Online marketing success requires open, honest and transparent dialogue between businesses and their communities of interest. People won’t hesitate to complement or call out a business online, so you need to be aware of what is being said. You need to weigh in on online conversations by responding in a timely and appropriate way.

In short – you have to humanize.

You need resonate with your audience; your online activities need to have a brain and a heart. Your posts should inspire your followers. Be humourous. Be sincere. You should complement others, thank your followers, and acknowledge when you make a mistake.

The internet has changed the way we communicate, and organizations that “get it” will realize the benefits.

Case in point – something that occurred during the live-televised MVP award presentation at the end of this year’s World Series. (View it here if you missed it.) Chevrolet entrusted a regional manager to present Giants pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, with a brand new Chevy Colorado. The manager’s nerves got the best of him when he had to introduce the truck; rather than point out the truck’s features, he described it as having “technology and stuff”.

Technology and stuffHe’s human, he messed up.

What did Chevy do? They embraced it.

They got on social media and took ownership. They kept the joke running by adding #TechnologyAndStuff and #ChevyGuy to their tweets, and it went viral!

Chevrolet estimates they gained $5 million in free media exposure from the incident. And best of all, consumers loved it because it showed that Chevy didn’t take themselves too seriously.

Consumers want to buy from organizations that they can identify with. They want to buy from businesses that sound and act like real people.

Ways to make your company more human:

  • Tell your story.

People buy from companies that they connect with, not just companies that sell the right products. Make sure to tell your story. Provide content that informs, educates, entertains and inspires.

Simon Sinek has an excellent TED Talk that explains how great businesses inspire action. It details how consumers make buying decisions based on emotion. The takeaway quote: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

  • Have a conversation.

Talk with your audience, not to them. Engage over social media. Use the language that matches them as opposed to your own internal jargon.

Your company vision should shine through all of your communication efforts, not just on your “About Us” page. And you’re better off displaying annual statistics in an amazing infographic rather than in a 60 page PDF.

Create a company blog, or reinvent your existing one. Use casual language that simplifies your message. Share your posts over social media and invite your customers to comment. Make sure you respond to their points, both the good and the bad.

  • Admit your mistakes.

Humans make mistakes. So do companies. It’s important to handle these situations properly when things go south.

Admit when your business makes a mistake. It shows that you’re honest and more often it will result in increased trust. In Chevy’s case, they added humour to highlight the mistake.

Many leaders blog about mistakes they have made in the past. They provide information on how they overcame the lapse in judgement, and how the error has helped make their company stronger. Posts that demonstrate humility often generate positive support and increased social sharing.

The message is simple; engage and be real!