5 Ways to Humanize Your Company With Social Media

social media how toWe call this crazy thing we’re all addicted to social media for a reason: it’s about people. It’s about developing relationships.

So, if you use social media to connect with your customers (or fans, or followers, or tribe…), authenticity is a must.

Keep reading to discover five tips to make your company more “human.”

#1: Use your name

Putting a name (that’s a real, human name) on your blog posts, tweets or status updates shows your audience that you’re not a robot or an automated stream of sales pitches and company news. Using your name when updating social media humanizes your content and makes you relatable for your audience.

If you use a team of people to update your accounts, each one can sign off on his or her contributions. Even if they just use initials to save space when posting to limited-character services like Twitter, this shows your audience that thought and effort have gone into creating and distributing your content.

hamish

Comedy duo Hamish & Andy sign off their tweets and status updates to show who contributed the content.

#2: Add a face

Adding a face to your social media accounts works in the same way as adding a name. It humanizes your content and gives your followers an idea of the person behind the keyboard.

If you prefer to use your company logo or a product image as your profile picture, you can still use photos to add real-person value to your presence.

Many companies have “meet the team” pages, with information about the company members and what they do. This is a perfect place to add a team picture or individual photos.

David Hartstein has some great tips for using photos effectively on your Facebook page, which can be equally useful when adding pictures to your website, Google+ account or photo-sharing sites like Flickr.

Maintaining professionalism in your images so they represent your brand well is a must. As you can see below, IdeaPaint balances fun and creativity in its team photo to show off what the brand is about without losing its professionalism.

ideapaint

The IdeaPaint Facebook page features a great team photo.

Adding new photos regularly is a great way to keep people interested in what you’re doing as a brand. You can show the personality behind the logo by adding “behind-the-scenes” photos and sharing your work in the community through pictures.

#3: Connect with people through your writing voice

So now your audience knows your name and what you look like. They feel like they recognize you, but they don’t know you yet.

Adding personality (your voice) to your content creates a whole picture of you as a person. If you want to connect to people (Remember my intro? That’s what social media is all about!), you need to be a person.

People don’t connect to corporations, robots or automated messages.

nile

Aussie bookshop The Nile does a great job of adding personality to tweets.

Your voice is a huge part of drawing in your audience and engaging them. The way you write has to replace facial expressions, body language, physical gestures and tone of voice, all of which help you get your point across and keep your audience interested in face-to-face communication.

That’s a big task for a 400-word blog post. It’s an even bigger task for a 140-character tweet! Which is why analytics and research are so important to companies using social media—we need a way to measure whether our voice is coming across in our content, and whether we are engaging people or turning them off.

Developing your voice takes time and effort (what doesn’t in social media?), especially if you are acting as a channel for your company’s message.

The important thing is not to quash your own personality in favor of your brand’s message. Writing like you talk can be difficult at first, but by free-writing in your spare time, or just through practice, you can incorporate what you sound like in a conversation into the way you write.

Re-reading your work is important here, too. Even a short blog post can give you some great insights into how you sound by reading it aloud or going over it with someone else.

Jeff Goins has some great tips to help you find the things that make you unique, and how to develop your writing voice to reflect who you are.

With a face, a name and a voice full of personality, you are now a fully equipped human being! Exactly the kind of person your audience wants to talk to, which means you can get your brand’s message across more effectively.

Now for a couple of tips on how to interact with your audience using your new-found humanoid existence!

#4: Listen (the great equalizer)

One of my favorite things about social media is that it acts as an equalizer in a way that no other communication channel does. Unlike writing letters, calling a switchboard or emailing a support team, social media can (and often does) give you access to Fortune 500 company CEOs, celebrities, future employers and those amazing people who make it all possible: web developers.

You can use this to your advantage.

By interacting with your audience on their turf, you have already taken the first step. But engaging your followers takes more than being in the right place at the right time.

