Is this even possible today? The human component is what separates the big brands on social media from the rest. Big companies focus their social media on their brand, branding, & advertising, and center it around their brand image. When working with all of these components, it’s hard to enable human connection that empowers communication and builds relationships.
Here’s what you should do to make it work.
Revisit and form your mission and vision as a brand
Your mission and vision are an integral part of your voice and tone on social media. People are more likely to connect with you if you are clear on your goals and aspirations. Millennials as the largest consumer group out there are more likely to connect with a brand that is driven by purpose. If your brand mission and vision statements are outdated, or worse, non-existing, you will have to work the ground up.Source: brandedworld.co
“The goal is to elevate, not manipulate with your brand” – keep this as a mantra. Source: medium.com
A good example of a mission-driven and socially engaging brand is Dove. Their brand mission is focused on improving the self-esteem of girls and women worldwide through their #speakbeautiful movement.
Find your voice and maintain it
A unique aspect of human beings is the way we communicate with each other. Some people tend to talk really fast, some use strange references, some use slang. Most people have their own voice that makes part of their personality and this is one of the beautiful things that make us human. And for your brand to be recognized as such, it needs to have its own unique voice to fit the image it portrays.
For example, if you were a reputable insurance company that people look up to, your voice should be authoritative and formal, yet still be dependable and to infuse a sense of security.Source: instagram.com
A great example of a social media voice done right is The Honest Company – a baby care and beauty store. They infuse their posts with honesty and a dash of humor with real-life examples. As a brand, they aim to portray the real struggles of parenting through user-generated content. All tuned with their brand image. Here’s an all-time favorite:
“Sleep when your baby sleeps. Everyone knows this classic tip, but I say why stop there? Scream when your baby screams. Take Benadryl when your baby takes Benadryl. And walk around pantless when your baby walks around pantless.” – Tina Fey.
People like talking to real people. This is the age of AI exploit – brands understand the need to be in the here and now for the customers and chatbots, CRM and automation software is a cost-effective way to achieve it. The downside of it is that the consumers know this and oftentimes reject it. It’s all about trust now.
By showing your customers there are real humans working behind your brand you will be closing in this trust gap. Try employee storytelling on a weekly basis. Feature your employees from different departments with a short story about them and a photo of them in their work environment. Not only will it portray your brand with a human side but will also help connect employees with it as they will recognize themselves as a valuable asset of it.
A good example of employee showcasing is done by Cisco. They are doing a great job of telling their employee stories on Twitter and by showcasing the community behind the brand. Cisco goes a bit further with this tactic by writing full blog posts showcasing their employees – their real-life struggles, aspirations, and dreams and by doing so deepening the connection between their employees, their brand, and their customers.
Sign your posts
It’s not uncommon that more than one person runs your branded social media page, and people that actually follow you can recognize this in your feed. A problem with social media pages is that you cannot see the actual poster behind the posting as a follower and this takes out a human touch behind it. There are reasons for this that shouldn’t be changed. However, there is no rule that bans you from signing your posting. You can actually win social media by doing this as you can get more personal with your followers.
If you have a team running your social media page, try signing each individual posting with the poster’s name. This will show your followers that there are real people behind the post and give them a clear picture of whom they are talking with.
Work with Influencers
Social media influencers and influencer marketing is a secondary marketing tactic most discussed in the past few years. Influencers are a great medium for putting up a human face to your brand and a great way to connect with new followers and potential customers.
Influencers are real people who are seen by users as authority figures in their respective niches across social media. People rely on their recommendations and honest reviews – if approached properly, you can even turn an influencer into a brand ambassador. They can help craft and elevate your customer brand perception.
Working with influencers doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-term tactic – you can have an influencer takeover your social media account for a day. A fine example of this can be seen with Longwood Gardens – they engage with micro-influencers in the photography niche to take over their Instagram account for a day and raise engagement.
Sync online and offline
It’s easy to get confused with different messaging especially if you running several social media channels. It’s true that no network has the same audience but you need to provide the level of transparency and consistency between them so that users coming from different channels may have the same frictionless experience.
