Social Media Humanization
Social Media Humanization
Social Media Humanization

If we were to go by its moniker, “Social Media” should present itself as a communication channel rooted in human interaction – people from around the world using accessible publishing tools to share news, ideas and information with each other. It is definitely social, but could it be more human – particularly when it comes to organizations or brands?

We know that individuals are behind the posts, tweets and comments but it seems that organizations may have lost sight of the fact that actual people are connecting with their content. In order to free up their trust in a brand, audiences might like to know a little bit more about the people behind the icons and logos they subscribe to, follow or like.

People Buy From People

Organizations are ecosystems built around people, so “humanizing” them might seem like an oxymoronic exercise. But is it? Lauren Vargas from Radian 6 wrote a great post about humanizing the organization from a B2B perspective – but the principles apply to any online or offline relationship – people buy from people:

“The essence of social media is about breaking down barriers, forging relationships and encouraging a dialog and not a monologue between the organization and the community. As defined by the dictionary, a relationship is “an emotional or other connection between people.” Not between a person and a company avatar. Not between a person and an automated response. People to people.”

Part of the issue for some brands is transparency – if they are communicating to their audience through an agency and not from inside their four walls, it’s more difficult to make that human connection. Yes, some organizations are up front about the fact that a PR firm or agency acts as the conduit between them and their audience, but trying to build a relationship around that is another matter altogether. Imagine the profile…

We’d like you to meet Jane Doe, a key member of our team. Jane is an intern at the PR agency we’ve hired to communicate with you on our behalf. The brand message is ours…but the words are all her own. In her spare time she likes to go for long walks, read historical fiction and watch costume dramas. Thanks for connecting with us.

Tough sell.

A Peek Behind the Logo

But what about organizations that are leveraging employee participation to communicate with their audiences through social media? Here are a few tactics to consider implementing to humanize your brand:

  • Instead of an icon or logo, use a team photo for your Facebook page or corporate twitter account to show that real people are behind the brand.
  • Include the names of employees representing the brand in any account profiles, about us pages, etc.
  • Include a page on your blog with author profiles and photos – offer a behind the scenes look at their role within the organization.
  • Have a monthly “Meet our Team” post on your blog or Facebook page. This could include a text entry with an attached image or a video post that offers some insight into the personality of the organization.
  • Build stories around individual employees’ favourite products, why they love them, how they use them, etc.
  • Encourage team members to communicate on behalf of the brand through their own twitter accounts – which would include their photo, their role within the organization and a link back to the company website.
  • Get out of the office – have a plan that bridges digital communication with face-to-face audience interaction. This could include employees speaking at industry functions, hosting seminars or educational events, employee volunteerism within your community, regular pr/service visits into the marketplace, etc.

What other tactics could you implement to humanize your brand?

Understand Your Audiences

A word of caution before pulling the curtain back on your organization – take some time to really understand the needs of your internal and external audiences. Before setting out to humanize your organization through social media:

  1. Communicate social media goals and guidelines with employees – particularly if they will be representing your brand through personal accounts of off- hours.
  2. Understand the information needs of your audience and balance the frequency of culture posts – personal stories are great for building relationships but it’s important to be mindful of the fact that too much content related to the organization may not be of interest to your stakeholders.

What types of things are you doing to humanize your organization? Have you experienced any benefits for your brand? What are some of the challenges with connecting a human face to your business or non-profit?

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About the Author

Mark Smiciklas
Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.

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