If you show up on Flickr and try to generate discussions about new home-security equipment, you probably won’t have much luck. Or if you start a Facebook fan page and fill it with legal jargon, your fans will probably dwindle quickly.

Interacting with your audience in the right way is imperative to a successful social media strategy. This is where listening comes in. Listen to your fans; not just to find out what they say about your brand, but also how they say it. How do they interact with you? How do they interact with each other?

Listening has proven to be influential in driving social media campaigns. Listening, as opposed to talking (or selling!), allows you to determine the best way to connect with your audience.

Monitoring mentions of your brand name, your own name, your industry and your competitors shows you where the conversations are happening and what people are saying about you.

Once you’re in the right place, listening to the conversations around you (and about you) will give you the information you need to jump in with a useful comment, propelling the conversation. You can also tailor your content to be more personal and engaging by listening first.

The great thing about social media is that the consumer finally has as much power as the corporation. Your customers will show you how to engage them, if you will just listen.

A company that listens immediately demonstrates genuineness, originality and credibility. And you know what those equal, don’t you?

#5: Determine why you are here

To quote Jay Baer, “for many companies, the conversation has shifted from ‘why’ or ‘should’ we do social media, to ‘where’ and ‘how’ social media should be done.” The only problem is when a company decides they need to “do this social media thing” just because everyone else is.

No matter what your strategy for social media, you must have a reason for it. Otherwise, you’re just adding to the noise.

Having goals for your social media team (or just you!) to work toward will give your content purpose and will give you motivation and clarity in monitoring and updating your accounts. This will eliminate the wishy-washy gap-filler posts that lower your brand’s credibility.

Plus, your audience will be more likely to get on board if you not only create and share great content, but also have a demonstrated purpose behind your actions.

Let’s have a quick recap:

  • Authenticity is a must for your brand’s social media strategy because social media is about connecting with people. You need to show that you are a real person so your audience can connect to you.
  • Put a name and face to your brand to humanize your message.
  • Listen before you join the conversation and it’ll pay off.
  • Communicate with your audience on their level, in their language and on their turf to show genuineness, originality and credibility. And those equal authenticity.
  • Interact with your audience in the right way: it’s imperative to a successful social media strategy.
  • Finally, work out why you’re using social media. What do you want to accomplish? Make sure this comes across in your content.

What do you think? Does your company do a great job of showing authenticity as a brand? Or do you need to adjust your approach? Maybe you have some great tips to add? Leave a comment in the box below and let us know!

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About the Author, Belle Beth Cooper

Belle has spent the past four years as a freelance writer and social media consultant and now spends her days wielding a pencil as Attendly's resident Inbound Marketer. Follow her on Twitter @BelleBethCooper. Other posts by »




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  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    #1 is so important and so overlooked. Thanks for the link! Quite an honor. I’m a fan of SME.

  • http://www.donnamaria.com/ Donna Maria Coles Johnson

    These are all super points, Corina! I applaud you for rounding out the post with a most important point, and that is to be clear on why you are using social media at all. It’s so easy to get caught up in using social media that you lose sight of your why. Once you know why you are using social media — what goals you want to accomplish — many of the other pieces fall into place. What great reminders here. Thanks for spreading the word!

  • http://www.jayninelessons.com/ Jerry Nihen

    This is an awesome post on improving your social media campaign. The “Add a Face” section is probably the most important of these tips (IMO).

  • http://twitter.com/NormaBudden Author Norma Budden

    Many of these points are often overlooked and you did a great job in presenting them.

  • http://twitter.com/danielnielsendk Daniel Nielsen

    These 5 points are so true… the consumer gets wiser and wiser everyday and the companies are not following the trend of an intelligent consumer.

  • http://sproutsocial.com/ Brit at Sprout Social

    Great points, Corina! I think another way to humanize your brand is to actually respond to comments. As obvious as it seems, there still appears to be a number of businesses (even larger brands) that may be posting great, relevant content but never actually respond to comments or mentions. In my opinion, it’s such a missed opportunity to show that you’re listening — even if you are and are tailoring your content to fit your audience. 