Your brand should be recognizable from any touch point or channel path the users try to reach or discover you. The trickiest part here is that your online presence should reflect the same experience for the users visiting your brick & mortar establishments.
One of the best and the most talked about example of this is Nordstrom Department store. The brand employs a Pinterest marketing tactic that allows their follower base to pin their favorite items on their website. The most pinned items are the ones that are displayed in their actual physical stores.
This is a great way of humanizing your brand on social media – and it involves listening. People like surprises especially coming from people they like the most. You can make your audience happy by being there when they need it the most and treating them with something special. And it doesn’t have to be expensive at all.
A great example of a brand behind a surprise and delight tactic is Chewy, a Florida based online pet food store that prides itself with personalized customer service. One of their followers took a photo of its cat sleeping on one of their pet food boxes. Chewy took that photo and hired an artist to paint the picture to be sent back to the owner.
Admit when you’re wrong
Making mistakes is what makes us human. If your company makes a mistake, don’t try to hide it, the users will see through the facade. Just be open about it and admit your mistakes. Transparency is a great way to deepen the connection with your followers and close the trust gap between them and your brand.
Complaint handling on social media has to be approached with vigilance. Do not argue or try justifying your actions. Clarify the problem via pm and move it from the public eye – do not make it insulting or disrespectful. If you identify the mistake coming from your end of the rope, make an assessment and layout a roadmap on how to resolve it.Source: facebook.com
A great example of complaint handling over social media can be seen on Wendy’s Facebook page. From the way they respond to their customer complaints, you can see that their social media and sales team actually takes time to read, analyze and answer each one of them.
Some key takeaways to have in mind
#1 No emotion means no reaction
People are emotional beings, and we tie our experiences to emotions. When was it the last time you’ve heard a great story? One that evokes emotion with you and drives you in taking action?
When listening to a great story, people go through various emotional states – six main arcs to be exact. When visualizing the scenario with your target user as the main character, try visualizing the emotional states they go through. Users’ decisions are driven by emotions and if you manage to capture, build and elevate on those emotions you will be given an opportunity to build great engagement. Just listen to your users, identify key stories and content that provoked or empowered them. Use this as your guide.
#2 Don’t create. Document.
It’s not always about creation. Nor does each piece of content have to hide a business objective behind it. Switch your focus on documenting your experiences, your brand culture and everyday works. This will deepen the connection between your users and your brand. Keep in mind that the communication between these two happens behind the screen and the only way to build value in it is to communicate your message, tone, and voice via shared media.
Not every piece of content you share can become viral. Nor can each piece of content provide desired outcome in engagement and interaction. This is why you should focus on documenting rather than creating. Capture the there and now of the moment and share it with your audience.
#3 Two-way communication is the key
“Document. Don’t create” is a mantra far often misunderstood. Yes, it’s important to document your work and culture on a regular basis but it’s easy to transform this into a one-way communication channel without noticing.
Don’t just post content looking to engage. Communicate with your audience, engage in conversations around social media on topics outside your business and your brand.
Look for topics that are related to your brand culture, work, and history. Touch on current topics and work on the discovery of actual and ongoing trends and try visualizing your brand’s role in them.
#4 Social Media is not “one-fits-all”
Each social network has its own set of rules and guidelines, ways of communication and engagement, different communities and experiences. You can’t expect to use a single campaign across all networks and expect the same response.
If you were to use the same image for a campaign on Instagram and LinkedIn, you wouldn’t entice the same engagement or achieve a desirable outcome.
#5 Finally, be consistent
During your journey as a social media marketer working as a professional or within an agency, you will test various tools and methodologies that may apply to your processes. After a while, your methodology and toolset will come into shape making your approach templatized and automated and this is great – but to a point.
Each brand has its own story and its own audience that takes the part in it. Knowing the difference between consistency and automation and the levels of it is what will differentiate you from a bot and keep the humanized approach to your social media marketing efforts.