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I start to sound like a broken record whenever I recommend to businesses that they need to be as human as possible on social media, that the venue is one dominated by people, and that brands are most successful when they stay professional but avoid being robotic. I’ll continue to say it as long as it stays true, something that is currently slated to be relevant indefinitely. One of the hardest but most effective ways to humanize a business on social media is to inspire, to post ideas, actions, and images that are not business related but that compel the human factor into the mix. It’s risky, but when done right it can be a beautiful thing.
One thing that should be understood is that “inspiring” does not necessarily mean posting Winston Churchill quotes or fighting climate change with likes and shares. On social media, an inspiring message can be one that expresses an idea that fits with current circumstances. Reaching out during tragedies like the Sandy Hook shootings, for example, is an inspiring message. It’s one that is extremely risky even for local businesses and should be avoided by those who do not have a connection. The exceptions, rare though they are, happen when contributions and solutions are offered. For example, Jet Blue was able to fly family members and letters to CT quickly and without charge. Their gesture rang sincere; they didn’t make a big deal out of it. They didn’t have to. People on social media took care of the “promotion” of the action for them.
The other opportunity that is available to every business is the seasonal inspirational post. We have the opportunity as businesses to participate in a human way during holidays and other events by expressing the personality of our companies. That is not the same as running a Memorial Day Special or Christmas Savings Extravaganza. It’s about inspiring through humanity. This is where most businesses fall short. All too often we get generic. This is worse than saying nothing at all.
On one hand, you have the standard, “Wishing all of our fans Happy Holidays from your friends at ABC Motors!”
On the other hand, you have what Driving Sales did. They did something fun and turned it into an image that is both noticeable and memorable. They conveyed a couple of messages that helped with branding – they’re fun, they like where they work, they have a “hip” atmosphere (notice the beanbags), and they put effort into their message. It’s the last part that makes the difference. People enjoy effort. They like to know that a post was more than an afterthought or a business requirement recommended by the internal social guru. They like creativity. They reward those who can make themselves stand out from the crowd.
It’s definitely not required to use this type of technique. Some businesses prefer to keep it professional at all times and there’s nothing wrong with this. If you choose to post the occasional inspiring post, be sure to make it work. Don’t go half way. If you want to make an impact, take it well beyond what your competitors are doing. If you’re going to be boring and generic, you’re better off keeping that in the professional realm and avoid the inspirational posts altogether.