Building a personal relationship with your consumers can not only give you a competitive edge but also lead to a significant increase in brand loyalty and, therefore, sales. Going about it the right way, however, tends to escape a lot of brands, with most of them peddling offers and discounts rather than connecting with audiences.

The direct and two-way communication social media enables, is a great opportunity for you to build a brand image people can relate to and trust; in other words – human. Let’s check out a few steps you can take today to make a whole lot of difference tomorrow.

Disclaimer time: I’m a power-of-example kind of gal so you’ll find some, well… examples below. I chose random posts from brands I follow without getting anything in return. Now, onwards! 

1. Go beyond pronouns

If you want your brand to be perceived as a person, you’ve got to talk about it as if it were a walking, talking human being and, in order to do that, we use lots and lots of pronouns. So far so good. Unless you never take defining your language further than “let’s use pronouns”.

A lot of times, this only means you’re replacing “Random Inc. offers high-quality generic service” to “We offer high-quality generic service” Not sure about you, but that sounds even worse to me.

Try to think less about what you have to offer and more about what your audience wants to hear. Shifting your focus to what they get our of what you’re communicating will help you talk less like an advertorial and more like an actual person.

You could easily caption Jamie’s post to read “Tips on dealing with fussy eaters” or “Jamie Oliver’s tips on dealing with fussy eaters”, two approaches which introduce a topic well but use cold, distancing language. Jamie’s post doesn’t just use pronouns, it’s conversational and includes a pinch of personal experience; something people often use in conversation to validate their views.

2. Figure out “people talk”

Every single one of us has a natural style of communicating, with a preference for certain sentence structures, a specific vocabulary and tone of voice. That’s right, we’re all special, just like everybody else.

All that brilliantly human, recognisable personality tends to fly out the window when we try to communicate as brands, turning most marketers into stiff, dull and bland communicators. To get our act together and prevent the brands we’re speaking for from sounding just as stiff, dull and bland, we have to learn “people talk” all over again.

This. 👆 #TGIM

A photo posted by WeWork (@wework) on

How many brands have you seen going on, and on, and on trying to contextualise posts as obvious as the dawn? You wouldn’t do that in a face to face conversation, would you? ( If you would, please stop 🙂 )

“People talk” means sitting your brand down and having a conversation with it, and bit by bit, defining the same language patterns like the ones you’d find in any regular human being. Yes, that sometimes means one word-long sentences and, yes, that’s perfectly fine.

3. Spread laughter wherever you post

Have you ever noticed how you can’t but smile when you hear other people laughing? Ever wondered why you smile back at people who smile at you? Studies have shown that smiling and laughing are highly contagious. Not only that, but sharing a smile or a good laugh with someone helps us understand each other and bond.

Thankfully, social media enables you to provoke laughter, inspire a smile and even invite people to laugh along with you.

When defining your brand’s language and tone of voice, don’t forget about its sense of humor. You can use words, images, videos, illustrations even build entire stories that express your brand’s funny side and, depending on how big of a joker you decide your brand to be, you can add more or fewer of the concepts that express it into your communication strategy.

We’ve increased the social side of the site to create a close-knit community of creators who share ideas and inspiration. #myMoleskine #Moleskine

A video posted by Moleskine (@moleskine_world) on

4. Own up to blunders

People make mistakes and so do brands. We do tend to be a lot harsher with brands when they mess up than we are with people and that’s often because we see brands as businesses who’ve failed to do something as expected.

Humanising your brand will enable people to connect with it on a more personal level, meaning that instead of being angry or disappointed, they’re much more likely to sympathise with the brand being in trouble and become understanding.

In order for this relationship to work, the brand has to be trustworthy, owning up to mistakes as soon as they become aware of them, rather than squinting really, really hard and hoping the problem will go away. It’s social media, people, it doesn’t go away unless you deal with it.

5. Show people

It’s funny how brands get so excited about humanising their image yet start cringing the second you mention using their own people. People relate to people and unless you buck up and include content generated with the help of and by your own employees and then gradually, your users/ clients, your brand is likely to remain a cold and distant abstract entity.

Jesse has been with Starbucks for 12 years and his drink customizations are as unique as his laugh. To see what customized drink your barista is creating, visit your local store. #BaristaOriginals

A photo posted by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on

The fastest way to create an immediate emotional connection is by putting a person in front of another person, which is why photos of real people interacting with your products in real life  displaying a certain kind of emotion are some of the most powerful pieces of content you can create, not to mention the obvious storytelling value that comes with it. Could those people leave your company in a month or two after you’ve published the content? Sure, but that’s part of your story too.

The Bottom Line

Developing a personal relationship with consumers takes time and requires not just resources but consistency. You have to take the time and put in the effort to teach your brand to talk and then make sure you and everyone else communicating through it, stays in line. In time, people will begin seeing you less as a product or service provider and more like another human being they can recognise, relate to, have a conversation with. 

At the end of the day, we all want to do business with people we know, like and trust. The only question is will your brand be one of them?

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