Friday, December 10, 2010

Show me the Honey

'Just be human' is the popular mantra of social media. Wherever we turn, there's another reminder the job at hand is to humanize brands, make them love their community and thus allow the community to love them back.  The thought being, the more love a brand shows, the more love the brand will receive. Makes sense. There is, however, an art to delivering that love, where interactions with the community seem real, honest and valuable.

Being human is a worthy goal, but in doing so, sometimes brands (and people) overdo it to the point of seeming...well...less than human.  In some social circles, being human relies heavily on over-excessive flattery, psychologists would claim likely stemming from some deeply traumatic childhood event (I blame my sycophant behavior on that aggressive girl in sixth grade who stole my coveted unicorn sticker collection). Despite some reports, an abundance of niceties and enthusiasm will not win you fans, or stickers. It will rather make you suspect. From ingratiating flattery to over-excessive #FFs, boisterous complimenting will earn you a reputation, for certain, but probably not the one you imagined, or planned.

Now, there are people (and brands) that fall into the genuinely nice category, but they are genetically/strategically designed as such.  It's not a put on.  It's not taken from a how-to guide on a blog written by some social media expert. It's real. Innate.  Believable.

Brands are real.  Yes, there is some phantasmagoric element about them that exists in the ephemeral, where our imaginations create emotional connections that project onto our lives, but at the end of the day, brands are created by and run by people. Real people. Brand mysticism aside, brands are real. Brands are human. But being human does not mean flattery to win friends. Being human means being true to who you are, what you represent, where you came from and where you are going.

It's no wonder social media is evolving platforms, such as Facebook Groups and Path, that focus on limiting our networks and mapping them based on who we love most, who we are intimately, personally committed to.  Those people, those devoted consumers, deserve truth and openness, they deserve unfettered love.

The new mantra: Just be real.

And, of course, here's the how-to-be-real guide:
  1. Focus on those closest to you.  Whether selling ice cream or medical devices, the direction's the same, know who your closest customers are.  It's not about driving numbers of followers and fans from all corner of the social spectrum.  It's about embracing the right people and holding them tight, caring for them and delighting them with surprises, just as you would a good friend.
  2. Remember the nuances. Real relationships have a natural ebb and flow. It's not enthusiasm and flowers every minute of every day. Fans appreciate a natural approach to language and posting.  And, yes, when you do bring the flowers home, bring 'em big and proud.
  3. Be honest. If it seems contrived when you are concepting an idea or writing a post, it will feel 10 times more contrived to your fans. Be honest, not just with them, but also to yourself as a creative, as a human being. And...there's that word again.
What are your thoughts and tips? Honestly, I want to know what you think or if you've seen my sticker collection.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Hilary Stein

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