How to Humanize Your Brand Through Social Media

Sometime around the close of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st (but prior to the advent of Web 2.0), many companies began implementing a relatively new technology: complex phone systems.

The idea was that customers could help themselves to the information they sought by navigating tele-menus from their touch-tone phones.

Almost every major corporation and even many small ones reduced the number of customer service agents that they kept on staff and barricaded the few that remained behind a labyrinth of automated recordings.

What followed was years of consumer frustration.

If you wanted to dispute a discrepancy on a phone bill or question an item on a bank statement, the average American customer would have to first prepare mentally to do battle with the brainless robot that would answer on the other end of the line.

Discussing the aggravation caused by these phone systems became something of a pastime during these years.

Occasionally, you would meet someone seemingly grounded by a new type of Zen, who was always able to get through to a live human agent or even find a solution to their problems using just the automation without any hiccups.

However, a much more common species for the era was the screamer. This was the guy or gal who would instantly begin yelling things like “Operator!” or “Customer Service!” before even choosing between English and Spanish, as if there were still real people on the other end of the line who were just really far away.

Then there were the zero pushers—the people who would advise that if you simply pressed the zero button an untold number of times the phone system would go into a kind of cardiac arrest and an actual human would come to your aid.

All the different companies that used these systems were fully aware of the angst with which the populace regarded them. However, rather than revert to the good old days of human customer service, the companies doubled down on the technology, thinking that what we didn’t like about it was its less-than-humanness.

So, instead of giving us what we really wanted (an easier time), they gave us slightly more convincing robots. While the recordings were “improved” with a bit more synthetic humanity in the programming, the upgrades just caused us to become even more enraged.

It was somewhere around 2005 when most of this consternation began to blow over as more and more companies moved the bulk of their self-serve options to the web. Finally, we could all remain calm and just point, click, and read our way to the answers we sought.

For the most part, this is how things are still going. 

Now, on the rare occasion that a more complicated matter springs up where we really do need to talk to an actual human, there’s almost always a live chat option. Through the live chat you can type back and forth with another entity that passes the Turing test with so many flying colors that there’s no way they’re not just as alive as you. It’s really not too bad. In fact, it’s almost kind of fun.

Sadly, as a species it seems we have transcended our need for each other.

What started out as a demand for a return to one-on-one communication that evolved into a tele-dystopian nightmare eventually solved itself with the least human option of all.

And most of us like it this way.

We prefer surfing the web to having a conversation with a salesperson. A typed chat is superior to a phone call with a stranger. Texting with a friend is more comfortable than ringing them up.

The pandemic of 2020 and the various ramifications of social distancing and lockdowns have only served to exacerbate this condition.

Around the globe, humans realized that we could successfully work from home in far greater numbers than ever imagined.

More items, both necessities and luxuries, became fully deliverable than at any previous time in history. And for now, barring any further complications from supply chain shortages, we seem kind of okay with this new status quo.

But with the rise of automation, where does this leave businesses that rely on customer interaction?

The historically extreme turbulence of the economic climate over the past two years has seen many different businesses both succeed and fail. For now, staying relevant and competitive is dependent in part on making and maintaining a human connection to your clientele.

The modern customer is a highly complicated animal that loves new technology and expects constant improvement and increased convenience but shuns any tech that smacks of Big Brother by intruding on privacy or disturbing anonymity.

The modern customer has also grown accustomed to 24/7 online access to detailed information, pictures, and videos from their favorite brands. They also demand, when reasonable, the ability to buy the wares of said brands and to have them shipped at any time of day as well.

What the modern customer has grown weary of is the sterility and lonesomeness of it all.

While it’s not true that mall shopping or main street window shopping is a thing of the past, it’s definitely not what it used to be.

Some brands that were once extremely prevalent in physical brick and mortar locations have significantly decreased in number. Others have moved from storefronts to online only models. Some beloved brands are now completely out of business and are ostensibly gone forever.

Other brands were born into these conditions, however, and have managed to find success regardless of the roadblocks in their way.