    However, adding a face and name both offer a great starting point to humanize the brand!

  • http://buhlerworks.com/wordpress JEBworks

    Very good and valuable insight. I would actually put the WHY? question at the very beginning. If there is no valid answer to that the rest is unlikely to work and be effective.

  • Rafstevens

    Over the past years, communication has evolved from broadcasting your message to really connecting with your audience.

    This evolution has an impact on the way we need to communicate. Unfortunately, most managers have failed to evolve along.

    Traditional communication no longer works.
    Organizations, brands and their leaders need to change the way they
    communicate today.

    The gap between what they want to communicate and what people actually take in gets bigger every day.

    It’s a whole new world out there. And to make it in this new world, you need a whole new story!

    CATCH your story. CREATE your story. And CONNECT it to this new hyper-connected world.
    Raf

    Read more here: http://www.nostorynofans.com

     

  • hanne_lene

    # 5 Determine why you are here … This is probably the most important one, at least to me. Directionless social media is messy to administer and messy to follow.

  • http://twitter.com/barrycunningham Barry Cunningham

    Thanks Roy…watched your video and drooled all over my desk! Why no warning..geez..some people ..

  • http://twitter.com/Hotelmine Hotelmine

    Corina,

    I enjoyed this article and appreciate all of the information that you’ve taken the time to share.

    We recently decided to take a different approach on our social networks and are incorporating most, if not all of the steps above.  Our audience has grown dramatically and we look forward to becoming a voice in our space.

    Thanks!

  • Sue H

    GREAT video Roy!  Video can be used in SO many ways and as we know is what online viewers are looking for today.  do you have a problem with business owners understanding the value of video?  Here in SW Florida, it’s been a difficult road – but they are beginning to see the light.  Now budget is a problem.

  • http://www.smallbusinessitshow.com/ Dexter Eugenio

    hey corina, goods points.

    i would most likely also add

    *  interact  (often overlooked even after all 5 points have been ticked off)

    *  address and acknowledge your mistakes  (a strange one but i think it’s essential)  even after doing all 5 points and even including the one i mentioned, if you dont take the time to acknowledge and address mistakes, fans will lose trust.

    i remember a couple of months ago officeworks in australia were found to be selling paper sourced from protected forests.  this caused a huge back lash and their social media channels were hammered.

    their response?  silence.

    https://www.facebook.com/officeworks.australia/posts/10150265830761347

    they have learned from it (as theyve been accused of doing this a number of times) but are now addressing these issues as they come to hand.  however their sharing of information leaves a lot to be desired.

    dEx  @gossipism:twitter

  • Sue H

    Thanks for a great article Corina!  Good points to review and share.  PS don’t forget the video.

  • Jerry Rizzo

    Love it Corina! Some companies are missing the boat with social media and don’t truly understand what it’s allowing them to do.  For the first time ever consumers can interact with upper management directly.  What a great opportunity to show your customers that there are real people behind the scenes listening to their gripes and suggestions.  I’m always posting on The Dotted Line (http://www.facebook.com/TDLine), which is an online community for business owners and entrepreneurs. Definitely check it out and drum up some conversation.  I know they would love this post.  Thanks for posting! –Jerry

  • corinamackay

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for dropping by! I agree that #1 is often overlooked – it’s surprising how much of a difference it can make to know the name of the person you’re talking to when engaging with a brand profile.

  • corinamackay

    Hi Donna,
    Thanks for reading! I have to agree that the reason you’re using social media is the most important. It’s a bandwagon that everyone wants to be on right now, and it’s very easy to get taken along for the ride without stopping to consider your reasons for doing so.

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • corinamackay

    Hi Roy,
    Thanks for adding that – using video is a great way to vary your content, and develop a more personal approach. Nothing says ‘human’ like a real person talking to you, right?

