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10 Ways to Humanize Your Social Media Brand

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A critical mass of brands, businesses, marketers and corporate executives may have a presence on social media today, but that doesn’t mean they have a clue what they’re doing on these online communication channels.

Sure, some of them may be thriving in the space, attracting a loyal following and carving out a reputation for sharing timely, indispensable content that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

However, an overwhelming majority seem to fall into one of two categories of still doing it wrong. Either they don’t know what to say so their collective silence is deafening, or they’re broadcasting the same old promotional messages over and over again so they sound like a cacophony of carnival barkers.

Many of them seem at a loss on how to strike a happy medium with both their content and cadence, missing countless opportunities to connect with their constituents and earn their unconditional support.

Of course, being creative, entertaining and informative can go a long way toward helping you build a big audience on social media, but simply being yourself may be the easiest way to score points there.

Here are 10 ways to humanize your social media brand and win over the crowds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like…

1. Don’t be a Stranger.
Don’t hide behind a corporate logo and post in anonymity. Put a collective face on your brand by making it abundantly clear to your audience that there are real people behind the scenes. Your interests and emotions count as much as the facts and information. Show that you have more than just a pulse, show that you have a personality.

2. Talk in the First Person.
Your social media accounts are run by human beings, not logos. So talk that way. Refer to your brand in the first person – the collective “we,” or if you’re your own boss, “I,” – not the name of your company. Be available, responsive and conversational. If you personify the qualities you admire in a best friend, you’ll not only spark more meaningful engagement, you’ll build a lot of trust.

3. Avoid Corporate Speak.
Forget the buzzwords and jargon. You don’t have to impress anyone with your vocabulary. This is your chance to come across as the colleague next door, someone who’s as down to earth as they come. It’s okay to talk business. You certainly want to establish yourself as a credible authority. Just be sure to speak in layman’s terms, not yours. Small talk can be a big deal on social media.

4. Address Others by Name.
Whether you have space limitations or not, heed what Dale Carnegie wrote in his bestselling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Don’t cut characters at the expense of the sound your fans, followers and friends want to hear. Cut somewhere else. Names are that important.

5. Share Content in Real Time.
Most of us schedule at least some of our posts in advance using automation tools. That’s how we maintain a consistent, ongoing presence across the social landscape. But planned content shouldn’t make up the majority of your stream. The more extemporaneous you can be, the more props you will earn for your timeliness and authenticity.

6. Show and Tell.
As a copywriter, I hate to admit this, but even the best written content can’t always capture the right tone of voice. Personality, mood, context – none of that’s easy to get across in words alone. Pictures of whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, are more realistic, intimate and explanatory. Video is even better.

7. Have a Sense of Humor.
As I wrote recently on ClickZ, no brand wants to be perceived as uptight, old-fashioned and out of touch. Yet far too many of them remain reluctant to share anything more than everyday news with their followers, never mind a chuckle. Remember, laughter is the best medicine for a lot of things, including a business that’s stuck in a rut on social media.

8. Help Others.
You may think it’s old-fashioned, but don’t forget the golden rule. There’s a lot to be said for doing good. Give someone your attention and you’ll get theirs in return. Provide them with your assistance and they’ll be grateful forever. Don’t just share your own valuable content, either. Share others’ as well. This will be taken as a sincere form of flattery and go a long way toward showing them you’re genuinely paying attention as opposed to simply automating your feed.

9. Listen and Learn.
Not everyone realizes you don’t have to say a thing on social media to reap some of the benefits of it. You can’t empathize with your constituents if you don’t understand them. Monitor what people are saying about you and your brand. Keep an ear to the ground and take feedback seriously. Hang on the words of others and you’ll learn a ton. Respond in kind to them and not only will they put you on their radar, they’ll be thankful for the attention and likely reciprocate.

10. Admit Mistakes.
When all is said and done, don’t forget that to err is human. Not that you want to make any mistakes. Of course not. But if they’re honest, harmless blunders and goofs, you shouldn’t have to lose any sleep about them. Spelling, punctuation, good grammar and accuracy are of utmost importance. There are no excuses for inattention to detail. But if you drop the ball rarely, not regularly, most people will be quick to forgive you if they even notice at all.