One of the ways these brands have pulled this off is by humanizing themselves, finding their customers, and making human connections with them.

One of the best ways to humanize your brand is through social media.

There are a number of social media methods that you could employ that will help you humanize your brand.

6 Ways to Humanize Your Brand Through Social Media

Develop a personality (and stick to it).

While hiring a loveable spokesperson like Flo from Progressive Insurance and having her do all the talking for your company certainly isn’t a bad idea, it’s not what is meant by develop a personality.

You should decide ahead of time what your company’s social media voice should sound like and consistently stick to it.

It depends on what your product or service is and what kind of voice would be appropriate to accompany it.

Take Rolex, for example.

The copy that Rolex implements to advertise their watches sticks to a relaxed but serious, high-brow tone that complements their elegant photography and matches how the company wants you to regard their high-quality, high-priced products.

If Rolex were to suddenly introduce a watch-wearing cartoon character that cracks a lot of jokes about bodily functions, it would be completely off-putting and ridiculous.

But a different yet entirely serious and successful company could do that very thing and get away with it as long as it makes sense on a human level.

It’s possible that The Duluth Trading Company knows its prime customer better than any other company out there marketing themselves today.

Duluth’s main customer base is male, slightly larger than average, works with his hands, spends a lot of time out of doors performing skilled labor, does well for himself, is willing to spend more for quality and durability, and has a great sense of humor.

They maintain a tradition of combining hand drawn depictions of their clothing alongside clear photography and they broadcast humorous commercials that are in line with what their ideal customer finds funny.

Like an actual human being, Duluth’s social media presence reflects these various elements of a real personality and combines them all together evenly and appropriately.

Whether Duluth is being its usual funny old self or if it feels the need to be serious for a bit, the customer base accepts, believes, and appreciates the message because it connects on a human level.

Engage in conversation.

If you want to humanize your brand, you’ve got to speak human.

The use of common, everyday language is key to connecting to your customer base; they’ll appreciate it and subconsciously let their guard down.

Sonic Drive-In is a good example of a large company that rarely hesitates to converse in the language of the common folk.

Sonic also reaches out to their customers and simply asks them to share their pro-Sonic content through hashtags and callouts. The company then shares the best entries on their own page.

Reaching out to your customers and actively asking them for responses isn’t a practice limited to large companies with large followings either.

The Parkview Animal Hospital in Passaic, New Jersey, is a tiny veterinary outfit with a passionate fan club.

The only social media platform they maintain is a Facebook page, but the fun and friendly posts they regularly publish on it are enough to keep their clients feeling engaged.

Parkview is so respected and sought out in their area that they are often closed to new patients and the waiting list is a long one.

Whenever possible, show off your happy customers!

Ask for permission to include their stories on your social media accounts. You’ll be surprised by how often they say yes!

Acknowledge mistakes.

Putting your company out there into the social media world undoubtedly puts you at risk of receiving some very public criticism, but don’t hide it and don’t hide from it—own up to it.

If a customer decides to use the comments section on one of your social media accounts to vent about how one of your products disappointed them, listen!

You should appoint an employee to regularly monitor and respond to social media comments like this.

An unattended complaint looks bad. A deleted post looks bad. But nothing looks worse than a company arguing with a commenter, so don’t do that either!

The best approach is to apologize for their less-than-ideal experience and offer to make it right via a direct, private message.

Other potential customers browsing your posts will see the engagement and know that you take such matters seriously and are willing to do what’s needed to make things right.

Highlight your employees.

If humanizing your brand is your goal, it never hurts to remind your customers that you are a company of humans for humans with real live humans working for it!

Crutchfield, a purveyor of home and vehicle stereos and electronics, practiced this technique long before social media even existed.

Back when Crutchfield’s main mode of communication was their home catalogue, the company would regularly profile their own employees and highlight the individual’s personal car or home stereo system.

With an actual employee also acting as a spokesperson, it gives the customer the impression that your employees are happy (they better be!) and if they enjoy the products that they sell, a regular customer would too.

