Humanizing Your Brand on Social Media

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“Be yourself,” is probably one of the most common advice people give each other about being on social media. However, it’s particularly challenging for business brands to be themselves unless they define who they are. One easy way to do this is to stop worrying about being yourself and think of it as being human. Now that’s easy enough for personal brands. But what does it mean for businesses?

That’s what we wanted to discuss on our chat. We invited social media strategist Shane Shaps to talk about humanizing your brand. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Shane Shaps
Topic: Humanizing your brand on social media
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: What does it mean for a brand to be human on social media?

To be human is to take a break from the “buy me, buy now” type of salesy content. A brand is human when they engage with their audience, share knowledge, acknowledge their communities, and get involved in causes that matter to them.

As John put it, humanizing your brand also includes interacting with people who aren’t your customers. It’s a way for you to showcase the real person behind the handle and communicate as you would outside of social media.

Of course, as our guest added, doing all this takes time. Building and maintaining a highly-interactive community can take years. It’s crucial to understand that social media is a long-term game.

Q2: Why should brands be human?

Buying a specific brand’s products indicates that we support that brand. And no one likes to support a brand that’s bossy, rude, and annoying towards its audience. That’s why you should be human—it makes you likable.

As Rachel from Express Writers also reminded us, displaying human qualities and vulnerabilities helps people resonate with you and appreciate you for who you are.

Q3: Can you humanize your brand if you have multiple people managing your social media?

Absolutely. You just have to be strategic about how you’ll do it. To start with, create a humane voice and tone for your brand. Then, you have two options.

Encourage your social media managers to adopt that voice every time they engage, or

Allow them to sign off each tweet with their own name while still maintaining brand consistency. This way, your audience will know who they should address in every conversation. What’s more, it also assigns accountability to each tweet, making it a great strategy for managing customer support on social media.

Whichever route you take, make sure that your team knows the brand’s voice. As Rhea emphasized, you don’t want your social media managers disconnected from the bigger picture.

Q4: What are some ways brands can humanize their accounts on social media?

The first step is to identify your brand and its characteristics. Our guest gave us some questions to think through to help form a voice for the brand. Consider your brand as a human and assign characteristics to it to make it more—well, human. For instance, think about what they like to drink, how they present themselves, which sport they enjoy, and which teams they support. These responses will instantly help you allocate human-like qualities to your brand.

Once you know who your brand is as a person, make a list of topics they’d like to discuss, like who won the game today. Or which drink is better, or how long it’d take them to ride across the country on a bicycle. Find out about topics and concepts that your brand would enjoy covering. Then you’ll automatically find an audience that shares the same interests.

And most importantly, know who you’re addressing. The biggest mistake many brands make is talking at their audience instead of with them. This leaves them broadcasting random messages to a group of people who aren’t even listening.

Aside from these best practices, you can also involve your audience in your content process, as Alyx explained. Showcase content from your users (User Generated Content – UGE) and employees (Employee Generated Content – EGC), share what’s happening behind the scenes, talk about anecdotes and lessons you learned from making mistakes, and be transparent about all the times you’ve messed up. That’s proof that you’re becoming better, and your audience will appreciate that.

Q5: Can you retain credibility as a brand if you’re too human?

You totally can. Focus on being yourself and showing what matters to your brand. Remain true to your values and don’t be afraid to be transparent. Just remember that social media is a gateway to the world, and so don’t ever say or do anything that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.

On the flip side, don’t try too hard, as Dewi warned. No one’s life is perfect and we all have our ups and downs. Though it’s important to inspire your audience with your content, don’t go overboard with the cheery personality. People will notice when you’re being fake and that does more harm than good.

Q6: What are some ways to sell on social media without being salesy?

Our guest explained this with an excellent example. If you’re at a party and you overhear someone tell their friend they need a new lawnmower, you wouldn’t walk up to them and shove your gardening business card in their hands. That’d be rude.

However, if you’ve known that person for the last two years, they’ll probably come to you for help or counsel. That’s a more natural progression and is far less aggressive.

The key lesson from this is that social media is all about building relationships. As we said earlier, it’s a long-term commitment and you should honor it if you want to get results.

Of course, it’s not all about waiting for your friends to become your customers. You also have to do your part in communicating who you are and what value your business can offer your audience. As Kelly put it, convey your message to your customers by making it about them.

Q7: Humans make mistakes. Won’t mistakes affect a brand’s reputation?

Mistakes are proof that you’re learning. Just as your friends in real life will forgive you when you forget to order dinner, your social media friends and audience will forgive you—as long as you’re open about it and assure them that you’re taking care of things.

Our guest even told us about a time when she, as a livestream host, couldn’t get the system to work properly because she was still learning the program. Sure, the screen was black half the time, but it was fine.

At the same time, remember that the size of impact also depends on the type of mistake you make. Not knowing how to use a piece of software is one thing. Accidentally deleting all your customers’ data probably is a whole different thing. As our friends from Cloud Campaign pointed out, be judicious about your workflows and who gets to make high-risk decisions. There are only a few things you can do on social media that’ll break your business, and so make sure you don’t do any of that.

Q8: Name some brands that are unmistakably human.

We all love Alyx from the Charlie Appel Agency. Not only does she show up every week to chat with us, but we also know her as a person—when we interact with her during the chat, we imagine talking to a human being and not a brand.

Our guest also told us about Lowes and the good work they do in terms of engaging with their audience.

Shane also suggested looking at David Novak Leadership, a team she’s currently working with, and see good potential in.

Remember, success is not only defined by the number of customers who follow you, but also by people who follow you for who you are as a brand on social media. Shane told us about a time when someone followed a brand she was working with just because the social media person was fun to chat with.

Our friends from GiveWP gave a shout-out to Wendy’s, who gets a well-deserved mention every time we talk about great social media engagement.

Other favorites included McDonald’s, Chewy, and Nike among others.

Well, folks, that’s all from me this week. As always, thank you for reading, and for more insights from our chat with Shane, have a look at this Twitter Moment that Joana put together. And if you’d like to be part of our weekly chats, come join us at 1pm ET on #TwitterSmarter. We’re a loud and fast chat, but we love welcoming new people as much as saying hello to the OGs.

About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all the things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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