Be More Human Without Being Too Personal To Build Your Brand

Posted by

There’s a new discourse happening online.

In a world of uncertainty, fear and a platform that lets hate be distributed at scale, many people (myself included) are feeling a very different sentiment. As brands (and their messages) are being throttled and only pushed when paid for, it seems like the real humans are still able to make some real connections online. That’s a big deal. In my first business book, Six Pixels of Separation (published in 2009), I put forward something that I had previously written about on my blog – and an idea that (still to this day) gets me excited about brands, consumers, technology and how marketing connects it all… these channels enable real people to make real connections. And, yes, “real people” does include brands (and the people that work for them).

The fear of oversharing.

There is also a sense that because people don’t understand how media and publishing truly work, that these social channels have become a graveyard of TMI (Too Much Information) and oversharing (please, show me what you’re eating for lunch!). I’ve seen this before. You’ve seen this before, too. There are those who post cringeworthy commentary that causes behind-the-back chatter. And, yes, there is also content that can be very “career-limiting.” There are those who share so much, that it might be considered a personal security risk (be it location, information about children, etc…). It pays to be wise. Not everyone is. Still, what we’re really experiencing is a world where billions of voices, opinions and feelings are being shared in a very public way.

We’re one, big raw nerve, aren’t we? 

We’re not. Many people now believe that social media is “fake news” (check this out: Words Matter. Definitions Matter More… Or The Problem With Fake News). I’m guilty of tossing this line around: Facebook is the brand of ‘me’ that I want people to think about when they think of me.” It’s true that social media is, typically, our best foot forward. It’s true that it’s hard not to humblebrag or self-promote, in a world where if you don’t share what you’re up to, maybe no one will. I, personally, like it when people share news about their family, friends, work and community. It makes me feel more connected to people that I know, like and trust (regardless of how much time I get to spend with them in their ‘protein forms’). Digital channels have not replaced human interactions, for me. Digital channels have me more empathetic and connected to people who would have (sadly) fallen off of my radar. 

Digital channels are real. So… be real on your digital channels.

I recently said this to a friend of mine who is looking to bolster their professional presence, but is a very private person. This person pushed back. They asked how I could offer up this kind of advice, in a world where I rarely share any information about my own family, friends, etc… It’s true, I am also very private when it comes to family, friends and sharing videos, pictures, etc… in public. It (probably) stems from my days as a journalist in the pre-Internet world. It was a day and age when the byline was the public persona, because it was really the content of what I was writing that mattered most. There’s something there for a psychiatrist and I to chisel away at. With that, there is a simple way to be more human, to be more real and to share online without going against your privacy and values…

Be personable, not personal.

This doesn’t mean that we should stop being personal. It means that if you’re not interested in sharing personal information, but still want to be a part of these real interactions between real human beings online, you can do it by staying within your professional area of comfort. Just amp up the personable part a little bit more. Don’t sound like a press release. Sound like a human. Share like you would speak. Share with an opinion. This goes for brands too. In fact, one of the biggest challenges that brands face happens when they get too personal on social media. It doesn’t carry, and the public pushes back. Hard. Some the brightest minds online – the ones with millions of followers, big revenues, etc… – are not personal at all. They don’t share much about their personal lives or daily emotional struggles, but… they are highly personable. You better connect with what they are saying because of how they are saying it. Be personable… you don’t (always) have to be personal.

A small tweak of words. A big opportunity (for all of us) to have more real interactions with real people.