So much of our online social media world isn’t social. It’s stale and technical. Those of us who are trying to promote our blogs or our products often automate things because frankly there’s only so many hours in the day. We can’t write books and blog posts or create products if we’re spending all our time online.
Wired Magazine started something in their print version a little while ago that at first I thought was a nice little gimmick, but the more often I saw it the more I began to understand it was a way of humanizing their publication. If you grab a recent issue of Wired and take a look at the credits section near the front—the “Who Does That?” section—you’ll see something pretty cool.
They take the time to go around the office and ask the staff a question of some sort, then they print some of the best answers in the page margins with arrows pointing to the member of the production staff who said it. It’s a way for you to get a tiny little glimpse into the lives and personalities of the people who create the magazine, and it also encourages you to actually pay attention to who those people are for once.
I don’t know about you, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve looked at the credits page of any magazine—until Wired. Now, it’s one of the pages I check out first when the latest issue hits my mailbox.
How can you humanize what you do—whether it’s for a blog or business? How can you stay competitive in today’s over-saturated market and retain a sense of realism and empathy?
Six Ways to Humanize Your Brand
Don’t try to hide yourself behind slick marketing campaigns and massaged messages. Yes, you should be professional. Yes, you should put your best foot forward. Yes, you should advertise your product. But don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t fudge the numbers on your publicity packet or say you have experience you don’t have. Don’t try to make your experiences sound bigger or more impressive than they truly are. Deliver on your promises, and be quick to admit when you know you’re going to fall short of those promises. Unrelenting honesty builds trust with your audience. Trust reinforces your humanity.
Don’t hide your mistakes. Use them as teachable moments you can share with other to show how you’re not perfect and how you’re still learning and growing as a person. And don’t be afraid to get off-topic once in a while. You don’t want to do this too often or your alienate yourself from your audience, but breaking the fourth wall every now and then reminds your audience that there’s a real person behind it all. Share your interests, your struggles, your faults and failures, your frustrations, your hope and dreams—all the stuff that gives your audience a glimpse of the real you.
3. Communicate “Humanly”:
This sounds a little bit like defining a word by using the same word, but one of the best ways to humanize what you do is to intentionally try to write and speak like a real person. Avoid using jargon or specialized language. Use humor, even to the point of poking fun at yourself. Sign your emails with your real name, not a company name or title alone. Work to build emotional connections, but don’t try to manipulate emotions.
4. Customer Service:
No matter who you are, you’re selling something. Even if you’re not charging money and no actual product changes hands, you’re at the very least attempting to persuade people to think. So, as a salesperson, you’ve got to think in terms of customer service. Are you truly serving your customers.
5. Build Bridges:
It’s often tempting to look at your Facebook friends and see them as nothing more than another marketing stream. Not that you shouldn’t ever advertise what you do in your private life, but think about balance. Imagine hanging out with a friend who suddenly never talks about anything but their business or product. At first it’s okay because they’re excited about this new venture and want to share it with you, but soon it feels like their trying to make a sale every time you have a conversation. How much do you want to keep hanging out with your friend? Treat your personal social media accounts with the same care and discretion.
6. Social Interaction:
Without implementing a hard and fast rule that you MUST respond to every comment on your blog and social media accounts, or that you should personally respond to each and every email, keep in mind that one of the most powerful ways to keep that human touch alive is to communicate freely and often with your audience. If you have opportunities to speak in public, I’d recommend you always make sure you have time to meet with audience members afterward. Building a community that you’re regularly involved in keeps you humble and human. Above all, try to listen more than you speak when you have the opportunity to interact with your community.