Today’s wired world requires many businesses and organizations to have an
online presence. That’s a great thing for consumers like me—I personally
love to read about new products or news about a company if it’s an
organization I’m interested in.
However, when an organization starts experimenting with social media, they
often use these emerging tools with a glance to the past—like it’s still
1999. Their organization’s blog posts and status updates are written like
stale press releases and brochures, and the photos look like they were
purchased from stock photo sites.
What’s the problem? Dry, tidy, “professional sounding” articles, videos, and
photos don’t connect with your customers anymore. Today’s web-savvy
customers are looking for connections and conversations around the products
and services they use.
Thankfully, there are some easy ways to ditch that last-century, old media
tone that’s coming through in your organization’s online presence. Some of
these are simple tweaks; some might take a bit more time to master. But if
your organization can improve online customer engagement and interaction,
you will start to create stronger connections and conversations with
Here are five tips to help your organization be more human online:
1. Casual Fridays - every day!
Organizations can come across as either formal or casual in their
communications to customers. Formality is a quick way to kill any hint of a
personal touch in corporate communications to customers. Your customers want
to connect with your organization, and being a little more organizationally
casual in interactions on the web can help.
A suggestion to make your online communications sound more casual: Unlearn
many of the rules of formal writing that you learned from your high school
English teacher. They work in an executive summary, but not in a Facebook
Online writing that connects to readers tends to use informal,
conversational language, short sentences, short paragraphs (maybe even less
than three sentence paragraphs), and…a friendly voice.
2. Write Like You Talk.
So, your writing style still has that “I’m writing a history paper”
voice…here’s how to cure that. Write down what you want to say, and then
read what you wrote. Out loud. Does it sound like something you’d actually
say to another person? If it doesn’t, rewrite it. You can also say what you
want to communicate out loud first, and write down what you say.
Why do this? It helps your corporate communications, which includes blog
posts, comments, and status updates, sound like it’s coming from an actual
human, rather than from “an organization.”
3. Share photos of “business as usual.”
You probably have a camera in your pocket right now. Guess what that
smartphone camera is good for? Sharing photos of business as usual!
I know of a local coffee shop that shares photos online. The owners buy and
roast their own beans, so they sometimes travel to places like Antigua in
search of yummy coffee beans. During their “business transactions,” they
share photos of new products, coffee tastings, and even people they meet on
The trick is to find something interesting to share via a photo. If you
travel to fun locations for your organization, by all means take photos. If
there’s a busy time at your store or organization, that’s also a great time
to take a photo or two and share online. Customers using your product also
make great photo opportunities.
Photos can be a great way to connect with customers, because people are used
to connecting through photos. We already use that tool personally; so using
the same type of tool organizationally naturally works for many people.
4. Short helpful videos
Short videos have the potential to create strong connections between your
organization and your customers, if done with a conversational tone. On the
other hand, a poorly-read video script can quickly ruin any connection you
hoped to gain.
The easiest way to fix that? Don’t use a script. Instead of scripting out
the dialogue for a video, simply think about what you want to say, and maybe
figure out a short introduction and conclusion. Then go shoot that video!
If you need to use notes or some type of video script, use an outline
format. Instead of memorizing lines, just make notes about the points you
want to make, and then ad-lib those points. It’s your business, so you
probably know the product pretty well! The beauty of video is that you can
reshoot many times, and then edit down to just the good parts. Keep that
video at two minutes or under, do some simple, clean edits, and you will end
up with a great video that connects with customers.
5. Be Yourself!
This last tip sums up the other four. Just be yourself! Communicate like
yourself, take photos of what you find interesting at work, shoot casual
videos of you sharing news about your organization or a cool new product or
service, and steer away from uptight “press-release style” blog posts. The
more informal and human-sounding you can be, the easier it will be for your
organization to make those needed customer connections.
About David Lee King
David Lee King is the Digital Services Director
at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and
experiments with emerging technology trends. He speaks internationally about
emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media,
and has been published in many library-related journals. David was named a
Library Journal Mover and Shaker for 2008, and has published two books,
Designing the Digital Experience, 2008, and his most recent title,
face2face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create
Great Customer Connections (CyberAge Books). David writes the Outside/In
column for American Libraries Magazine with Michael Porter.