One of the biggest misconceptions in social media is that brands need to interact like humans in order to humanize the brand. But let’s face it, brands are not people. It can be borderline creepy when a brand talks to you instead of a person. With individual authority becoming increasingly important and brand pages inching toward pay-to-play, the best way to make your brand successful in social media is to let your people do the talking.
Brands do still need an official presence on social networks to build their reach. However, when it comes to interaction, brands that talk to people run the risk of being dehumanized. If a person talks to another person, then the conversation tends to be more civil or at least diffused more easily. There are three ways to do this:
Upside: When the brand interacts with someone, it’s actually a person people can identify... right down to the profile picture.
Downside: If for some reason that representative leaves the company, you have to re-strategize or transition to someone else. This includes the risk of having the brand voice change, something that may turn off users.
Upside: The person on the receiving end of the communication will know that there is an actual person on the other side of the tweet.
Downside: The effectiveness of this strategy only extends to customer service. Even crisis communication can’t benefit from it.
Upside: The best and most authentic way to leverage your people is to have them represent you... from their perspective. They can tweet funny memes and still get the brand message out to their group of followers.
Downside: There’s some risk here... but there’s a level of risk in hiring anyone. (Remember what happened to the official KitchenAid Twitter account during the 2012 election.) You have to trust your employees, even if it means actively encouraging them to cultivate their personal brand.
For brands that aren’t ready for one reason or another to be people-powered, don’t fall into the trap of making your brand more human when you should be humanizing your brand. In truth, it’s completely acceptable to for a brand page to be somewhat self-obsessed, as long as it’s done in a way that supports your fan base.
Just remember, no matter how hard you try, a brand cannot be human. But you can highlight the people in your company who are doing great things or brand fans who are sharing great experiences.
Moving forward, companies must accept their employees are their biggest advocates. This may mean creating a social media policy that empowers all employees to support and create on behalf of the brand. You just have to remember to let employees be people, not social media robots.
For individual employees, you can be held accountable for anything you do in social media—even on personal accounts. Personal and professional lives will continue to merge as we build our life online. And managing that personal brand online will be just as important as a professional appearance offline.
Dan Stasiewski is an Enterprise Data Consultant at Kuno. When he's not talking about marketing data and trends, he's probably in a movie theater... or randomly breaking into song. You can connect with Dan via Twitter, LinkedIn or l.