can tarnish your online reputation, like in this Hurricane Sandy Tweet made by GAP in 2012 in which they used a serious situation to promote online shopping:
Sure, Tweets and Facebook posts can be deleted, but they never really go away. In this case, GAP removed the Tweet and settled for sending another in hopes of doing damage control:
GAP made the right decision here – sort of. In my opinion they shouldn’t have deleted the Tweet, but instead followed up with the damage control message and let everything sit on their page. Deleting messages makes it seem like brands are trying to be underhanded and hide what they’ve done wrong, and only adds fuel to the fire when Internet users spread screen-shots around.
If you post a message on your brand’s page that receives backlash, instead of deleting it altogether go through and respond to some of the concerned users in your community. Then, once things have settled down, make a new post apologizing and explaining what went wrong. This will show your community that you are human like they are, that you make mistakes, and that you can own up to these mistakes. You may lose some fans from the mishap, but new ones will always come along and may be impressed by what they see.
4. Use creative community-driven contests.
Contests are always a great way to show your community that you care and that you want them to participate on your pages. Creative user-driven contests are even better, because they give your community members more of a voice. Photography, video, and art competitions not only lead way to free publicity for your company if logos and branding are used, but they open doors for direct communication and feedback with your fans. Those who win contests can be praised openly in the communities, which shows that brands do not need all of the attention all of the time. If you can step back and let your community shine with it’s own talents, it absolutely humanizes your brand by giving the fans a voice.
5. Reply to as many comments as possible.
Some brands get thousands of comments a day, some get hundreds, and smaller ones get handfuls. No matter the number of comments, your Social Media team should be in your Facebook posts and on your Twitter @ messages replying to a few here and there. It would be too daunting for larger brands to answer every single message, but ignoring community comments makes it look like you don’t care about what they have to say. Your community has the opportunity to be a powerhouse voice for your brand so you should always look for ways to promote positive comments, encourage discussion, be a part of conversation, and feature helpful or insightful members.
6. Use opinions where acceptable and engage the audience meaningfully.
Engaging conversation that goes farther than simply thanking fans for their comments is vital. Expressing opinions and providing input of your own shows that you are a person with a voice, and that community members are not just talking to air. If your responses are few and far between because you or your team are busy beyond control, then make the responses as meaningful as possible so that community members will cherish the moments you pop in for a chat. Opinions will always give your replies personality and make you seem that much more human, so if you can give them without being negative or taking sides in a heated debate, it will up your brand’s likeability factor.
7. Post content with questions.
Many brands fall into the pattern of posting a nonstop flow of information about their brand, instead of coming up with new ways to engage the audience. Polls and questions can be thought-provoking and instigate responses from fans that will be easy for you to respond to. You can make the questions about your brand, about things that are happening in your brand’s industry, go completely off topic and ask your audience how they’re doing, or instigate conversation about cultural happenings. Not everything needs to be about your brand at all times, and if you are able to step away from it then you will seem that much more like a normal entity to your fans.
8. Share photos or behind-the-scenes videos.
Supplying your audience with an insider’s look is one of the best ways to add personality and increase the likable nature of your company. Some brands will post photos and videos of their offices, including their employees. This gives your community a direct view into the culture and people that keep their favorite brand running, and will definitely help to humanize your entire operation. If your office is having a big holiday bash, then consider posting a festive group photo. On Halloween, if your employees dress up and come to work, then post some photos of their costumes and ask your audience to share theirs too.
You can even feature different employees with photos and a short quote or two about why they love the brand, or what they do at the company. If your organization is having issues with shipping, post a behind-the-scenes video of your shipping process to YouTube and share it around your pages to give the audience insight. With the introduction of Vine, short and sweet videos are even easier for brands to produce and encourage Social networking within your community. Your fans will appreciate the transparency and find you more personable, as well as have some media to share in their own networks.
9. Add personality to your comments.
Being a professional brand doesn’t mean you have to talk like a robot, or respond with cookie-cutter answers provided by your company. Community members will easily see through this, and may even find it boring. If you’re a generally funny or bubbly person out in the real world, there’s no sense in hiding that online. Of course, you should show some amount of professional restraint when you are representing a brand, but letting your personality shine through will make your comments and posts more likable. Your fans will have a much easier time relating to someone who acts like themselves and feels comfortable in their own online skin. Some great examples of personality can be seen in brands like Think Geek and ModCloth, both of which utilize humor and wit when relaying messages to fans on Twitter.
10. Get the rest of your company onto Social Media.
Another great way to be transparent is to encourage the other departments or your fellow employees to make Social Media accounts. Twitter and Instagram are excellent tools for posting short text and image messages that can be retweeted by the brand’s official account to show that your company values transparency and wants fans to see how you work internally. Employees can do their own part to promote the brand while offering valuable yet department-specific insider information. It also adds more faces and personality to the brand, which in turn ups that coveted humanity factor.
There are many ways to give your brand personality and transparency, which will overall increase likeability and loyalty. As with any Social Media tactic it can take trial and error, and not everything will work for every company. Don’t be afraid to attempt different things but always be present on your pages, gauging activity and measuring effectiveness. If you do this and you never stop trying to improve your brand’s image online, then you’ll always find success.