How to post personably in social media while representing a brand
The buzzwords "transparency" and "engagement" are thrown around a lot when users of social media ask how to effectively represent a brand online. And typically, not a lot of specific detail is given as to how to avoid being opaque and disengenuous. And many users of social media run across this challenge when they find themselves in the position of wanting to speak as a human being but being tasked with representing a brand.
Instead of listing general principles on posting as a human being, even one representing a brand, let's try this: let's look at an unsuccessful example of a person unsuccessfully masquerading as a brand and rip it apart to show how this social media user could come across as more human and engaging while still effectively representing the brand.
This is an excerpt from a comment left to a post on a professional LinkedIn group I'm a member of. What is wrong with this comment?
Top performing Call Centers drive their Revenue & Performance through superior hiring tactics. Finding ways to hire better quality Call Center Agents is consistently placed as a priority by senior management. Deploying tools that give you better insight and more accurate predictions as to which applicants from a pool of Job Candidates would perform up to, or beyond your established standards contributes most significantly to increased productivity – and to minimizing your dependency on a rigorously followed script...
XXXX Software is sold on an Unlimited Usage License basis - there are No "per Test" Fees - "Annual Renewal" Fees – or any other User Fees whatsoever. Technical Support for the XXXX Software is free & unlimited as well. XXXX Licenses are also sold with a 6 Month, 100% Money-Back Guarantee of Satisfaction.
For more information – or to find out about a Free Trial of XXX Call Center Agent Pre-Employment Screening Software: [web link]
It reads as pure spam, doesn't it? In fact, when the poster duplicated the comment on the company blog, I deleted it and marked it as spam because it appeard to have been generated by a bot. I was actually surprised to see the same comment replicated with a human face next to it in the LinkedIn group. Why? What makes this type of post come across as insincere and corporate instead of transparent and human?
- Buzzword bingo. Using buzzwords such as "deploy," "minimize," and "superior" come across as carefully chosen for their marketing impact and actually serve to dilute the content and create the feel of a corporate ad rather than a human leaving an honest opinion.
- Sentence length. Real humans don't cram this many perfectly-massaged marketing messages into one sentence. Instead, we tend to alternate short, summary thoughts with longer, explanatory ones.
- Random capitalization. For some reason, spammers love to capitalize random words for no apparent reason. Perhaps they think the words can't speak for themselves?
- Gratuitous quotation use. Again, I've never really understood why, but spammers and those who hand-letter signs along the highway have an affinity for putting quotation marks around words and phrases that are not being quoted by anyone. For more fun on this, check out this great site documenting unnecessary quotes in hand-lettered signs around the world.
- Obvious sales pitch. This almost goes without saying... except that it doesn't, since some folks still seem to think that a conversation with a stranger is the right place to jump in and make a sales pitch. If you're not sure what is appropriate in a conversation, hint: "Buy my stuff now!" isn't. Never has been.
How to post as a personable human
- Write the way you speak. There is a time and place for formal, lengthy, perfectly-massaged messages. A blog or discussion group isn't it. Do your readers a favor and use conversational language for your online writing. With the fire hose of information today, most visitors are skimming for key concepts; if intrigued, some will slow down and read the entire article. Don't obfuscate with marketing speak pre-approved by the PR department. Just be yourself.
- Don't be obtuse. Use spoken language as your guideline for sentence structure. Alternate long and short sentences, and don't add independent clauses where you would normally start a new sentence. If you're unsure, say your response out loud. Then transcribe it and write it up. Again, it's a conversation, so write the way you talk.
- Follow capitalization rules. Just because you want to shout about your product doesn't mean you don't have to follow standard rules of grammar, mechanics and usage. Listen to this Grammar Girl episode on capitalizing proper nouns. Understand that capitalizing common nouns, such as revenue, performance, or job candidate as we see above, is patently incorrect and will make you look like an illiterate spammer. Or worse, an SEO marketer.
- Don't put quotation marks around anything that isn't a direct quotation. If you can't cite the source, don't use quotes. If you absolutely must emphasize a word (and you probably don't need to if you're being authentic), use italics. For more information on the correct use of quotation marks, check out Grammar Girl's episode on the topic.
- Contribute to the conversation. The value of participation in a community is not direct sales; for that, we can go to your website. Discussion boards exist for conversation, and many even monitor and enforce no-selling and no-promotion rules quite strictly. The value of the discussion lies in the engagement and communication among its members. Instead of selling, try adding something useful to the conversation. If the discussion sparks an insight, try blogging about it in more detail and then linking to the blog post with the comment, "Hey, this was so interesting that I wrote out my thoughts in more detail on my blog [link]. Would love to know what you think."
A more engaging version of the post might be:
In my experience, the best call centers hire the best agents--and that means agents with some creativity. You might want to consider a review of your hiring practices to see if they are affecting the issue. In order to see which agents would be least dependent on a rigorously followed script and more capable of working from script guidelines, you might try taking a step back and look at how you evaluate agent qualifications overall.
Of course, I do have an ulterior motive here. :-) We have some nifty software that can do just that, if you'd like to take a peek. If you're interested, DM me and I'll set you up with a free trial.
Either way, thanks for a very interesting discussion on call scripting.
Now that sounds a bit more like a human being you might want to continue the discussion with, n'est-ce pas?