  • corinamackay

    Hi Sue,

    Unfortunately budget is often a problem in getting social media strategies off the ground, as we are so stuck in our traditional linear views of marketing and how to measure the return.

    Perhaps one of these posts might help you out:
    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/7-tips-for-selling-executives-on-social-media/
    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/selling-social-media-to-executivies/

  • corinamackay

    Thanks for reading, Jerry!

    Do you notice a difference in the way you interact with a brand when you have seen the face of the person you’re talking to? I think I am probably more inclined to carry a conversation with someone if I know what they look like, as opposed to just seeing a brand logo.

  • corinamackay

    Thanks, Norma!

  • corinamackay

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for reading! I have to agree that a lot of companies are stuck in their old ways of thinking, and scared to take risks and let consumers have more control. That’s why it’s such a big deal (and rare!) when a company really gets it right with its social media strategy.

  • corinamackay

    Hi Brittany,

    This is a great point! Comment threads are a great way to engage in a ‘real’ conversation – with so many voices joining in, it’s more like a real-world discussion than the megaphone-style broadcasting of an article or blog post. Responding to comments is definitely a great way to build the human interaction of your brand.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • corinamackay

    Thank you! I think several of us agree that the reason for using social media is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself. It really makes a difference to your overall strategy.

  • corinamackay

    Hi Raf,

    I agree that traditional ‘communication’ for businesses (i.e. one-to-many broadcasting) doesn’t work the same way. It’s so important to interact with customers on their level, now.

  • corinamackay

    Agreed! A plan is imperative to success.

  • corinamackay

    That’s great! Thanks for reading and joining the conversation!

    Do you think any one particular aspect that you changed has been more influential than others?

  • corinamackay

    Hi Dexter,

    Great points! Addressing mistakes is a highly contentious issue in the social media world, as brand after brand after brand gets it wrong. Silence or covering up is a common reaction, and just doesn’t work well.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

  • corinamackay

    Thanks for reading, Jerry! So glad you liked the post, and thanks for the suggestion :)

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog Lewis LaLanne – NoteTakingNerd

    My nickname is Nerd #2 and for forever, I went by that name. Then, people in social media started telling me they wanted to address me as a person instead of a number. So, I finally started not only sharing my voice but my name and my picture and I’ve noticed it’s made a difference in how my audience connects with me.

    These are very good suggestions Corina and I’ve noticed they’ve all had a great impact on what I’m doing online with my business. I trust others will be affected positively by your list here.

  • Ashley

    People like knowing the human behind the computer. Good points!

  • corinamackay

    Hey Lewis,

    Thanks for sharing your story – it’s great to see examples of how these tips really can work well! I like that you haven’t let ‘Nerd #2′ go completely, but it’s great that people can get to know you as Lewis now, as well.

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.jayninelessons.com/ Jerry Nihen

    It definitely makes it much more “homely.” Like I’m interacting with a person rather than a faceless company.

  • 19MYLewis06

    Nice article Corina and good points!, expecting points 1 and 2.  I just posted a blog on Valuing Social Media In A Competitive Marketplace. If you get a chance check it out at http://strategyiseverything.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

    Social media power has been recognized as influential force for effective promotion of a business. A business can become part of other a community that is built around some particular business type. Social media strategy either builds a brand image or destroys the identity if not utilized properly.

  • corinamackay

    I agree, it certainly makes a difference to how you think about the conversation.

  • Jerry Rizzo

    The pleasure is all mine Corina! I look forward to reading more of your posts and I hope to see some of your stuff over at The Dotted Line! –Jerry

  • http://twitter.com/EricaConroy Erica Conroy

    These are some interesting insights. In social media you can tell people what you have to sell them all day long but if they don’t like you to begin with that is something to consider. Also if they are not aware that you even exist you must use viral and word of mouth marketing. Driving new customers into your stores through existing customers is the fastest way to build that up and social media is the easiest way to do that. 

