5 “Foot” Steps To Creating Brand Humanization

I’m super passionate about the importance of Brand Humanization, that mix of culture, community and corporation which can create magic for employees and shareholders, or signal trouble, not only in the ranks, but in the larger world of brand reputation. There is so much happening in this arena right now. It’s very cool really.

On the one hand we have TOMS Shoes, the oh-so-hip shoe brand with a huge social network sustained by a very human brand with a cause. TOMS hits all the high notes in Brand Humanization. It leverages the power of social networks and attracts a growing community of consumers – brand advocates – who are continually energized by the brand’s charitable mission. TOMS fans trust the brand and its purpose; they see no conflict in spending money on TOMS shoes, because each pair sold triggers the gift of a second pair to a poor child. And the brand encourages social interaction, spurring the establishment of over 1,000 ‘campus clubs’, super-communities which not only follow the brand on social channels but are dedicated to amplifying brand messages across social channels. It’s a classic case of doing well by doing good. TOMS’ founder and his employees have enormous social and economic power and a certain level of moral authority. Combining commerce and charity without compromising his values might have been founder Blake Mycoski’s original concept, but the real engine of the brand is the community the brand has attracted and nurtured.

On the other hand we have a host of companies which have failed to link their brands with people in a way that drives value to the brand and its investors. Oracle, the software giant which earned the distrust and ire of the software community with multiple, predatory acquisitions and subsequent patent suits, is an interesting example. While Oracle ORCL +% has a strong brand, and loyal users and employees, arguably it has failed to demonstrate an ability to master the nuances of Brand Humanization. Let’s look at a few of the ways in which the company has passed on making its brand more appealing – areas where TOMS Shoes has succeeded.

  1. Persona: Oracle, dominated by the powerful personality of Larry Ellison, is a savvy organization, acquiring companies and software assets but in many cases destroying the human aspect of the acquired brands. While the company has enormous technical strength and deep pockets, it has not taken advantage of the social good will of the brands it’s acquired. And Ellison, while respected as an astute businessman, has failed to engage at a human level. Hard to compare with a charismatic CEO who gives away a pair of shoes for each pair sold.
  1. Community: Perhaps the sole exception to Oracle’s lack of brand humanization is the Java community, built by Sun Microsystems and still a force. But that community has been slow to warm to Ellison and the Oracle brand. Arguably Oracle, in its move to capture the commercial value of Java, has sacrificed the brand value of the Java community and missed a chance to humanize its brand. TOMS’ campus clubs bring more awareness and thus value, to its brand.
  1. Value: Traditional measures of brand value, often referred to as brand equity, include loyalty, affiliation, advocacy, information and identity. All of these translate into the world of social media and community, but new models, including Edelman’s Trust Index and the Social Currency methodology, help brands hone in more quickly on the emotional state of their constituents – which quickly affects brand value. It’s difficult to draw a straight line from these tools to shareholder value, especially with tech companies such as Oracle; service, food and consumer goods companies such as TOMS have an easier time tying this most important measure of a brand’s worth to the bottom line.
  1. Relevance: For Brand Humanization to take place, a brand must be relevant not just for the quality its services or products, but because it engages its constituents with relevant information and interaction at each point of contact. The Java Community is relevant to some of Oracle’s constituents, but not all. Oracle OpenWorld, the brand’s annual conference, makes efforts to stay sticky with a Facebook FB +1.47% page, You Tube channel and other social assets, but is it enough?
  1. Emotional connection: Tech brands may find this difficult, although TOMS has mastered the art, but forging an emotional connection with constituents is critical, and may require some direct experience that moves the target – TOMS current ‘One Summer to Change’ efforts and You Review video sharing site are shining examples.

Brand Humanization is incredibly powerful. To ignore it is to ignore communities who care about your products and services; to forgo building bridges through social channels and networks, and to miss opportunities to create new brand interactions driven by social channels. In today’s densely-networked, highly social world, it seems a terrible waste, and a real business risk, to ignore the value and power of Brand Humanization. Rock your brand – Give it a try.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 5/22/12.


photo credit: DSC_0002 via photopin (license)

What Drives Social Influence? Insights From Recruiting Circles

Written by Carter J. Hostelley, CEO, Leadtail

Marketers change jobs a lot. So every few months I hear from someone who’s job hunting again. Typically, we get together to grab coffee and chat about their situation. And at some point, they ask, “Hey, are there any recruiters you’d recommend I talk to?”

Now, imagine you’re an executive recruiter sitting nearby and listening in. Wouldn’t you like to pull up a chair and join our conversation? Sure you would. And maybe you’d also wonder how to influence me, so that I recommended you.

Social Listening Isn’t Enough

These days, you don’t need to hang out at coffee shops to listen in. You can just tap into your favorite social media news feed to discover what’s being discussed and shared at any moment. But pretty quickly you’ll get overwhelmed. Why? Because you don’t know which conversations to join, whom to engage, and how to influence them.