Note: This post, “12 Social Media Posts That Are Funnier Than Yours,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 24, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 28, 2015 here.

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12 Social Media Posts That Are Funnier Than Yours

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shutterstock_218873764It may sound like a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Laughter is the best medicine.

Laughter is good for your health because it’s known to lower blood pressure and stimulate the release of endorphins, a powerful set of hormones that can actually get in the way of pain and may even lead to euphoria.

Laughter is good for business, too, because if people are smiling, they’re usually less guarded and more agreeable.

Of course, marketers who know this go to great lengths to develop campaigns that are infused with a strong dose of humor. In seasoning their ads with reasons to snicker and snort, they’re putting customers and prospects in the mood to buy without employing anything even close to a hard sell.

You might say they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

That’s why so many brands are going out of their way to let their hair down on social media, taking great pains to reveal their lighter sides. If the cool kids have a sense of humor, then so do they. No brand wants to be perceived as uptight, old-fashioned and out of touch.

It’s too bad more brands didn’t take themselves so seriously on social media, especially B2B brands, which even in this day and age remain reluctant to as much as crack a smile.

Yup, as long as they’re in good taste, funny posts win on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and perhaps every other social network but LinkedIn, which is probably a little too buttoned up for laughs. Here are 12 good examples…

1. Ben and Jerry’s

Besides mouth-watering shots of its frozen treats, this legendary premium ice cream brand’s sense of humor is one of the key ingredients of its engagement strategy on Instagram, as indicated in the puns used to call attention to Chunky Monkey, just one of its many popular flavors.

Call us nuts, but we’re bananas for riddles. Name that flavor!

A photo posted by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) on

2. Hanes

A nice example of thinking outside the box, Hanes flaunts its creativity with this shot of a T-shirt that looks like it was gored by bull horns. It’s edgy for a relatively conventional brand, but well within the bounds of good taste.



3. Bissell

This well-known manufacturer of vacuum cleaners and floor care products has been around for forever (well, since 1876), but this user-generated-content (UGC) campaign has 2015 written all over it. Good for them. And good for animal welfare, too. They’re donating $1 to the BISSELL Pet Foundation (up to $50,000) for every post.

4. Lowes

This Vine includes six seconds of hilarity as well as words to the wise from Lowes, the giant home improvement store chain. First and foremost, it’s entertaining, but it’s also very educational.

5. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’s Donuts wasn’t alone in newsjacking this viral, washed-out photo in late February. Apparently more than 10 million tweets mentioned #TheDress. This post is a great example, though, of the fun this iconic brand has on a regular basis not just on Instagram, but all over social media.

Doesn’t matter if it’s blue/black or white/gold, they still taste delicious. #thedress

A photo posted by dunkindonuts (@dunkindonuts) on

6. Citrix Go ToMeeting

Leveraging the kind of catchy, provocative hashtag you might see as a trending topic on Twitter, this clever tweet shows an otherwise serious brand going out of its way to make you laugh out loud.

7. Coors Light

Beer brands are notorious for incorporating humor into their marketing, advertising and social media activities, and this post, a newsjacking nod to #EmployeeAppreciationDay, is no exception.

8. Charmin

When it comes to bathroom humor, Charmin may have cornered the market. Seriously, this toilet paper brand knows how to work the crowd on Twitter with a continuous series of puns, double entendres and zany one-liners – tagged #tweetfromtheseat – such as this one about the Apple Watch.

9. Microsoft Dynamics CRM

As both a way to capture your attention and underscore the importance of its “real-world” sales solutions, Microsoft Dynamics shares this short, comical parody video of a sales superstar in action.

10. Ellen DeGeneres

With over 40 million followers, Ellen ranks 10th on the list of Twitter’s most popular accounts, outranking the second TV host/comedian on the list, Jimmy Fallon, by over 18 million followers. So if you want to learn how to tell a joke in 140 characters or less, learn from the best. Follow @TheEllenShow. http://twittercounter.com/pages/100

11. CBS News

So much bad news is reported by not just the local, but the national TV networks, it’s not only refreshing, it’s riveting to see when one of them files a funny story such as this one about a “koala car-jacking.”

