People create perceptions about other people based upon an infinite range of tiny bits of information. They can have an impression or feeling of someone that is either positive or negative without ever even understanding where that impression came from.
(Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” is a great read for learning about the different ways that people form conclusions in a split second).
As a community manager, it’s important to use communications channels to humanize the people behind your company, to improve the perception of the company and product, build trust, and create a truly social environment for your community.
So Why Put a Human Face on the Company, Anyway?
The definition of social online is no different from the definition of social offline. Think about the places that people like to gather: parties, sporting events, restaurants, these are highly social and (usually) pleasant places where people come together around a common thing: an event, an interest, food.
Social media is an extension of that, and when your online community is built on social media, the “places” where people gather are your forums, pages, and content.
Making the company’s team members a part of the community is the easiest way for a community manager to put a human face on a company. And it happens naturally. No one wants to join a community around a logo; people want to join communities where people are already.
Presenting the team as active members of the community has many immediate benefits:
When the goal of your community is to increase product use or purchases (the all-holy revenue, in other words) it’s critical to stay in the front of your customers’ minds.
When too much content and engagement is on a brand level in your community, it can turn people off. Humanizing the content by using your corporate team—for example having a VP introduce themselves and spend time with the community, answering questions or in a Google Hangout, talking about their hobbies, etc.—to present information increases the number of relationships your community has to your company.
Being personable builds trust, because it makes people sympathize with you. The biggest advantage of trust is to earn forgiveness. For young companies there will always be problems with products and platforms, earning your community’s trust means they will forgive you, because they believe that you are working to help them, and they will trust that you are not trying to exploit them as sheepish consumers like some faceless multinational. The best way to avoid being a faceless multinational? Have a face! Post photos of your team in social situations, at picnics or sporting events for example. Your community will see these photos and say “that guy who likes peanut butter and jelly cannot possibly be trying to screw me, he baked those muffins!”
However, you should not appear to be out of control, you should not post overly-compromising photos, and you should not give away anything that would make your community doubt your ability to accomplish the task they hand you. But being human means having weird traits, eccentricities, and defaults. Just think of your favorite character from your favorite movie: they are deeply complex, and often flawed, but they fight for something and inspire. And you remember them.
Especially when your community is still in its infancy with few active members, the team can fill that role until the community takes over.
An active, public online dialogue between team members—such as varied posts on a blog or short video messages—can create a base of content for interested new community members to explore, again strengthening the bonds between your customers and your company. It also gives new community members a place to jump into a conversation, if they see something that interests them or something they want to comment on. It’s sometimes easier than posing direct questions to your community, when there might not yet be those daring souls who will take the lead for you.
How have you leveraged the personality of your company’s team to build your community?
Image courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net