Without context, social listening isn’t helpful. To make social media more relevant and actionable, you need to tune-out ambient noise. In other words, you need to move from social listening to social insights.

Case In Point: How Do Recruiters Engage on Twitter?

Let’s say you’re an executive recruiter who wants to know what other recruiters are up to on social media. Or maybe you work for a company that sells to recruiters. In either case, you’re looking for social insights about recruiting professionals.

That’s exactly what asked my company to do recently. So we developed a report: How Recruiters Engage on Twitter. It summarizes how 557 North American recruiters participated, engaged, and were influenced on Twitter, from June-August 2013. During that time, our sample of  recruiters generated 173,903 tweets, 106,343 shared links, and had a total of 1,533,429 followers.

Why look at Twitter activity? Because it’s a good proxy for social media behavior overall, and offers an advantage over other data sources (such as surveys, polls and focus groups), because it reveals what people actually do, versus what they say they do.

Leadtail Chart Social Influence (2)For example, here’s a visual representation of the people who are most retweeted by recruiters we analyzed:

This report also provides other useful social insights, including: most popular hashtags, most shared content sources, and the top 25 industry publications shared by these recruiters.

Best Practices of Top Influencers

Exclusively for this post, we dove even deeper into Twitter activity among the five people who influence recruiters most. They are:

@MeghanMBiro — Meghan Biro, Founder & CEO, TalentCulture
@blogging4jobs — Jessica Merrell, Editor of Blogging4Jobs
@jimstroud — Jim Stroud, Director of Sourcing and Social Strategy, Bernard Hodes Group
@YouTernMark — Mark Babbitt, Founder & CEO, YouTern
@GlenCathey — Glen Cathey, SVP Talent Strategy and Innovation, Kforce

What did we discover by examining the behavior of this elite group?

•  Influencers tweet a LOT. 4 out of 5 of these top influencers tweet 15+ times a day. (Meghan blows them all away, with an average 107 tweets/day!)

•  Influencers develop a “brand” of their own. Each top influencer has a style and focus that’s unique. For instance, @JimStroud focuses on social recruiting and job search strategy, while @GlenCathey’s approach is decidedly more tech-and-data driven.

•  Influencers don’t lean on retweets. All 5 of the top influencers go light on the RT, keeping them to less than 15% of overall tweet volume. Instead, they share lots of links and often mention other folks.

•  Influencers embrace the community. 3 out of 5 of these influencers will most likely follow you back (they follow 70%+ of those who follow them), and 4 out of 5 include an “@” mention in most of their tweets.

•  Influencers tweet with a goal in mind. Whether it’s to get the word out about their next event, to sell their services, or to grow their audience, these folks tweet links that drive traffic to their other online channels (websites, other social media sites, etc.) 10%-50% of the time.

While these “best practices” come from observing the Twitter activity of only 5 key influencers, they also provide insights into how you may want to consider approaching Twitter and social media to boost your influence.

Tips To Increase Your Social Influence

How can you move from social listening to social insights (and perhaps have an impact on the right people)? Here are 5 tips:

•  Listen to your target audience. Who cares what anyone and everyone is saying? Instead, listen to what’s on the minds of customers, prospects, and key influencers.
•  Be where the right conversations are happening. So many social networks, so little time! Invest your efforts in the social platforms where your target audience is active.
•  Talk about relevant topics. What issues, news, and events have captured the attention of the folks you’re looking to engage? Shouldn’t you be talking about that, too?
•  Discover who’s doing the influencing. Which publications and people do your buyers read, share and interact with? Pay attention to who is popular and influential, and how they engage.
•  Work the aisles. Just being present in social media is not enough. You must cultivate relationships with a community that you develop over time. Eventually, you’ll be in a position to influence those who matter most to you.

Now, imagine we’re back in that coffee shop, where you’re listening to my conversation with my marketing colleague. Let’s say you decide to introduce yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if I said, “Thanks for coming over, I actually follow you on Twitter! I love your comments and the content you share.”? That means you’ve done a great job of influencing me, before our conversation even begins!

Now It’s Your Turn

How are you generating social insights today? What strategies have you found successful in becoming more influential on social media? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

Carter Hostelley (2)(About the Author: Carter Hostelley is the Founder and CEO of Leadtail, a B2B social media and insights agency. He and his team have developed and implemented social media programs for leading business brands and technology startups including WageWorks, Alcatel-Lucent, Symantec, Adaptive Planning, NetBase, and PunchTab. They also publish periodic social insights reports on senior marketers, HR professionals, and recruiters. These reports have been covered by publications such as: Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, ERE, MarketingProfs, AllTwitter, and Social Times. Carter also has over 15 years experience working with venture-backed technology startups in numerous executive roles, and is a contributing author at CMSWire. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.)

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