Chances are you’ve already checked the internet on your phone today. And probably your computer. Possibly even your tablet. Sound familiar?
Let’s face it, we’re all a little bit addicted to having so much information at our fingertips. We’re becoming more and more attached to our technology and the sheer volume of information it gives us.
OK, I’ll confess. The picture above is of my desk first thing this morning, with a ridiculous amount of keyboards and screens and I know I’m not the only one with this many ways to access the net.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, for businesses with an online presence it’s great news, but it also presents switched-on businesses with a challenge; how do you genuinely connect with your customers and make sure your content doesn’t just become part of the noise?
The fact is, even though technology is moving at a breakneck speed, we as human beings essentially haven’t changed. We still crave the same things. We still want an emotional connection and we still need a human element to our online interactions. In other words, we long to cut through the overwhelming onslaught of so much information and connect emotionally with any businesses we deal with online.
We want to go back to basics. We want to hear stories that resonate with us personally, we want to find information that answers our needs as individuals, and we want to see the human element behind previously faceless brands.
"We want to go back to basics...we want to see the human element behind previously faceless brands."
A large-scale research study, by brand strategy firm Lippincott, proved that a societal shift in relationships has created what they refer to as ‘The Human Era’, where brands form stronger connections and build trust with consumers by behaving like humans. They showed, based on input from 5000 consumers, that the key characteristics of Human Era brands are things like honesty, openness, talking like a person and being interesting and empathetic. Which is exactly what your online content needs to demonstrate.
Ultimately, humans do business with other humans - especially those they like so if you want people to connect with your business, they have to feel a connection to your content.
For most consumers, the information you provide online is the first step in their relationship with you. It’s your first, and sometimes only, chance to show them you’re a person (or business full of people) they can connect with.Next time you sit down to write content for your business, bear the following three tips in mind:
Write like a human
Ultimately, you need to sound like a real person instead of a bland, faceless company. Study after study has shown that nearly a decade post-recession, trust in institutions has decreased massively. Instead of a slick, corporate image we want openness and transparency from the companies we bestow with our trust.
How do you earn that trust? By opening up a little and letting your potential customers see that you’re genuine, open and honest by communicating like one of them.
It’s all too easy to hide behind jargon and deliberately try to sound how you think companies like yours ‘ought’ to sound, especially if you don’t feel particularly confident with writing content. But by trying to sound a certain way, you’ll end up as an unconvincing pastiche and your media-savvy readers will wonder what it is you’re trying to hide.
Content doesn’t have to be complicated to appear business-like. Making it easy for customers to understand what you’re about and what you’re selling will demonstrate authenticity through what you publish online. Straightforward authenticity in your communication style let’s people to relate to your business on a deeper level, encouraging engagement and loyalty, by showing that you and your services or products have substance.
Show them you’re a human
While writing like a human and avoiding the jargon will go a long way to making your business more relatable, it needs to be paired with content that shows the face, or faces, behind your brand.
People like people like them and you need to let your consumers see a personality they can feel an affinity with and a connection to. The meteoric growth of social media demonstrates consumers’ appetite for putting a face and personality to the brand. If you want to encourage this sense of connection – and, as a result, other human qualities like loyalty and commitment - you need your content to show character and emotion.
"Show them what you like and what you don’t like...You’re more than a product or a service, so use your online content to bring your brand to life."
This isn’t about blurring the lines between personal and professional, but using your judgement and intuition, considering the context and your own brand persona, to decide how much to share. Tell the stories of the people involved in your company – stories tap into shared values and create more emotional connection than facts or logic.
Show them what you like and what you don’t like. If you have an opinion or a reaction to an issue that impacts your consumers as well, let your content express those emotions. If you make mistakes, don’t be afraid to talk about them. If your background makes an interesting story, tell it. If something makes you react strongly, write about it. You’re more than a product or a service, so use your online content to bring your brand to life.
Have something to say
One of the biggest downsides to our increasing attraction to technology, is the assault of information we’re all subjected to on a constant basis.
The sheer volume of content out there is overwhelming and, unfortunately, a large proportion of it is simply noise with no real point or depth. The internet can easily start to feel like a senseless popularity contest for businesses, with the number of clicks, likes and followers becoming more important than the quality of the leads they generate.
"Demonstrate an understanding of your audience and their issues as individuals. Make sure your content is relevant and give them something they can use in their lives."
If you want your customers to appreciate the quality of content that you do publish, you need to make sure you have something to say. Content for the sake of content is pointless and irritating for consumers who are growing increasingly fed up with being inundated with irrelevant content with no real substance. Like the boy who cried wolf, if you push out weak content just for the sake of it, your customers will already be poised to click past and ignore it when you do genuinely have something to tell them.
To ensure you’re not adding to the noise, make sure there’s a point to what you’re saying, avoid click-bait tactics and make the content you do publish high-quality and worthy of earning your customers’ attention.
Demonstrate an understanding of your audience and their issues as individuals. Make sure your content is relevant and give them something they can use in their lives.
Conscious, not Cliched
Showing your customers that you’re a genuine, open, honest, authentic, emotional, likeable human being isn’t rocket science but it does require a conscious effort not to slip into clichéd business-speak, combined with the judgment of just how much to open up and show some vulnerability without losing your professionalism.
By simply writing your next piece of content with these three tips in the forefront of your mind, you’ll be joining the Human Era for brands.