Crutchfield continues this practice to this day with nearly every one of the posts on their Instagram page.

It’s safe to publicly share company culture with your customers as well.

If you are celebrating a particular milestone, awarding a sales team for reaching a certain goal, or promoting a single staff member for a job well done, feel free to share the news online.

In the minds of your customer base, your company will come across as a positive work environment where hard work is rewarded. In turn, you’ll build more trust with your clients.

Tell stories. Sell the lifestyle.

Your social media accounts shouldn’t be reserved for just product placement and further advertising.

Depending on the focus of your business, you can allow your social media pages to act as forums for the greater lifestyle surrounding your products or the industry you’re engaged in.

If you sell running shoes, alert your customers to upcoming marathons in your area.

If you sell cooking equipment, document an impressive meal that one of your employees prepared at home.

If you are managing a record store, post a picture of a favorite musician and reminisce about a beloved album. It doesn’t always have to be about what you have in stock, how much it costs, and why they should buy it.

Have fun! Use emojis! Get into beefs?

https://images.pexels.com

The little pictograms known as emojis that became a huge part of our lives with the introduction of smartphones are here to stay.

Their use in social media descriptions have become so commonplace that it’s now rare to see a caption that doesn’t include at least one.

Embrace them, have fun with them, and test yourself to see how creative you can get with their use. But don’t get hung up on how much time you think you’re wasting scrolling through them—apparently social media posts that feature emojis get 48% more engagement!

Another idea to consider is that of a public, social media rivalry with a competitor. 

If you have a good sporting relationship with another business in your area or industry, it’s fertile ground for a lot of potential comedy that your mutual customer bases might enjoy. It can double as a cross-promotional opportunity.

Wendy’s and Burger King famously spar with each other from time to time in an ongoing social media troll war.

And sometimes it can get downright nasty.

But the “beef” between the two fast food giants never seems to generate any negative press.

It does generate a lot of laughs for their fans, though.

Honorable Mentions

Sometimes it’s not what you do on social media that gets you the most positive attention, but what you do as a business in real life that then ends up on social media that makes the biggest impression.

Chewy is an online retailer of pet supplies and food. They are a subset of PetSmart, run by executives from Amazon, Wayfair, and Wholefoods. They have decent prices. Their website looks a lot like Walmart’s.

From a distance they don’t seem like much to write home about—just another big box warehouse that has what you’re looking for.

But then Chewy’s customers started getting the letters.

Eerily specific thank you notes started arriving in the mailboxes of customers who had made purchases from the website that really really looked like they were handwritten.

Fake handwriting on junk mail was nothing new, but these notes, as neat and legible as they could be, really had an authenticity to them. They were so intriguing to so many people that Chewy’s customers began reaching out to one another online to see if they weren’t alone. They weren’t, and that’s how it eventually came out that Chewy really does employ an entire staff dedicated to sending out handwritten thank you notes to each and every customer.

They also send out holiday cards.

Oh, and sometimes they send you hand painted portraits of your pets, too.

Going the extra mile for your customer is basic, age-old, business advice—and it’s still good advice—because even in this modern era there are modern benefits to enjoy from the practice.

Taking the time to perform classy gestures for your customers without publicizing it, without asking for anything in return, without patting yourself on the back for having done it—can lead to exponential organic growth through social media.

JHS Pedals is a small company that manufactures guitar pedals in Kansas City.

The brainchild of founder Joshua Heath Scott (JHS), they have been in business for well over a decade, but over the course of just the past three years they have exploded in popularity by exemplifying every social media technique mentioned in this article.

One of the biggest contributions to their increased visibility is their creation of The JHS Show, a weekly YouTube show hosted by Joshua and his assistant Nick that drips with equal parts charm and comedy. During the show they discuss guitar centric electronics and demonstrate their capabilities through jam sessions. The final segment of each show is called Record Time, where Joshua offers up listening recommendations from often little-known recording artists.

What sets the show apart from others like it on YouTube is that JHS’s own products are the least likely to ever get featured.

