In our crazy digital age, companies are rich with invaluable insight into the thoughts, feelings, needs and desires of their target audience. These insights are the bread and butter of any successful organisation. But as ol' Spiderman so eloquently put - 'with great power, comes great responsibility'.
With this wealth of information at our fingertips, it's all too easy to just focus on the data alone and completely ignore the human face behind it - robo-marketing is taking over and let's face it, consumers are finding it hard to trust brands.
It's time we remembered that the human brand is much like a living, breathing, organism made up of humans, and defined by those that love, like or even dislike it. You can't create a brand with a robot or algorithm. While you can use data, analytics and research to develop your brand, it's humans who select the final colours and tagline, who work tirelessly to get it right, who click, like, pin, post and share the content your brand creates.
So with that in mind, do you know when it's way easier to trust a company? When your audience is reminded there are living, breathing humans working behind the scenes. So if your company is coming across cold, corporate and lifeless, it's high-time you found a way to humanise your brand. Here's how.
1. Have a laugh every once in a while.
According to researchers, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. In less wordy terms, making your customers giggle will make them feel all warm and fuzzy and build their connection with you. But don't worry if you're not a full blown comedian, you don't have to be! You can share popular and funny content that already exists.
A great example of a brand who have their social media and comedy integration down to a tee, is Netflix. Their marketing strategy involves posting a variation of a trend, format, or picture that is currently going viral, and depicting them in a way that's timely, relevant and actually ... funny. This is seriously refreshing marketing and it works, with their most popular memes garnering an average of 20,000 - 70,000 likes on Twitter and 300,000 - 500,000 likes on Instagram.
Netflix is effectively resonating with millennials, getting them to engage with their content on and off the screen with the use of these memes. The use of Netflix original content in these memes makes them seem trendy and sparks positive emotions with the brand, likewise leaving people without Netflix feeling detached from the crowd, and more likely to start a free trial.
But best of all? Netflix can take a joke. They don't pretend to ignore the fact that people share their Netflix passwords, and they get that people will do whatever it takes to avoid paying $10 a month for a subscription. Therefore, the kind of content they post is what you'd expect from a funny friend who knows your quirks and guilty pleasures, rather than a brand.
The extraordinary level of engagement, impressions and conversation initiated with the use of these memes makes Netflix the ultimate social media pro.
2. Show off your team members.
Giving your customers an in to your business by showcasing the people 'behind the curtain' is a super powerful way to humanise your brand. If customers are just looking at your logo all the time, they might be struggling to see how your brand is run by actual people. So have a lil' photoshoot, and display your masterpieces on your website and social media platforms. You don't need to hire any professional photographers, iPhones today can take some pretty sweet shots.
Here at Neighbourhood, we've started fleshing out our social media platforms with a post series we've coined 'Meet the Neighbours'. Each post features a photo of a team member in our trademark black and white, but allows for our personalities to shine through. They are fitted with a description of our job title and role within the agency to showcase our talents (and overall legit-ness), along with five things you mightn't have guessed about us, to keep things friendly and promote our culture of not taking ourselves (or each other) too seriously.
3. Get real.
Rather than banging on about how great your brand is, humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons you've learnt will help customers relate and sympathise with you, with research suggesting that shared pain may have positive social consequences; acting as a social glue to promote solidarity and togetherness.
A campaign that was particularly touching, totally raw and real was Airbnb's 2017 Super Bowl 'We Accept' campaign - originally thought to be a response to President Trump's immigration ban, but really a very public declaration of the challenges faced by the Airbnb community as a whole, after it was revealed that guests on Airbnb have experienced discrimination, going entirely against everything the platform values and promotes. The slickly produced ad inspires diversity and acceptance, ending with the statement, "“We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept'. Having gone viral by half-time and making serious waves on social media, Airbnb owned it with this campaign, proving themselves to be a super refreshing and modern brand, willing to put their money where their mouth is.
