How to be human online & connect with customers in the process

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How to be human online & connect with customers in the process
How to be human online & connect with customers in the process

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 something I'm interested in.

However, when organizations start experimenting with social media they often use these emerging tools with a glance to the past—like it's still 1999. Their 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 consumers 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 customers.

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 post.

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 they're 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 trip.

The trick is to find something interesting to share. 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, make 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.


David Lee King is the digital services director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

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