You built your brand on the four P’s – product, place, price, and promotion. Now you need to think about how your company approaches the fifth ‘P’ – Personhood.
Anyone who’s read Groundswell, the seminal text on how social media changed business forever, is familiar with the new reality – that the ‘fourth wall’ has come down. Corporations used to have a certain degree of anonymity, protected by their structure, and by the formality of their language and proceedings. Pat phrases like “I’m sorry, that’s against our policy,” let a consumer know in no uncertain terms that they had reached the end of the matter and no further discussion would be had because “the company” did not approve.
Doesn’t that approach sound quaint now? Even though corporate law may say different, today’s consumers don’t see your company as a monolith. They see you as a collection of people. Individuals making decisions. You’re not hiding on a remote company campus. Your executives are on Linked In, your social media are the collective daily voice of your brand. And consumers now expect to know WHO YOU ARE. What do you stand for? What’s your Social Responsibility program? How did you come up with your product?
You may well ask, what’s driving this need to know? It’s a search for authenticity. Because the internet allows us to create virtual personae, authenticating your identity becomes crucial. Google’s response is to measure something they call “Author Rank.” It means that they are not only looking at the content of your website, blog, and social media, they are looking at who is creating the content. Google looks at the other online activities of the person posting the blog to see if it aligns with their writings on your site. They want to know if the person writing about your skincare a writer-for-hire? Or does she also search for/purchase skincare online, comment in forums and social media about it, and otherwise appear involved in the topic? Google is dependent on the evidence left online by an author’s activities.
Your consumers aren’t using algorithms, but they’re looking to align themselves with companies that share their values. So how do you reflect your Personhood?
First rule: Tell the truth.
Who are you? What’s the basis for your credibility? Why are you in business?
Your credibility is everything. If you’re a conglomerate, don’t try to act like the little guy. If you’re the scrappy underdog, tell your story and win people to your side.
Second rule: It’s a conversation, not a soapbox.
Your social media are not the place for your to push out more corporate speak. They’re a fantastic place for you to let your consumers get to know you, to tell you what they think. To do that, they need to know they’re talking to a person.
For example, when our community manager raised the curtain on our client’s Facebook page and talked about her cookbook collection, comments went through the roof. Suddenly people were talking to a person.
Third Rule: Don’t hide.
Mistakes are going to happen. Negative feedback is going to happen. Don’t attempt a coverup. Apologize sincerely and move on. Every attempt by a company to hide or run from the truth turns into a bloodbath.
Fourth Rule: Trust and Occasionally Verify
How should you, the client, monitor the social comments and activities? You should be getting regular reports, but the most important thing is to make sure at the outset that your social team understands your industry and your audience. Then you can keep them briefed on changes to your business, without checking every tweet and posting. You should be looking in on the postings every week or so, depending on the rate of traffic, and if you see a change in tone or too much of the same old stuff, let your social community manager know. If anything crucial comes up, an alert manager will let you know, but they need the flexibility to respond in a timely manner without waiting for verbatim approval. Get comfortable with ceding that bit of control if you want to scale up.