4. Use words the average Joe will understand.
Have you ever read through a business's 'About Us' page, and finished the final sentence and sat there still not having the faintest clue what they actually do. Long story short - just speak clearly! Business and industry-specific jargon is just another way of talking over people's heads. While you might think you sound super sick and well clued-in, you really just sound unapproachable. Is that how you'd talk to people in real life? I'd hope not. Speak like a human being and your brand will follow suit!
Here at Neighbourhood, we speak with a brand voice that works to humanise us enormously, infusing our site content with personality - written just as we speak, so that no prospect speaks to us and thinks, 'they're no where near as cool as they seem on the site' - we ARE. The conversational wit, humour and relatable emotion we [try to] integrate into our content acts as little added pulses to building our living, breathing brand.
5. Show some love.
Your fans, followers and commenters take valuable time out of their days to lurve on your stuff, it's time this started becoming a little more give 'n' take. Make sure the conversations you have aren't always about your company or industry - while these are important at times. When you break the rules every once in a while, it makes people feel comfortable being themselves, because hey! You're being yourself too!
Encouraging a two-way conversation, just like BestBuy have in the example below, helps you to connect on a human level by directly connecting brands and customers. A good rule-of-thumb for your social media posts is to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should be adding value by brand building and helping others, with the remaining 20% being all about you.
Two-way conversation also helps show your brand personality, by highlighting your company's culture and expertise while still adding a little humour and pizazz. As well as this, routinely monitoring your social media accounts will allow you to gain valuable, candid insight into what your customers love about your company, but also their frustrations - so you can take actions to fix them up.
While It may sound easier said than done, here are a few ways you can boost your social media engagement.
First off, you can try and be part of existing conversations - you don't always have to do the talking! Everyday consumers are liking and sharing your content, and sometimes even complaining. While it can be a little uncomfortable to read sometimes, you can repair these relationships by responding to comments, answering questions and addressing complaints within 24 hours of receiving the notification of interaction.
You could also consider creating a Facebook group that is invite-only, completely reserved for your most engaged audience members. Unlike a generic Facebook page, a group page means you can share the right information with the right people, to build a community of like-minded individuals.
As well as this, you can easily build a connection by integrating video into your social media strategy - getting your face and voice well and truly out into your audience. It creates the illusion of a more personal connection and conversation, while building trust by allowing people to see exactly who is behind the company.
My final tip for online 'PDA' is to be consistent. Just setting up a Facebook page, dusting off your hands and saying 'bob's your uncle', isn't going to cut it (surprisingly) . You have to routinely update it, make it a super lively place to hang out - because the most obvious way to look like you've gone out of business is to let your social media profiles go dark. So get out your torch, and post at least one update on each of your platforms daily, to breath life back into your social media marketing.
6. Tell a good story.
From the days of old - I mean real old, like primitive times, human beings have told stories to pass on wisdom, entertain, inspire and communicate on a deeper and more personal level. And in the modern world it's no different! While we've moved on a smidge from painting on stone walls, we now have the capacity to spread the word over various platforms, mediums and touch-points to tell our story to the masses!
With 45% of a brand’s image attributed to what it says and how it says it, telling your story in an engaging, entertaining and relatable way is essential if you want to boost awareness and encourage the right people to connect with your brand.
A well-storied campaign that stood out to me is the 'Land of the Land Rover' campaign, which relies on the stories of individual Land Rover owners and how their vehicles have become an integral part of their lives. Whether you're a millennial, or aged 40 to 50 - you like to associate with brands who have a story to tell, are authentic and have a history. In the Land Rover campaign, they paint a picture of a brand that enables adventure and stirs passions, while providing legendary reliability where luxury really is the icing on the cake. The brand explain that they wanted to profile some of their fantastic owners because "... they're very successful people and often entrepreneurial and approachable. We thought profiling some of these people and celebrating them is an important part of looking back and also forward. A lot of people will connect with that. It wasn't about feeling the marketing hand that you feel sometimes in profiles, but being there almost in the background."
So, here's the takeaway - humanise your marketing by not making it always about you, focus on the people that keep your company ticking over!
