Can YOU Fix The Big Brand Personality Problem?

August 19, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

At Copyblogger, Dan Zarrella says it’s the lack of calls to action that are stalling your social media strategy.

Eh. Here at Outspoken Media, I disagree.

I don’t argue that social marketers need to develop better calls to action. They absolutely do. But I don’t think I’d call that the biggest killer to most brands social media strategy. What’s killing you in social media is that you’re about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Actually, you’re less interesting than watching paint dry. Yeah, I said. And now you have to fix it because it basically means your brand sucks.

Your brand + no personality = social media suicide.

Ian Sohn had a great piece Monday about The Personality Paradox that I really enjoyed. In the article, Ian talks about the situation that exists where big brands possess teeny, tiny personalities online. Ian says that where small business owners have the ability to shake every hand and respond faster, larger businesses can’t. They often find themselves with their hands tied, unable to say anything in fear of offending, getting yelled at by legal or having to abide by strict, super-boring protocols.

I don’t care how big your brand is, you need to get over that. You need to act small because that’s what attracts people.

Want to see it in action?

You may have heard that French actor Gerard Depardieu urinated in the aisle of a plane this week. I know, it was totally classy. While the tantrum itself wasn’t that interesting, what was interesting (and impressive) was CityJet’s reaction to what happened. Instead of hiding in their corporate turtle shell or rocking back and forth in a bunker, they responded.

Like humans.

And what was our reaction to their reaction? We love them! We want to go grab a beer with them! We love that they have a sense of humor and that they’re not afraid to poke fun at odd situations. We love that they went there.

You need to get over your fear and “go there”, as well.

The trouble with instructing brands (or, really, anyone) on how to be more personable is that personality tends to be like good looks or a sense of humor – you either have it or you don’t. It’s difficult to teach. However, there are a few ways of thinking you can adopt to help accentuate the personality your momma gave you.

You’ll find four below.

1. Create a Character

Last week Brian Clark let you in on a little secret – people don’t want to know the real you. Don’t cry, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that the real you is a little ripe. You come with baggage and drama and crap not even your mother wants to deal with.

Your customers want the best version of you. The version of you that resembles who they want to be – fitter, taller, smarter, has better sex. It’s your job, as a marketer, to be that person. And that’s why you need to create a character to represent you and your brand in social media.

Now before you go wagging your “authenticity” fingers at me, realize that you’re still being authentic. The character you’re creating is going to be based off yourself. It is your real traits, slightly heightened. You know how people tend to like you a little bit better when you’re drunk?

Same concept.

Create a character that exudes who your customers want to be. Taking on his identify will also give you some distance so that you can have more fun, take some chances, and maybe let loose in the way the “real you” can’t do.

2. Act Small

It’s a lot easier to respond to Twitter replies when you only get a handful. I understand that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t act small when you do reply. Or that you can’t act small with the way you speak to your community, talking to them like you would a friend instead of a number in your system’s database.

I was asked earlier this week if the colloquial, laid back tone that I take in my blogging and in social media ever “gets me in trouble” with people. The answer is no. I’ve found that people like being spoken to like humans. That the conversational tone allows us to do just that – have a conversation. Which is the point of engaging in social media to begin with. If you’re not the type who can let down your guard and just talk to people then my advice would be to hire someone who can because it’s small thinking that breeds social media success. Those without people skills need not apply.

3. Look Small

Most of the unfunny people I know are unfunny because they try too hard. They go for the big elaborate joke instead of using what’s right in front of them. I wouldn’t eat a Skittles candy if you paid me but I liked Skittles brand on Facebook because they’re the masters of small. They don’t do a lot of huge contests to get fans or use elaborate techniques – they’re just silly. And through their silliness, they connect with people. And that’s why it works.

If you’re looking to inject personality into your social media personality, look smaller. It’s the reason that lunch tweets and cat tweets are welcomed by most users. We like the little stuff. That’s what we connect over.

4. Realize You Are Not Curing Cancer (unless you are)

Amber Naslund had a fantastic post recently where she reminded people that social media is serious business, lightly making fun of all the people who attempt social media with the same seriousness they’d use while trying to dismantle a bomb that was strapped to their mother’s chest.

Dude. Lighten up.

Yes, every tweet that you send out represents your company and speaks on behalf of your brand but…we’re still talking about Twitter. We’re talking about people talking to people. It’s not life or death here. We can make jokes. We can point out the obvious funny. We can use smiley faces and exclamation points and sometimes tweet about how delicious our tacos are. These little spice of life moments are what allow humans to connect to other humans. They give you depth. Don’t be afraid of them.

Because social media requires us to act small and carry a friendly stick, we associate it with being easy. But the truth is, most people have a difficult time acting like a person in front of a living, breathing, ready-to-pounce audience.

If you had to give a brand advice on how to loosen the h– how to develop a bigger personality online, what advice would you give them? What do you want to see?

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