    Bring Value and Engagement with response to your customers. People always want to tell you what they think but if it just for product engagement you are probably barking up the wrong tree. You see political campaigns being put out by individuals on behalf of their beliefs. So we know through this behavior that people will in fact broadcast if they are passionate about some or if they know something you don’t know. 

    Keep it relavent, ask questions to generate response and give value.

  • http://www.searchandmore.co.uk Jason Walker

    Always an idea to add a bit of humour or self-deprication in there too! Show’s the human side of the technological world!

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  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Totally agree, Corina. Apparently, it’s the most pleasing sound to a person’s ears.

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  • corinamackay

    Nicely done, Jeff!

  • Rsprinci

    Loved the pointers. Teach messaging, crisis commuication and media at Wharton as an adjunct. You are spot on.

  • http://www.markjewellmd.com/ portland oregon

    When I’ve used interns for social media at my company, they are given instructions and parameters for engagement. Also, a content calendar is developed so they knew what to post and when. They also knew who to contact in the company for assistance. The voice of the company and quality of the content are important on social media. Simply turning that over to somebody who isn’t familiar with the company is a mistake in my mind.

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    Thanks for this valuable post. Definitely #1 on using your name, or the names of the team. Who wants to have a conversation with a brand?! Also #2 on using a picture: I find it quite disconcerting when there is no picture of the person, especially given that we all know how easy it is to create fake personas. I also recommend using the same picture across the different platforms: many times I’ve had someone wanting to connect but using a different photo and I’ve had to stop and check to see if it is the same person I think I know: variety is nice in its place, but when we spend so much effort to build our brand, why not make the “connect” or “friend” decision process as easy as possible?

  • http://blog.clientbucket.com Sam Attlee

    Its understood that number one is good but not all can. What do you do in such case?

  • http://makewebworld.com Admin_makewebworld

    Great Tips, Giving name is really important, yet many times we end up ignoring this.

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  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    i would say make sure you let people know who is behind the corporate “Brand” (many official twitter accounts do this).

  • Guest

    So glad I stumbled upon this article! We had an incident this morning where we received a not-so-favorable post on ouf FB wall. As the social media admin, I was told to remove the post. I pushed back, telling the “powers that be” that this is an excellent opportunity to educate our consumer on our stance on the issue. I am researching best practices on how we can better use our social media as a PR tool, and will use this as an example! Thank you

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  • corinamackay

    I understand that perhaps you need to use a company or brand name for your profiles, URLs, account names, etc. This is where I think it’s a great idea to do what Hamish & Andy do (see first screenshot), and just add your name to your specific posts or updates to keep the right balance of professionalism and human interaction.

  • http://www.best-web-hosting-companies.com/ Kavya Hari

    Social media will be connecting all the people in the web. so, we can communicate,and share ideas and thoughts in that. Its really great to hear such type of information on here :)

  • http://www.i95dev.com/ecommerce-magento Henry Louis

    Yes. I hope this post gives better idea about how to build good relationships with others through twitter in the business and marketing field.

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  • http://www.sisatel.com Tania Sarkar

    great tips… the ideapaint webpage is cool… i chkd out on fb… thanks…

  • http://twitter.com/buzzquotient buzzquotient

    These points are so true. To humanize, you need to have a profile with a real name. This is your identity through which people identify you. Also adding a picture helps as this authenticates and builds your genuinity in people eyes. Listening is also important as it gives a chance to know what other people want. And also helps in brand building and managing online reputation.

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  • http://www.michaelrurupandersen.dk/ Michael Rurup Andersen

    Hi Sam, some brands just use initials for the person who engaged with the customer. For instance my initials would be MRA. These will be unique in most cases and the cunsomer – when calling customer service – would have some kind of reference point as well hence it would be easier for the customer service person to locate the actual conversation/engagement.

  • http://www.annexcore.com/ Andy B

    I definitely agree, you don’t want to sound dry and bland. Something that stuck with me for a while was what I read on Groupons writing guidelines, they definitely understood how to properly create humor within all their descriptions.

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