In what would traditionally be considered an act of self-sabotage, Joshua eagerly tells the viewer everything he loves about his competitor’s products and demonstrates them for the camera.

Rather than directing potential customers away from his own products, Mr. Scott’s actions have seemingly had the opposite effect. Viewers have become loyal fans, endeared to him and his company. He has become known as an honest entrepreneur and a truly passionate advocate for an industry that was said to be on its last legs only a few years ago.

Thanks to the efforts of Joshua and others like him, the guitar industry has enjoyed a complete rebound.

By adopting some if not all of the practices discussed in this article, you’ll be well on your way towards humanizing your brand and winning over the hearts and minds of your customers.

If you could use some help getting your social media presence up and running, reach out for a quote today!

The 108 Most Persuasive Words In The English Language

It’s a long known fact that the secret to persuasive writing isn’t in the adjectives, it’s in the verbs.

Copywriters know power verbs sell and convince.

Internally, we have a list of 108 verbs that we’ve been using for a good decade, and we recently thought we should share it with proper credit to the original author.

We found that although the list is being recirculated (and in many cases claimed as original by several different authors!), the original author is, in fact, nowhere to be found.

If anyone knows who wrote this, we’d love to know!

With or without the original author, it’s still a great list…here it is!

The 108 Most Persuasive Words In The English Language

According to legendary advertising man, Leo Burnet, “Dull and exaggerated ad copy is due to the excess use of adjectives.”

To prove it, he asked his staff to compare the number of adjectives in 62 ads that failed to the number of adjectives in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and other age-old classics.

Here’s what he discovered:

Of the 12,758 words in the 62 failed ads, 24.1% were adjectives.

By direct comparison, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address contains only 35 adjectives out of 268 immortal words – only 13.1% adjective-to-total-word ratio.

Winston Churchill’s famous “Blood, Sweat and Tears” speech rates even lower and has a 12.1% adjective ratio (81 adjectives from 667 words).

Burnett found that similar ratios applied to great works such as The Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Conclusion: Use more verbs, not adjectives.

Verbs increase the pulling-power and believability of ad copy.

That’s why it makes sense to keep this 108-VERB “CHEAT-SHEET” close-by whenever you begin to draft your next space ad, sales letter, Website, or email campaign.

Still unsure how to incorporate these verbs into your marketing campaign? Or, perhaps, you just don’t have the time?

Then consider hiring a team of professional copywriters to do it for you! Talented advertising and marketing writers can take mediocre content and use power verbs to turn it into engaging copy that meets goals and produces results.

Blogging for Business Presentation

You know you want an engaging social campaign driven by quality content. But you’re not quite sure how to get to that place. And then there’s the challenge of finding the time to maintain your campaign – while customizing it for multiple platforms – and doing it effectively week after week.

Managing social media is one of those tasks that looks easy at first glance… but takes some real time, writing skills, and thought to do well.

We draw upon our writers’ experience in marketing, journalism, content marketing, and social media to craft campaigns that resonate with audiences and stand apart from the “click bait” so prevalent on social media today.

We’ll also take the time to get to know your organization and its culture, so everything we do on your behalf reflects your priorities.

Full Suite of Services

Because our highly educated writers produce copy for a wide range of industries, we’ve been able to draw upon their knowledge to craft thought-provoking, relevant social media posts for industries that include oil and gas, home improvement, professional services, moving and real estate – to name just a few.

Developing and posting social media posts is a key part of our social campaign services, but you also can count on us for the following:

  • Staying on top of best practices. Whether it’s the optimal time to Tweet or the art of writing articles for LinkedIn, we follow the social media world carefully so we can help you get the most out of every platform you use.
  • Promoting your particular angle. Say you’d like to build awareness of a social issue. We can work with you to cultivate ideas, develop a plan, and handle all of the moving parts. And if you’d like powerful blogs, infographics, or emails to help promote your online campaign — and get your message in front of more people — we can provide those elements, too.
  • Encouraging engagement. If you want more likes, comments, and shares on your social media sites, we can help. We’ve developed contests, for example, that have resulted in hundreds of new followers for clients and “ask the expert” campaigns that resulted in a significant rise in comments and questions. We can work with you to develop programs that match your goals and culture.
  • Monitoring and adjusting our efforts. We keep you up-to-date on your site analytics and use that data to see what’s working and where we need to make changes. We also can present detailed reports with the relevant information you need to present to your organization.

