To be effective, online communications should sound more casual.
To be more specific: Small-business leaders need to humanize their company’s virtual image.
In fact, according to David Lee King, companies need to unlearn many of the rules of formal writing that executives learned from their high school English teacher.
According to King, “They work in an executive summary, but not in a Facebook post.”
King argues that today’s wired world requires many businesses and organizations to have an online presence. “That’s a great thing for consumers like me—I personally love to read about new products or news about a company if it’s an organization I’m interested in.”
In his view, however, when an organization starts experimenting with social media, it often uses these emerging tools with a glance to the past—like it’s still 1999. Their organization’s blog posts and status updates are written like stale press releases and brochures, and the photos look as if they were purchased from stock photo sites.
“Dry, tidy ‘professional sounding’ articles, videos, and photos don’t connect with your customers anymore. Today’s Web-savvy customers are looking for connections and conversations around the products and services they use,” King says.
King suggest some simple tweaks; some might take a bit more time than others to master. By improving online customer engagement and interaction, companies will start to create stronger connections and conversations with customers.
Here are five tips to help your organization be more human online:
1. Casual Fridays—every day. Organizations can come across as either formal or casual in their communications to customers. Formality is a quick way to kill any hint of a personal touch in corporate communications to customers. Your customers want to connect with your organization, and being a little more organizationally casual in interactions on the Web can help.
Online writing that connects to readers tends to use informal, conversational language, short sentences, short paragraphs (maybe even paragraphs of fewer than three sentences), and…a friendly voice.
2. Write like you talk. So, your writing style still has that “I’m writing a history paper” voice…. Here’s how to cure that: Write down what you want to say, and then read what you wrote. Out loud. Does it sound like something you’d actually say to another person? If it doesn’t, rewrite it. You can also say what you want to communicate out loud first, and then write down what you said.
Why do this? It helps your corporate communications—which include blog posts, comments and status updates—sound like they’re coming from an actual human, rather than from an organization.
3. Share photos of “business as usual.” You probably have a camera in your pocket right now. Guess what that smartphone camera is good for? Sharing photos of business as usual.
I know of a local coffee shop that shares photos online. The owners buy and roast their own beans, so they sometimes travel to places such as Antigua in search of yummy coffee beans. During their business transactions, they share photos of new products, coffee tastings and even people they meet on the trip.
The trick is to find something interesting to share via a photo. If you travel to enjoyable locations for your organization, by all means take photos. If there’s a busy time at your store or organization, that’s also a great time to take a photo or two and share online. Customers using your product also make great photo opportunities.
Photos can be a great way to connect with customers, because people are used to connecting through photos. We already use that tool personally, so using the same type of tool organizationally naturally works for many people.
4. Use short, helpful videos. Short videos have the potential to create strong connections between your organization and your customers, if done with a conversational tone. On the other hand, a poorly read video script can quickly ruin any connection you hoped to gain.
The easiest way to fix that? Don’t use a script. Instead of scripting out the dialogue for a video, simply think about what you want to say, and maybe figure out a short introduction and conclusion. Then go shoot that video.
If you need to use notes or some type of video script, use an outline format. Instead of memorizing lines, just make notes about the points you want to make, and then ad-lib those points. It’s your business, so you probably know the product pretty well. The beauty of video is that you can reshoot many times, and then edit down to just the good parts. Keep that video at two minutes or under, do some simple, clean edits, and you will end up with a great video that connects with customers.
5. Be yourself. This last tip sums up the other four. Just be yourself. Communicate like yourself, take photos of what you find interesting at work, shoot casual videos of you sharing news about your organization or a cool new product or service, and steer away from uptight press-release-style blog posts. The more informal and human-sounding you can be, the easier it will be for your organization to make those needed customer connections.