Stop trying to be human – Try being useful.

by · April 23, 201411 comments

Once upon a time businesses were businesses and people were people. Then one day someone (probably at an agency, possibly a real-life Don Draper) convinced a business to be more like people. And businesses made attempts to be more like people. The actual people didn’t buy it and then the big bad Facebook changed their reach algorithm and no one lived happily ever after. The end. Or is it?

Jason Falls’ post from last week really got me thinking. People can gain a BIG social following because, duh, they are people. People are unique with personalities, strengths, weaknesses, humor, humility, grace, forgiveness and so on. Individuals can be charming and interesting. It is natural to be attracted to charming people. We are all human after all and enjoy human connection. Well at least some of us do. And because of this reason, it is much easier for people to grow a large social following. It’s natural to want to connect with people and their personalities on social. It is however, un-natural to “engage” with a product or brand. I almost never talk to my pillow. I occasionally talk to my treadmill, but not in a nice, friendly way. So, let’s drop this whole notion of being more human and try instead to be useful.

Anticipate and answer questions

Need AnswersCurate content that is helpful to your audience and related to your product. And when you get to that 20% of the time you are talking about yourself, use that real estate to answer common questions people may have about your product. The beauty of social vs. your website is that it is so bleeping easy to add content that will answer questions that your customers probably have that may be a barrier to purchase. Use social for this! Be helpful. Help them learn something they may not already know about your product, brand or company.

Offer tips and tricks

Your product may have alternative uses that are clever hacks. Tell people. People love to learn new ways to use something they already have. Beyond your own product, look at your category and offer people ways to make their lives easier within your category. For example, if you are marketing tents, there are probably 1,000 additional uses for a rain fly. Poof, right there is a dozen blog posts, a ton of social updates, a meme or two and potentially an ebook.

Lighten up whenever possible

Do not confuse levity with humor. Very few brands can pull off funny. Ever. Usually backfires. Levity is something different. It lacks seriousness. The advice here: Do not take yourself so seriously. You are a brand who makes a product (generally) and your customers have a choice across nearly all categories. And while this competitive nature of business is very real to brand marketers, it is not real to your customers. Lighten up. Social media is where people go to take a minute break in their day. Remember that. Add something light to the conversation. It may be hard and it is going to require some testing to find your footing with levity. On the flip side, some brands should not leverage levity. Serious topics require like zero levity. If you are say a funeral home, levity may not be for you…

Show them

Videos, photos and visual content drive a lot of engagement. If you want to educate your audience on your product or category, consider video and visual assets. These draw attention and can be incredibly useful to people who may have questions on your product or category. We are in the “show me” age after all. So, if you can deliver content via video, photo, infographic, etc. do it.

Support them

There is no better use of social media than helping support your customers. It shows prospective customers that you care and are interested in their success. By not supporting your customers when they have problems, questions or concerns, it speaks very loudly. Like really loudly. So, if you have no capacity to support your customers on social, you should be immediately looking at ways to do this.

Social is growing up and as social marketers we need to evolve as well. It is time we give up the ruse that brands and products can be human and transition to a more tangible goal of usefulness. Always open to new ideas, what other ways can your brand be useful?

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About Tracey Parsons

Tracey Parsons

Since 1995, Tracey has been developing digital solutions. Currently SME Digital’s lead strategist, she continues to be dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey not only brings vision, but the tools and strategies to execute against complex next generation concepts. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices.

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