12. Old Spice

This classic brand of grooming products for men is yet another funny account to follow on Twitter. Many of their tweets are bold, irreverent and more than just a little bit amusing, like this well-crafted, well-timed tweet on Presidents Day.

Note: This post, “12 Social Media Posts That Are Funnier Than Yours,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 24, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on April 7, 2015 here.

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What I Write about Social Media in 140 Characters or Less

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I live and breathe social media. I blog about the subject. I give presentations about it. I help clients with it. And occasionally I write about it in 140 characters or less on Twitter. For example:


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Social Media: 15 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong

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Facebook was founded in 2004, Twitter in 2006. Even Instagram’s been around for almost five years. So you can’t say this stuff is new anymore.

For some strange reason, however, more marketers and brands than not are still struggling to make heads or tails of social media. Whether they’re surprisingly misinformed or just plain lost, they’re wasting their time and missing the boat. They’re failing to take advantage of what may just be the biggest revolution in communications since the printing press.

To say that’s unfortunate would be an understatement.

After all, done right, social media marketing can be a big game changer. It can be an incredibly effective way to attract the attention of your target audience, engage with them and curry their favor. Far too many go into it without doing their homework, though, their false assumptions and inexperience undermining any chance they have for a successful social media program.

Are you making these same mistakes? Are you doing it all wrong despite your very best intentions? You most certainly are if anything that follows sounds even remotely familiar.

1. You don’t have a plan.
The last thing you want to do is overlook the first thing you should do. Take pause before launch to map out the route you’re going to take on social media. Identify your target audience. Research the competition. Determine your objectives. Choose your tools. Develop your content. Then act accordingly. Eat. Sleep. Tweet. Repeat.

2. You’re working alone.
While no one is saying you can’t be a hit as a solo act on social media, your chances of success are much greater if you belong to a team. There are only so many hats one person can wear well. Strategic direction. Writing. Design. Marketing. Branding. PR. Web development. Analytics. You name it. You’ll make a much bigger impact if you divide and conquer.

3. You’re not a writer.
Of course, you’re not writing the great American novel. Far from it. But the importance of quality content can’t be emphasized enough. Even in 140 characters or less, punctuation, grammar and word play reign supreme. Think like a good journalist or copywriter. Better yet, hire one.

4. You’re spread too thin.
While it’s good to be in more places than one on social media, don’t get carried away with the notion. It’s better to be active on one or two channels than to be conspicuous in your inconsistency on a handful. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Fish where the fish are. Strike a happy medium between quality and quantity.

5. You’re a one-trick pony.
Of course, what might be even worse than being all over the place is being painfully predictable. Putting out the same kind of content in the same place day after day is of little interest to those on the receiving end. It’s boring. It’s monotonous. It’s an easy way to lose an audience.

6. You’re not posting in real time.
One of the biggest distinguishing characteristics of social media is its real-time nature, the fact that it makes it possible for users to connect with one another instantaneously. Canned content written and scheduled in advance will only get you so far. You’ll have greater influence on your constituency if you share extemporaneous news and commentary on at least an occasional basis.

7. You’re not being yourself.
Don’t try to fake it till you make it. Keep it real from the get-go. Transparency and authenticity are not an option on social media. Offer your opinions, not just the facts. Win friends and influence people with refreshing candor. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Put a face on your brand every step of the way.

8. You’re not listening.
Don’t be the account that only talks about itself. Don’t be a self-centered know-it-all. Pay attention to what others are saying not just about you and your brand, but about their own products and services, too. Mine the media for knowledge and expertise as much as mentions, questions, criticism and praise. Thank people for sharing your content and don’t forget to return the favor.

9. You’re erratic.
Whatever you’re doing on social media, do it on a regular basis. Disappear for even just a few days and you’ll be testing the loyalty of those who follow you. Your content stream should serve as a virtual extension of you and your brand, leaving an indelibly consistent, not scattershot, impression on your audience.

10. You’re careless.
Written communications is far more informal than it was back in the day. But that doesn’t excuse you from making typos or blatant grammatical mistakes. Some colloquialism and slang is called for on social media. But so is some measure of decorum and professionalism.

