Humanizing Your Brand: Step 1 – Give It A Face. (Literally)

So social media, when used properly, can give your brand a major boost in visibility. The key is to not sound like a robot retweeting machine. (And if your social media strategy is to USE a robot retweeting machine, then you’re doing it wrong.)

Step 1: Give your brand a face. 

I mean this literally, I’m not being esoteric. Slap a face on your stuff. It can be the face of your blogger, it can be the face of your social media manager, it can be a banner that contains photos of your team, just make sure you add some kind of graphic containing a human to your social media & web branding.

Excuse #1: That would be weird.

Well… you can NOT give your brand a face… and continue looking like an obscure, cold,  official organization.

Your human face can be low key, or it can be your team doing something ridiculous, or just a shot of your team smiling, or a super artsy picture of your whole crew looking like a 1920’s mobster group. (Our graphic designing creative team did that once. It was actually pretty epic.)

Just integrate a human somewhere. People will start connecting the photo of a happy person or people with your brand, and will subconsciously start feeling like your brand is friendly and safe.

Human brains are weird. We want things to make sense. Cognitive dissonance stresses us out. If we see happy smiling people on a website or social media account we mentally push for the brand to line up with the graphics. Boring cold graphics = zero emotional attachment. Happy warm fuzzy people = your brand is friendly and we think about interactions with you in a way that is consistent with the warm fuzziness.

Excuse #2: My organization is too professional to do that. 

Ok… so adding pictures of smiling employees or even stock photos of mildly happy strangers is too official for you? So basically you WANT to look stuffy and cold. That’s cool too, if you’re trying to reach an audience of stuffy cold people. Which.. some companies are. But seriously, even my BANK has pictures of happy smiling people on the log in page. Banks aren’t exactly places to throw parties. Loosen up and increase your marketing reach.

Excuse #3: But my logo is epic. 

It probably is. Lame logos don’t usually last very long. If you want to use your logo, you should definitely do it. Use it all over the place. Use it as your profile pic in your corporate social media branding if you want. Just make sure you humanize your page as well. Banners are a great place to make that happen if you can’t mix your logo into a humanized profile pic.

Step 2: Give your brand a clear voice. 

Voice is incredibly important when you’re dealing with branding. If you’re having trouble defining your voice, hire a content strategist. They’re pretty much voice defining rock stars.

Laid Back Voice

My blog has a laid back, tongue in cheek voice, because I’m the only writer (and can do whatever I want, including but not limited to drawing horrible stick figures), and therefore I write like I’m talking to folks in person.

I like to keep my posts short and sweet, because I have a short attention span. Get to the point, and do it fast, or I’m thinking about where I’m going to vacation next summer in the middle of your sentence. I try not to go off on 47 page rants because I would NEVER be able to get through one of those articles myself. I keep my voice light and personable, because I inject my own personality in my posts. This voice would not work for every audience, however.

Formal Voice

If your brand is more formal, you’re going to need to make sure your writers adopt a more formal voice. But make sure your formal force isn’t a horrifyingly boring voice. If it is, only a specific subset of the population is going to read your posts/tweets/website content. If people who enjoy boring content are your only target audience, do it up. If you’re trying to reach a broader audience, humanize your voice, but remain professional.

My company has a friendly, but professional voice. When I’m working on product copy, I definitely don’t use the same voice I use in my blog, because of our target audience.

Step 3: Respond to all of the social media interactions that customers throw your way.

The worst thing you can possibly do is have unmoderated Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Google+ accounts.

Handle Business

If you set those accounts up, you need to be all over them, responding to comments and tweets and posts and following people back constantly. Some brands hire a person or a team to handle their social media interactions. If you “don’t have enough bandwidth to do that” deactivate your social media accounts immediately. They’re going to harm your brand, not help it. Don’t delete them though, you may need them in the future and you don’t want to lose your brand handles & vanity URLs.

Voice = Key

Ensure that the person managing your social media is completely comfortable with your brand voice. If your voice is inconsistent in social media, you’re going to end up in cognitive dissonance land again, and you’ll stress out your audience.

Step 4: Tell your social media manager up front that if they EVER accidentally post a personal tweet through your branded account, that they’re fired. On the spot. Put that in their contract. 

There have been some absolutely horrifying accidental tweets and FB posts through branded accounts over the past few years that have caused enormous PR nightmares. This is the internet, you can’t delete something and make it magically disappear. Once it’s posted, it takes on a life of its own. Try as you might, you can’t make the general public un-see things.

To sum things up, humanizing your brand can make a huge difference in the way your audience views, interacts with, and feels about your brand. You can humanize your brand, and remain professional simultaneously; it’s not an either/or situation. And humanizing can have a very positive effect in increasing your brand reach. Give it a try! You won’t be sorry.

How To: Generate An Insane Amount Of Excitement Around Your New Product Launch

Have you ever signed up for an invite only product launch? You know, like Pinterest back in the day, or Google Voice. You go to a website, insert your email address, and then wait for an indeterminate period of time to get your official invitation to access the product or service.

Being one of the first people to experience a new product gives folks a sense of excitement and pride. The only problem with this model is that often times folks who aren’t at the very front of the invitation line totally lose interest in the product or service while they wait for their official access.

Well, let me introduce Orchestra Inc, a company that has successfully hacked the brains of hundreds of thousands of tech lovers with a stroke of UX and marketing brilliance.

Orchestra Inc is currently in the process of launching their new app Mailbox. Rather than making you enter your email address and then forget their product, they’ve set up a system in which you download a dummy app that serves as your “reservation.” You can then open the app and view a live updated number of “people in front of you” as well as the number of people who signed up after you, who are basically standing behind you in line.

This method has generated all the excitement of standing in line outside an Apple store the day of an iPhone launch, (without the horrible weather, weirdos and excessive boredom) because you can see the “line getting shorter” every time you look at the app. They actually rewind the number of people in front of you on the screen, rather than just showing an updated number.

If you think about it, they are rolling out the service like most cloud based services have in the past. They’re adding accounts a little at a time to make sure things are going to scale properly, with increasingly rapid implementations over time. But instead of people losing interest while they wait, folks are getting more and more excited as time goes on. I’m currently “in line” behind half a million people, but have checked my “status” at least 4 times in the past 8 hours. There is something immensely satisfying about watching the number of folks in line in front of me fly downward.

This entire concept is absolutely brilliant. From a marketing perspective, the popularity is blowing up. They allow you to tweet that you’ve made your reservation, which has led to a social media driven download frenzy. From a UX stance, the reservation system has led to a giant pile of unexpected delight in the app’s future users.

I have the feeling this is going to become a common practice for new product launches (especially apps) in months to come. I sincerely hope that the person or people who came up with this concept are given giant raises in the very near future.

In addition to a completely awesome product launch campaign, the app itself is fabulous. It has a beautifully designed, clean UI and I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on it.

All I have left to say is “Bravo!” to the whole team at @mailbox. And, if you haven’t yet, make your Mailbox app reservation in iTunes today. You’ll be WAY behind ME of course… but you know… we can’t all be first in line. 😉

This blog post was inspired by a tweet from Ian Smile @endashes, thanks for the inspiration. 🙂