In order for your business to take full advantage of social media you need to humanise it first.
As human beings we love to humanise things.
Does your car have a name? Maybe not, but I’m sure you know someone who does give their car a name.
Learning From Fido, Starbucks and Zappos
Do you remember when Fido used to live in a kennel at the bottom of the garden? Now we find the family pet has moved indoors, even creeping up the stairs and dare I say it, into the bedroom!
As a nation we have humanised our pets and we are beginning to do the same with companies and their logos.
Smart businesses work hard to associate their brand with you on a human level. Corporate heavyweights like Starbucks and Zappos invest heavily into social media, because they know how the world has changed. They know one of the best ways to connect on a human level is through using social media. There is no option not to get involved with this trend and this is particularly true for your small business.
Be Like Innocent Drinks
A good example of a business doing this exceptionally well in the UK, one many small businesses can learn from, is Innocent Drinks. For example in the offline world they invite customers into their Juice Towers to try out different flavours. It’s an inclusive attitude and they truly value everyone’s feedback.
So much so that back in 2009 they felt a huge backlash from customers online when they announced they were selling a small stake in their company to The Coca-Cola Company. This only happened because people cared strongly about Innocent Drinks, because they felt the company cared about their customers.
Since then The Coca-Cola Company have gone on to own over 90% of the company, but nevertheless the UK market leader in smoothies are still very serious about being inclusive and social in every aspect of their business. They understand that by being social, their customers are more likely to tell others and share their experiences and stories.
It could be argued that small businesses have always had to be human in every aspect of their business. Let’s look back to a time when the high street was one long line of independent shops, it was truly a pleasure to be greeted by a shopkeeper that really cared each and every time.
Fast forward today and the out of town supermarkets offer far more competition for the independents. Now more than ever independent shops need to use today’s social media tools to enhance the way in which they connect with each and every customer. This is one way they can steal a march over the supermarkets.
Word of Mouth on Steroids
Twitter and Facebook have put word of mouth on steroids. Both good and bad news travels fast, faster than we could have ever imagined just a few short years ago.
For your business to take advantage of this culture shift you need empathy and the ability to care without any form of hidden agenda. We have entered into a more transparent, open and connected world. There simply is no room for any company with an ego.
It’s more important than ever for your employees to understand that their individual personalities really matter online because it’s here that you either make long lasting customer relationships or kill them from the outset.
Your brand equity will be built on how well you acknowledge these technological and social trends and incorporate them into all parts of your business. It should be part of your business DNA.
My BT Care Story
I have told countless people about how BT solved a recent broadband problem I had, when I simply contacted them via their Twitter handle @BTcare. Within 15 minutes I received a call (that’s unheard of, I usually end up in option hell calling them many times over!) and without any hassle they went away and fixed everything. This was a superb customer experience and without prompting I went on tell all of my followers on Facebook and Twitter.
I’m definitely including the story here so as BT get the recognition and perhaps if you ever have a problem with them you now know a short cut to getting everything quickly resolved.
BT like many other companies, know that if they are genuine in their efforts to fix your problem, people will naturally tell others and often this can go viral.
Doing The Small Things To Humanise Your Business
You can start by doing the small things to humanise your business. When you post on your business Facebook fanpage I recommend finishing your comment with your name. This way you give the personal touch. Equally with tweets on Twitter add your initials at the end if several people tweet for a company. Importantly take time to thank people for their comments.
Being human means replying to every comment left on your Facebook page or blog. Equally acknowledge every tweet you receive. If someone takes the time to contact you on your blog, fanpage, or YouTube channel, it is courteous to reply. You wouldn’t ignore someone if they walked into your premises, so why do it online. The same rules offline apply online.
Take time to look at your marketing pieces on social media. Too many businesses talk to us like robots, it’s as if they have forgotten how to have a proper conversation!
Amazing things happen when you start to talk naturally on Facebook and Twitter and cut out the forced marketing speak. It’s time to be authentic and inject some personality. If a massive company like Ford can do it without any problems, I’m sure you can as well. It’s far easier to humanise a smaller company.
Love it or hate it Google has started personalising your searches with results from your friends. This is called social search and is exactly the human conversation your business needs to be apart of online. You must continue to produce high quality unique content online, but also share it on the social networks.
Times are changing, it will be painful for many, but I promise your efforts to humanise your company will be worth it. In this new world of social currency it’s your number one way of keeping relevant.