11. You’re no fun.
A good sense of humor goes a long way on social media. Accounts that are spirited, playful, irreverent, even mischievous (in a good-natured way) tend to be popular. Don’t hesitate to share a few laughs with your followers and fans. Social media works best for brands that take their products and services, not themselves, seriously.

12. You’re as bland as milk toast.
It’s much better to be safe than sorry on social media, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out on a limb once in a while and express your creativity. Be colorful, not controversial. Bold, not brash. Avoid arguments at all costs and always take the high road. But show you have more than just a pulse, show you have a personality.

13. You’re not sharing any pictures.
It’s no secret that visual content on social media commands attention. It really doesn’t matter what kind, either. Stock images. Candid shots. Video. Instagram. Vine. Complement your words with pictures in any way, shape or form and stand out amid the clutter.

14. You’re not paying to play.
You may have the most compelling content imaginable, but you still may not be seen by enough people on social media. Organic reach is down. Attention spans are short. The best laid plans can easily go astray without putting at least a small budget behind your efforts.

15. You’re ignoring the numbers.
Branding is important, but like any other form of marketing, social media marketing is all about the results. Establish your goals and develop a methodology for measuring your performance. As Stephen Covey wrote in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.”

Note: This post, “Social Media: 15 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 24, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on March 3, 2015 here.

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20 Types of Selfies to Ask Your Audience to Share

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It was the word of the year in 2013, and last year it reached the tipping point. Yup. The selfie is more than just a thing now, it’s kind of a big deal.

No, really, the selfie is more than just a fad, a superficial exercise in narcissism. The selfie has gone from a silly little trend to a mainstream phenomenon, something almost everyone has embraced, from astronauts to athletes, Ellen DeGeneres to Tom Hanks, the president of the United States to the Pope.

Sure, the selfie is still mocked and subjected to ridicule by laggards and luddites, critics and curmudgeons. But most people get it. Most people see the selfie for what it is, a fun way to capture the moment up close and personal, and share it with the world.

If a picture is worth a thousand words on social media, the selfie may be priceless.

And smart brands know it. Look at Purina, Old Navy, Samsung and World Wildlife Fund, just to name four. Then there’s the advertising campaign that Shiseido, a Japanese cosmetics company, recently did with Lady Gaga, featuring 50 different selfies of the global pop star. Very cool.

How can you take advantage of this revolutionary, new way of taking pictures? How can your brand jump on the selfie bandwagon and capitalize on this craze?

Simply encourage members of your audience to take selfies that are associated with your brand in some way, shape or form. Their job is to tag you, include a hashtag ascribed to this marketing initiative (contest or not), and share their selfies on such social media channels as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Your job is to thank them for their efforts and display their contributions on your website or some sort of social media wall.
It’s a win-win proposition. They get recognition from a brand they love. You get engagement with your most passionate fans.

Here are 20 different types of selfies to ask your audience to share on social media…

1. Group selfies. Forget the solo shots. Squeeze as many people into the frame as possible.

2. Funny selfies. Challenge contributors to show off their sense of humor.

3. Cause-related selfies. Even if you’re not a nonprofit, you can do well by doing good.

4. Scavenger hunt selfies. Participants don’t just have to find the prize, they have to snap it.

5. Celebration selfies. Rally caps. High fives. Victory dances. Perfect for spectators and players alike.

6. Tourist selfies. Where in the world are your followers and fans?

7. Photo booth selfies. Treat your guests to a unique self-portrait experience.

8. Product selfies. It’s like show-and-tell – without the tell.

9. Pet selfies. No words.

Post by MTV.

10. Fitness selfies. Gym goers aren’t shy.

11. Mirror selfies. Pause to reflect and say cheese.

12. Store selfies. Never mind coupons. Accept selfies instead.

13. Game selfies. Ask fans to show you where they’re sitting.

14. Celebrity selfies. Like an autograph, only better.

15. Sunrise and sunset selfies. Color your selfie beautiful.

16. Weather selfies. Like storm chasing, only easier.

17. Photobomb selfies. Surprise!

18. Family selfies. What’s more awkward than an awkward family selfie?

19. Team selfies. That’s the spirit.

20. Selfie Stick selfies. Picture perfect.

Note: This post, “20 Types of Selfies to Ask Your Audience to Share,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 27, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 4, 2015 here.

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