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Social Media and Today’s Hospitals

By Michelle Perron

When Facebook logged its first likes in 2004, no one was predicting that social networking would become a tool in the practice of medicine. Yet it has. From the revered Mayo Clinic to little-known regional specialty centers, the health care industry is finding that social media helps attract new appointments, generate revenue, and build relationships.

Research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2014 shows that virtually all hospitals in the United States are now using social media in some way.1 This is not an overstatement: 94.4 percent of the 3,371 hospitals reviewed operated a Facebook page, and 50.82 percent had a Twitter account. This study found that private nonprofit and teaching hospitals, typically in large urban areas, are the highest users of social media.
Its expertise in using socia
Although individual physicians aren’t using social media at the same rate as hospitals, they are finding it useful. In fact, another 2014 study, this one by MedData Group, found that more than 50 percent of the physicians using social media for work purposes are engaging with peers, marketing the practice, or providing thought leadership for patients.2

Leading the Way

The Mayo Clinic system is a recognized leader in health care industry use of social media. Tweet this

Lee Aase, Mayo ClinicLee Aase, Mayo ClinicIts expertise in using social platforms to connect with patients and build business is so valued that other health care organizations lean on the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN; #Mayo Clinic SMN) for collaborative help. In partnership with Hootsuite, the MCSMN even developed a continuing medical education course to teach medical providers how to create an online presence.3

Lee Aase is the director of Mayo’s Social and Digital Innovation Team, which is staffed by eight media professionals who orchestrate the system’s posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and You Tube. Activity on each outlet is unique, as shown below in the Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds one afternoon in mid-January 2017.

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Each of the posts focuses on a particular subject area, ensuring a different experience for each media outlet user. The day’s topic selections can be influenced by the request of a Mayo department seeking more publicity (the sports medicine department in the Twitter feed), relevant national news stories (cervical cancer awareness month in the Google+ post), or the opening of a new hospital wing (the fifth floor of the Luther Building in the Facebook post). No matter the content decision, its goal is the same: to instill appreciation for Mayo Clinic and its resources.

In an interview, Aase pointed out that today’s widespread use of social media by Mayo Clinic is in keeping with its history. “Our reputation was made through word of mouth,” he said, “and that is just as true today as it was 100-plus years ago. Patients would come to Mayo Clinic because a friend recommended us. Now, social media provides ways for people to share the same types of recommendations.”

“Just Like Talking to a Patient”

Perhaps the most vivid examples of such recommendations are found on the Mayo Clinic’s YouTube channel, which features videos capturing everything from a patient’s first reaction to his restored sight via a bionic eye to the precise symptom presentation of a baby with whooping cough. No doubt thousands of that video’s million-plus views were by frantic parents trying to determine whether their infant’s bark-like sounds warranted a trip to the local ER.

One of the most powerful applications of Mayo Clinic’s YouTube channel is its line of videos for patients that feature staff physicians and other clinicians. These videos can offer information and encouragement to a patient trying to understand his or her rare diagnosis, reinforce the education provided during a complex office visit, or calm a patient’s unease before a surgical procedure by providing a step-by-step visual explanation of it.

Take, for example, the diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia, a condition that causes the heart to beat faster than normal. It can be treated with medication, surgery, or both. To a patient receiving this diagnosis after experiencing rapid heart activity, the term alone sounds ominous. By directing a newly diagnosed patient to a YouTube video accessible in the comfort of home, Mayo Clinic can repeat the information presented at the treating physician’s office. The video presentation is likely to be better understood because it is more digestible. The Mayo Clinic’s YouTube channel features videos on ventricular tachycardia and many other topics.

