How To: Be A Damn Human

October 20, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

It’s said a lot that social media has changed business. That it’s shown us how people want things to be done. If that’s true, then it’s shown us that our customers (who are often humans) like doing business with other humans. Imagine that.

Your customers are done worshiping you. They don’t want to be your fan. They want to be appreciated. It’s this “human” thing that people like Chris Brogan and Gary Vee epitomize. It’s what makes them stand out and draws people to them. That said, I’ve been told three times in the past week that being human isn’t scalable. That we’re “not machines”. And I agree with that. We’re not machines. Which is why we should stop treating customers like we are.

To me, being human doesn’t mean being everything to everyone. It doesn’t mean being available at all hours. It’s not about being in every conversation and answering every email that comes your way. It means giving it your best go. It’s about knowing your strengths, acknowledging your weaknesses and sharing both with your customers. It’s about bleeding yourself. And while getting over the fear of bleeding may be hard, the actual act really isn’t.

And neither is being human. Here are some instructions.

Share yourself

There are two ways to use social media – the boring way and the interesting way. The boring way means you do nothing but spout company rhetoric and benign politically correct phrases. The interesting way means you share who you are. You share your good days, your bad days, your likes, your dislikes, and the occasional goofball story or ill-tempered rant that reminds people you’re “just like them”. You get pissed off? SO DO THEY! It’s those off color and silly moments that are going to put the human back in your day-to-day and get people to fall in love and relate to you. No one cares about Comcast. They care about Frank. Frank is human.

Share your magic

Humans like stories and passing information. It’s been embedded into our DNA since Moses and his top ten list and that man with the two sticks who discovered fire. Whether you share knowledge through blogging, podcasting, vidcasting, or simply creating a great product that helps people – spend your day sharing whatever you’ve got. Share your magic.

Treat people better than they expect

Choose to treat people with compassion rather than doling out canned, robotic responses. Seriously, we downright applaud and carry Zappos through the streets because they showed that they cared about their customers. That simple fact was so outstanding and amazing to us that we use them as the classic social media success story at every opportunity. And all they did was treat people like they were humans. Imagine if you treated your customers more than just human, but as friends? Treat people better than they expect to be treated and they’ll be loyal to you to the end.

Be as accessible as you can

This is a big one. Chris Brogan and Gary Vee are two great examples of people who go out of their way to be accessible. They reply to your tweets and DMs, they acknowledge your emails and sometimes even drop you a note to say happy birthday. They create real relationships on the Web by being accessible. However, I bet they fail sometimes. I bet sometimes they don’t answer people back or it takes a few days to get to that email. Being accessible doesn’t mean being on call 24/7. It means you give it your best go and hope that you’re sharing enough with your customers that they’ll be human back and forgive. People want to forgive. You just have to give them a reason.

Support your supporters (and your detractors)

Support people who give you the time of day, because they don’t have to. Empower them, promote them, and lift them up to do great things. Also support those that try and knock you down. Listen to them, work with them and use them to learn a few things about yourself and your organization. Detractors make excellent teachers if your skin is thick enough to withstand the words. Put yourself out there and take what comes your way.  Despite our insecurities, most of it will be positive.

Cut the bullshit

Don’t look at me like that. You know exactly I’m talking about. The way you “finesse” situations, the way you stretch the truth and the way you finagle things so that you can cut corners and skimp out.  Your customers are on to you. Stop being a douchebag and start acting like someone’s watching. Because they are.  Treating people like humans means respecting their intelligence.  Treating people like a faceless mob who won’t hold you accountable is the opposite is not.

Being human isn’t hard. In fact, it’s often harder to half ass things and NOT be human. When you’re not human you have to make up excuses instead of saying sorry. You have to create complex systems to deal with simple problems and all the people you’ve pissed off along the way. It makes no sense. Being human isn’t difficult, but it does take a new way of approaching situations and customers.

You have a choice every time someone sends you a message or picks up their phone — you can be cold and rehearsed or you can drop the MBA bullshit and talk to them like a normal person. The more times you choose the latter, the less being human becomes something you have to “scale” and more something you just are. Being human isn’t hard. It’s just something we forgot we could do. Your customers (and Sadie) are reminding you: Be human.

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