7. Be in the moment.
More than just Carpè diem. In 2020, 77% of people won't make a purchase on a website if there's no live chat option. We of the digital age crave answers to our questions on the double, thanks. This means that the ability of a brand to spark up conversation and react to your prospects in real time is an invaluable way to demonstrate your brands human side. By ensuring that every one of your people-facing touchpoints is responsive, providing immediate answers to queries, timely solutions to problems and sharing the right info with the right people, at the right time, you will ultimately forge relationships that will add value to the growth and evolution of your brand (woop woop!).
Here at Neighbourhood, we are on the steady path to having each of our (many) blogs fitted with a relevant chatbot, like the one shown below. We've found that people are far more likely to click through on a chatbot icon when the question is relevant to what they're reading, improving overall conversion. It makes it seem as though we're really there on the page and works to further improve the user experience and delight them each step of the way.
8. Save time and add some automation.
While it might sound like a bit of a backwards step to bring the ol' robots in when you're trying to be more human,
autonomous technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help your business, not only in terms of your real-time responsiveness but with broader digital marketing initiatives.
Of all the autonomous technologies that have emerged in recent years, chatbots are perhaps the most valuable when it comes to humanizing marketing with robotic assistance.
Another example that we use on the reg here at the agency, is the HubSpot Meetings Tool - meeting scheduling made super simple. Under the Sales tab in HubSpot, the meetings tool means that you can eliminate the back and forth of meeting scheduling, and put the power in the hands of your prospects. Meetings syncs to your Google calendar, so prospects can see your most up-to-date availability, and makes the process far more flexible with the added ability to schedule time with more than one person in your organisation with the 'Group Meeting link', as shown below. Plus, scheduling meetings means that you're also organising and growing tour database over time, as prospects schedule meetings, HubSpot automatically creates records for new people. No sweat!
9. Get them talking.
When it comes to humanising your marketing, brand advocacy is the absolute bees knees. 90% of people trust the thoughts, feelings and opinions of their peers over traditional advertising. Moreover, brand messages are more 24 times more likely to be shared if distributed to a brand's employees as opposed to the brand itself. By using your staff or loyal customers to share your brand message, you'll leave traditional advertising spinning in its grave (because you're so goddamn good).
A brilliant example of a brand that connects with like-minded customers is the glorious, Patagonia. It earns its place at the top of many people's 'favourite brand' list, with its activist spirit and socially responsible nature. In the notoriously wasteful apparel business, Patagonia stands out in the marketplace because of its attention to real-world issues and its commitment to transparency, resonating hugely with customers - especially millennials. Putting a portion of your business's focus on socially conscious activism is not only the right thing to do to make the world a better place, but it gives customers a reason to support you - humanising you all the way.
10. Share User-Generated Content
Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two massive ways. First off, it's super exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it's a chance to show off about how great you are, without saying as much! Instead of blindly trusting a company because they must be telling the truth (I mean when was the last time a company lied ... right?), showing the real-life people who have fallen in love with your products promotes major trust in your brand.
Because I'm feeling a little patriotic, let's have a look at a close-to-home example of this in action. Tourism Australia knows that nothing piques the interest of travellers more than shared photos of beautiful scenery, and has subsequently based its social media campaigns around user-generated content which has historically seen them gain a 30% increase in their site engagement and shares! Using user-generated content in this way works as a win-win for both the brand and the customer, as you're using their voice to tell the story for you, meaning your marketing messages are coming from individuals and not companies. Furthermore, you aren't marketing at your audience, your marketing with them - therefore turning the spotlight back on to the people that shaped your brand and your success!
So if you've made it all the way to the bottom, first of all - good on ya! But secondly, and more importantly, you've proven yourself super dedicated to humanising your marketing efforts to stay at the forefront of your customers' mind and willing to put in the hard yakka to reap the rewards down the line! Nice one! Now let's get out there and be the humans we know we are and inspire trust, loyalty and conversion in our prospects.