The educational application of social media is particularly appealing to busy physicians. They typically don’t have the time to prepare lengthy written material — but they’re more than happy to talk about what they know and what they can do for patients.

“For many doctors, it all comes down to time. That’s where the capturing of video is so helpful,” Aase said. “We [the communications team] take care of everything. They are happy to share their expertise in a manner that is just like talking to a patient.

“In the videos, we’re looking for them to say the things they say to patients several times a day, only to a broader audience,” Aase continued. “They’re demonstrating their expertise and showing empathy. We book a 15- to 30-minute timeframe and make them at ease. It’s a much more efficient use of time, and it is more impactful and genuine.”

Mayo’s Social and Digital Innovation staff uses smartphones and consumer-grade cameras to shoot video, then edits and loads to appropriate channels. As physicians and other Mayo Clinic staff members have been exposed to the value of social media via these video sessions, more are requesting that the team help them “take control of their identity” on LinkedIn and Twitter, Aase said. He and his staff regularly coach interested physicians in how to beef up their profiles across platforms.

Setting Ground Rules

In an age when a Twitter rant can get you fired, it’s important for all employers to have clear policies for social media usage. This is especially true in the health care industry, where privacy of information is sacrosanct. The Mayo Clinic developed guidelines for employees’ social media activity, and many other hospitals have followed suit.

The document boils down to common sense and the practice of established medical ethics. “The main thing is that they should stick to talking about what they know and what they do,” Aase said.

“No one should practice medicine online. We advise them to elevate it out to general terms, such as ‘a patient with these symptoms may have this condition, and these are the standard options for treatment.’ This highlights their understanding and avoids looking like they are giving a prescription to a patient.”

Smaller Markets

Granted, most hospitals don’t have the size or patient reach of the Mayo Clinic. So what about hospital use of social media in smaller settings and markets?

In a mid-sized or small city, the approach can be more streamlined and personal. The emphasis may also be on community relationships and trust more than branding on a large scale.

Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital (LSSH) in Lafayette, La., is a surgery center owned by 34 physicians in various surgical specialties. The mid-sized city of Lafayette is a competitive market for health care services (nine freestanding hospitals for a population of 124,000), and LSSH distinguishes itself by creating a facility where health care meets hospitality. Liz Hebert is the director of marketing and business development for Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital. Since she was hired in January 2015, she has focused the facility’s social media outreach on Facebook, where she works to build a sense of trust. She automatically feeds the LSSH Facebook posts to the hospital’s Twitter feed.

“I want to show people that we are involved in the community,” she said. “We use Facebook to inform the public about things we are involved in, and to show that we are a trusted resource for information.”

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As shown above, Hebert recently used the LSSH Facebook page to promote a community event she organized in conjunction with a new fitness facility. Anyone who saw the page was invited to a free class at a new indoor cycling facility near the hospital.

One of the most effective uses of social media at LSSH is highlighting the community-oriented activities its staff is involved in, Hebert said. The hospital uses its social platforms to feature events like its “31 Days of Giving Back” campaign during the month of December that encouraged random acts of kindness and a spring scavenger hunt that raises money for the local United Way chapter. Other posts report on patient satisfaction surveys and honors received by staff members.

“For me, the most important reason for our hospital to use social media is to develop a level of trust,” Hebert explained. “Even when you are confident in your choice of a surgeon and hospital, you’re still nervous. With our posts, and our day-to-day activities, we try to reduce those fears. We care about the community. We are dedicated to your care. Social media is one important way for us to get that across.”

References

  1. Griffis HM, Kilaru AS, Werner RM, et al. Use of Social Media Across US Hospitals: Descriptive Analysis of Adoption and Utilization. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2014;16(11):1-11.
  2. Silas R. How Are Physicians Using Social Media? MDigital Life.com. http://mdigitallife.com/how-are-physicians-using-social-media/ Citing work contained in the following report by Med Data Group: https://www.meddatagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/MedDataGroup-Physician-Adoption-of-Social-Media-Q22014.pdf
  3. Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Social for Healthcare Certificate from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite. https://socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/social-media-basics-certification/